Time to hang up the glove, again
June 21, 2002
Ah, there’s nothing like America’s pastime to make me feel past my prime.In keeping with that old adage, “You’re only as old as you feel,” I’ve concluded I’m older than Honus Wagner. He’s dead, I know, but I’ll bet he felt better than I did on Tuesday.On Monday, I was forced out – out of retirement, that is – to shore up The Aspen Times’ sagging roster of ready and able softball players. I returned to the field of my dreams of glory. It was a rude awakening.I’m not sure what was worse, feeling decrepit or feeling completely inept at a game in which I once excelled as only a moderately competent softball player can.Now I know what it feels like to be the kid we always shipped off to right field or hid behind the plate, where his or her ability to ruin our chances of victory might be minimized. This was the kid who looked at life from the bottom of the batting order.The game isn’t nearly as enjoyable when you’re standing there chanting, silently, “Please, don’t hit it to me”; “Please, don’t hit it to me”; “Please, don’t hit . oh, #@&% !!”I knew I was in for a rough seven innings when I hurt myself doing some pregame stretches.Then I took to the field to throw the old ball around and promptly volunteered to play first base. That way, the only throw I might make all night would be an underhanded lob to the pitcher after a play. This strategy actually worked perfectly, though the pitcher strained his back trying to stab his glove at my errant toss.I quickly chalked up my first stat of the game with an error. A perfectly fired bullet from the shortstop appeared to go right through the webbing of my glove. I don’t know how it happened. I was too busy chanting, “Please, don’t throw it to me”; “Please, don’t throw it to me”; “Please, don’t throw . oh, #@&% !!”My performance at the plate was equally horrendous, though my at-bat strategy – never swing at anything – earned me two trips to first base on walks. My initial glee at getting on base quickly ebbed when I realized walking to first meant, in all likelihood, I would have to run to second and perhaps farther. Images of a crippled hippo flashed through my head as I lumbered breathlessly between bases.My final at-bat was both my crowning glory and the ultimate humiliation. I risked a mighty swing and laid down the equivalent of a perfect bunt. The ball dribbled a couple of feet in front of home plate and I grunted my way to first before the catcher could recover from her own, “Please, don’t hit it to me” routine.Safe at first, I pulled my cap a little lower over my face.My condition the next morning was even more appalling than my performance. I thought I might need to requisition a wheelchair when I first got out of bed, but excruciating pain subsided to mere agony several tiny pills later.Still, a Boy Scout offered to assist me across Main Street.What I can’t understand is how I can be sore after a game of softball when I lift weights regularly at a gym and take a quasi-vigorous bike ride four or five times a week. Is there no overlap in the use of muscles I employ regularly with those I summon for a game of softball?I suspect my physical fitness regimen is more suited to certain ancillary pursuits related to the playing of softball – sitting on the sidelines drinking beer, for example. I’ve got dibs on that position next week.
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