During the summer of 2010, some of my buddies and I played in a men’s softball league in Austin. College and intramurals were behind us, so the best way to appease our competitive drives, and participate in organized sports, was to join this league. Although we enjoyed the competition, we never took it too seriously unlike many other teams out there. We were that slapdick team that showed up 10 minutes before game time, snuck in a quick, half-assed stretch and played catch for a few minutes, then rolled our beer coolers up next to the dugout (beers were forbidden in the dugout or on the field) just in time for the first pitch, the only team in our division to bring beers to every game.
It was our third consecutive year to join. This particular league had three different divisions your team could enter: lower, intermediate, and advanced. We played in the intermediate division, because 1) the lower division was for pussies, and 2) the advanced division was taken way too seriously. I’m talking players carrying actual equipment bags and taping up their wrists with athletic tape. They even had designated, uniformed first and third base coaches that were there only to coach, not to play. Those assholes didn’t even drink. Total blowhards. They were good, though. Really good.
Post-retirement golf: you’re flasking expensive bourbon, burning stogies, and harassing the bev cart chick every time she rolls by.
I’m not trying to play in a softball league where drinking is frowned upon. That’s basically the rule with sports and age — the older you get, the more casual and carefree your demeanor becomes, and the more you’re expected to drink during competition. Little league tee ball: you’re picking your nose in left field then quickly snapping back to the ready position with each swing, then you’re ordering suicides after your games and trying to convince Mom to give you a buck-fifty for Fun Dip or Big League Chew. Post-retirement golf: you’re flasking expensive bourbon, burning stogies, and harassing the bev cart chick every time she rolls by, all without breaking a sweat. It’s the drunken cycle of sports life, and it’s a beautiful thing.
I played the hot corner that season, or third base for those more attuned to layman’s terms. Backing up a bit, I dabbled in the infield back in high school. I was more built for the outfield, however, and that’s where I played the majority of my tenure back then. I hadn’t played on the dirt since my junior year of high school. Big deal, right? It’s like riding a bike — you don’t lose it. On this softball team, I was one of about five or so with a baseball background, and with third base being an important position in slow pitch softball, that’s the position I was best suited for. Plus, I had — fuck it, still have — a right arm like a fucking howitzer. It was just a good fit for me.
It didn’t take long for me to realize I was not the infielder, or athlete, I used to be. I remember the exact moment that the following thought dawned on me: Um, what the fuck was that?! What happened to my agility?! The second batter of the first game of the season hit a laser down the line, to my right. It’s a play I would have made nine times out of ten, seven years prior. As the ball left the bat, I immediately thought, That’s not gonna be a base hit while I’m out here, fuckface. But my body was all, Not on my watch, faggot. I missed the ball by probably seven feet. I was devastated.
What has happened to me? Am I done? Is my dream of becoming a big league ballplayer officially over? Will anyone respect me anymore? Who could love me? Should I pack it in and completely give up on staying in shape? Should I walk off the field? Walk back to my car and leave? When I tell tales of my former athletic prowess, will anyone believe me?
My change-of-direction was completely decimated, like I was playing in ski boots out there. I went from Darrell Green to Orlando Pace, only I was stuck in my body.
My change-of-direction was completely decimated, like I was playing in ski boots out there. I went from Darrell Green to Orlando Pace, only I was stuck in my body. It was the very first athletic attribute that I had noticed was amiss. 17-year-old me had range like a Scud missile. The 2010 version of me could just step to the left or right and reach, and if the ball was just beyond my reach, I’d sometimes be able to simply fall down to either side and give off the appearance I was diving. I wasn’t diving for it, though. I was tipping over like a cow that had just gotten a bolt gun to the dome in the slaughterhouse. Lights out.
The truth is, my athleticism began its slow descent some time around my 20th birthday. Not-so-coincidentally, that’s around around the same time my dual career in beer drinking and gym avoidance went from amateur status to big leaguer. The reason it took me so long to realize I was losing it, is because I rarely exerted myself athletically for years after walking across that high school stage. I simply didn’t give myself many opportunities to notice.
I guess I’ll always have memories. And beer.