Because we can’t all be heroes
Last week our sports editor, John, wrote an athlete diary of his time playing Murderball and wheelchair basketball, so this week I am doing my follow-up to his. The only problem is I have played some decent baseball in my life but I have never played at a high level. So I am going to spin off of John’s high-level-athlete diary with my own just-an-ok-athlete diary.
Let me set the scene. It’s hot, damn hot, probably like 30 C outside, and I’ve been working for a full eight hours. I’m covered in dirt and all I want to do is have a shower, but I have baseball practice in an hour and I have a forty-five minute drive to get there. Show up, throw on my cleats, and throw the ball around for a few minutes. Go for a jog and stretch? Yeah, right. In my best Allen Iverson voice, “We talkin’ ‘bout practice man, not a game, not a game, not a game, we talkin’ ‘bout practice.”
Alright, everyone’s warmed up and ready to go; time to do some infield/outfield work. As a centerfielder, clearly I’m not going anywhere near the outfield because how else would the coaches see my awesome shortstop skills, including my ability to pick sick scoops on my backhand and throw a strike to first off my back foot? Short answer, they wouldn’t so here I stay as a lockdown practice shortstop.
After I show the coaches my talent at shortstop, it’s time for batting practice, so now I take my position in the outfield to shag some fly balls. This is where you get your Kevin Pillar-esque diving catches practice in, so you can look like a stud at the next game, should the opportunity arise.
Couple days later, it’s finally gameday, my chance to see if my obviously very useful skills that I worked on in practice will pay off for me. I am up to bat, I step up to the plate and do my pre-pitch routine that involves stretching my back and rotating the bat slowly in my hands until the pitcher starts his windup. Once he starts, stay very still. First pitch fastball! Crack! Shit! Line-out to the shortstop or, even worse, roll over on it and get thrown out by half a step. Well, time to go to the outfield and stand there, like I do for 90 per cent of the game.
Next at bat, after sitting on the bench joking with the guys and not paying attention to the game, the asshole pitcher decides to throw me three curveballs in a row, the third of which I ground out to the shortstop again. Fuck!
Third at bat, bottom of the ninth, tie game. They brought in their closer, he’s chucking some heat. Without getting timed up to his pitches I step to the plate, and I am so far behind on the first pitch my teammates are laughing at me. Second pitch? Still behind, so I step out and channel my inner Kevin Costner from Bull Durham “give me that weak ass shit again meat.” Normally, he’d give me a curveball here, but since I was so far behind he thinks I can’t touch his fastball, which puts me one step ahead of him. Third time’s the charm, and I tag a single to right field and get on base for the first time. Standing at first, I chat up the first baseman a little bit all while thinking ‘don’t get picked off’ repeatedly. So, at my first opportunity, I bolt for second and I’m safe. Our best hitter is up to bat and he makes no mistake and drives me in for the game-winning run. No time to celebrate, though, because we are back at it again tomorrow.