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Janet UrquhartAspen, CO Colorado

The Aspen Times softball team is so desperate for players, it’s recruiting old women.Some two decades after my prime (and I use that term loosely) as a softball player, and at least five years after hanging up my glove and announcing my retirement from the Times team, I was somehow coaxed back onto the diamond this week. I quickly remembered why I quit in the first place. Softball is a contact sport.With the coed team perennially short of members, particularly those of the female persuasion, we were in danger of forfeiting yet another game, even with my presence, until the opposing team agreed to lend us a couple of warm bodies, correctly figuring that they could beat us even with one of their capable outfielders covering center for us.But just to make sure we’d lose, they did their best to take me out on a stretcher in the early going, leaving us with too few women to play the game.Even before my collision with one of their baserunners, I’d regretted my decision to play. I covered first base (one of several conditions in my contract), where I quietly chanted, “Please don’t them hit it to me, please don’t let them hit it to me.” This actually worked, more or less.Even if I’d managed to field a grounder, I was pretty sure I couldn’t heave more than a dying quail to one of my fellow basemen, were I forced to make a throw. I’d been playing catch in the backyard at home – covering what turned out to be about half of the actual distance between two bases on the ball diamond.I was equally pathetic at the plate, despite some pregame batting practice, during which I actually dinged a few solid line drives while my teammates shagged flies. My first at-bat produced a feeble dribbler that advanced so slowly, my pinch runner (another condition of my participation) beat the throw to first from an exasperated infielder. It would be my last base hit, but not my last hit.I was hanging around first base, chanting, when the batter hit a weak pop-up along the first base line that everybody figured would bounce out of bounds. Inexplicably, I suddenly decided it might not bounce foul and that I should pretend to try to field it. At about the same time, the baserunner on first, who could double as a brick wall, decided he should probably advance to second, just in case.He was perhaps startled, but otherwise unfazed, by the resulting collision. I, on the other hand, bounced off of him like an insect glancing off the grill of a Mack truck. I landed with a thud that probably registered on Front Range seismographs.I landed hard on my tailbone and skinned both elbows in what I assume was a reflexive action to spare myself further injury. It didn’t work. My head whipped back and with enough force to create a crater in the hard dirt. I sort of laid there like a sack of potatoes while my teammates loomed over me, concerned they might have to forfeit the game after all.I don’t know who, but two people grabbed my arms and hoisted me to my feet with no help from me. The umpire, worried about carnage during his watch, had no idea whether the ball went foul untouched, but the apologetic base runner was ultimately sent back to first and I retreated well behind the runner’s path and reeled like a drunk until the inning was over.Back in the dugout, I was proffered a cold beer from the team’s first aid kit, but holding it to my head didn’t seem to help much.What I’m certain was a mild concussion left me with a headache for 24 straight hours. Three days later, my neck and shoulders still ached from the whiplash, and my tailbone still felt like someone was jabbing my ass with a stick whenever I made any of several movements.I hope it’s better by next week. I can’t wait to play again.Janet Urquhart is going to wear a batting helmet whenever she’s anywhere near the ballfield. Her e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com


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