Thursday, May 11, 2006

Play (Soft)Ball!

Today was supposed to be our first softball game of the season. Unfortunately the park district has not prepared the field yet, so the game will be rescheduled. During my first two summers here, our team finished close to last place. It seemed we could do nothing right. Balls were not caught, throws were off the mark, nobody could hit. Last season that all changed. We won the championship with a record of 18-6. Everything clicked and we got many lucky bounces. So for me at least I don't feel any pressure to win it all this season.

I started playing as a replacement my first summer here. It took a bit of getting used to since I had not played 12 inch. I'm not a very good fielder. Plus the difference in size required a different strategy at the plate. Swinging for the fences gets you no-where if you don't have the bat speed. Lazy hits over the infield or punching it through the gaps is the sure bet. And aggressive base running in a league of poor throws and catches goes a long way. My second season I became a regular and since the pitcher left the company, I took over. That first season as pitcher did not go that great. Lobbing a ball underhand so that it reaches a six foot elevation then drops just past the plate 40 feet away is not easy. But then you have to place the ball so it is more difficult for them to hit. High and inside, High and outside, Just plain low. I have gotten better as a pitcher and hopefully I can build on that this year. Though alot has to do with how well the team fields the balls they do hit.

Back in Chicago we played in a league with teams from employees of different architecture firms. We played 16 inch softball which is a soft ball with a surface somewhere between tanned leather and suede. The ball is bigger than the softball used everywhere else. It is almost too large for standard softball mitts so the ball is caught with your bare hands or sometime pop ups and fly are 'basket' caught. Elbows down and close together with your hands about shoulder height and facing you. Hitting it is similar to hitting a pillow so powerful swings do more damage than bat speed. Throwing is a bit awkward and if your fingers are not open enough on a ball thrown to you, you could end up with a jammed finger.

The environment on the field toggled between laid back friendly and overly competitive. Some of that had to do with the architectural community being so close. You probably know someone on the other team which could be good or bad. And my favorite part was that it was a reason to spend time outside with your favorite beverage. Beer was stocked up before the game and people would even bring their beverage out onto the field with them. Then most times teams would meet up afterward for more drinks, conversation, and sometimes pool. Good times.


John Hill said...

What the heck? Why are you wearing a glove? That sure is a funny game you play up nord!

We had our first game of the 16-inch season last week. We were down 13-0 in the bottom of the third and won 14-13. Don't ask me how. We're not that good. Today would be our second game but it looks like Mother Nature doesn't want us to follow up our amazing first week comeback.

Unknown said...

Yeah, my first season I used a baseball mitt and had a difficult time fielding. Things got alot easier when I got a softball mitt.

I really miss those games. It even wasn't the same after I left D+P. The late nineties seemed to be the most fun I had playing with you guys.

We're in the "C" league so the skill level isn't very high just like there. That's the fun or frustrating thing at that level. You can be in it to the end given there could be a long string of errors to keep you in it. Or you could lose it on that same string.

I wonder how well I would hit if I went back to 16-inch?