Asher on Aspen: Freaks Power
Asher on Aspen
For the past couple months, my Tuesday nights have been devoted to playing in an adult, co-ed softball team through the Aspen Recreation Center. Initially, the thought of competing in a league absolutely terrified me. I played for a short stint in middle school, but I was never any good. When considering my friend’s offer to participate, I couldn’t help but think of one specific (and slightly overused) Eleanor Roosevelt quote: “Do one thing every day that scares you.” Well, this was definitely something that scared me and pulled me completely out of my comfort zone.
I knew there was no turning back once I received the jersey with my last name stamped across the back. I reasoned that I had to stick with it for the season — no matter how bad I was or how much I made a fool of myself — so that I could hold true to my commitment. The team consisted of mostly skiers who belong to the legendary Aspen ski gang, “The Freaks.” Memorializing a friend who passed away a couple years ago who was a prominent figure in the gang and in the Aspen community, the jersey had Sam Coffey’s face displayed on the back adjacent to the phrase “Coffey for Mayor.” Having known Sam personally, I felt proud to be on this team.
“Asher, you’re on deck!” I heard my friend call out as he looked down at his clipboard to recall the lineup. It was our first game of the season and my nerves had been building up from the moment I left work that day. I approached the plate while trying to remember everything I was taught during my pre-teen softball days. “Elbow up, eye on the ball, swing all the way through, weight on the back foot.” Butterflies danced in my stomach and sweat formed on my brow as I stared intently at the pitcher.
Surprisingly, I made contact with the ball and watched as it tore through the dirt directly towards the pitcher. Despite the likely chances that he would retrieve it and throw it to first, I ran like a madwoman to get on base. After taking an unlikely jump and rolling past the pitcher, the ball was swept up by the shortstop and lugged over to first base before I was able to arrive safely. “You’re out!” yelled the umpire. I walked back sheepishly to the dugout with my head down. Remarkably, my teammates still showered me with high-fives and words of encouragement. They yelled things like, “Good contact,” and “That was so close.”
The next batter walked up confidently to the plate, and the electricity in the air intensified. I’d seen this teammate of mine cruise down the mountain on skis before like a pro, but I’ve never witnessed him play softball. On his first pitch, the ball rocketed towards the outfield and over the centerfielder’s head. Our team went wild and started cheering ecstatically. His feet were on fire as he sailed past first and second base. A group of my team members were now waving their arms in a circular motion to encourage him to keep running. “Go home, go home,” they cried out wildly. We all began jumping up and down and chanting his name with pride once he finally made it home.
Throughout the season, I had a tendency to show up at each game with a nervous “pit-in-my stomach” type of feeling. But by the time I left, I always had a renewed sense of energy and I felt thankful to be a part of such an encouraging team that thankfully, didn’t take the game too seriously.
Not only was this softball league out of my comfort zone entirely, but it was also out of my skill set. My extra-curricular activities growing up consisted of classical ballet, cheerleading and musicals. So catching a pop fly or hitting a home run didn’t exactly come naturally for me, but I certainly felt like I improved by the end of the season. I walked away from each game with the biggest smile on my face, along with a newfound sense of pride.
There is no feeling more satisfying than making an amazing catch that nobody expected or making a double play that the other team didn’t see coming. Each time I did something even a little impressive I felt a surge of energy from my teammates, and that energy was released back into the field as the game carried on. I lived for that subtle spark of adrenaline that came with the unpredictable rush of each play. In the end, I’m happy that I pushed myself to play despite my fear of failing. Can you imagine if we all did that just a little bit more often?