Published: Jul 01, 2012 01:03 PM
Modified: Jul 01, 2012 02:37 PM
The 2012 Chapel Hill mens softball season has put my pessimistic honesty to the test.
I am already off to a challenged start to explain this. I could not figure how to start such a post, so I searched for my copy of Pat Conroys "My Losing Season," a memoir of his tenure as a college basketball player at The Citadel.
The plan was to find a suitable epigraph that would give me some direction and perspective.
I never found the book. I still have my own perspective.
I had wanted to play on a softball team for years. A broken face and concussion interrupted and practically ended my high school baseball career in April 2002. That loose end annoyed me for a decade.
In 2007, I socialized my way onto a decent team in Charlotte and enjoyed playing second- and first-base for a few Sunday-night games.
My then-girlfriend-now-fiancee watched me play that season and decided she wanted to marry a man who owned a jock strap.
Every spring after moving to Chapel Hill in 2008, I either coached junior varsity baseball or forgot to register for the local league until it was too late.
What I did not know then, but do now, is that many of the teams had been in the Chapel Hill league for longer than I had been alive, and they never failed to fill the schedule to capacity by a late-February or early March deadline.
Last winter, two years removed from my brief coaching career, I finally registered on time.
I sent an e-mail to my friend Roddy to ask him to play and recruit other guys to field a complete team. We decided to compose a roster of our friends regardless of their skill level.
Anybody with any experience would be a pleasant accident.
In preseason practices, we fund that about half of our guys were "accidents."
But even the other, less experienced guys could hit a 12-inch, slow-pitched softball that was lofted to a mouthwatering height of 6 to 10 feet.
We figured that defense would be our primary weakness.
Judging fly balls, throwing, catching and understanding game situations were all obvious concerns, which we subconsciously ignored.
This was easy to do because our least experienced players were also our most optimistic.
As the teams player manager, I found it all quite endearing.
Our practices consisted of nothing more than batting practice and ball shagging.
We christened our team with $3 uniforms, the name Georges Pitches and the Pancake Batters, and a bat with the foreboding label "Freak Show."
I anxiously awaited our first showdown.
At a preseason coaches meeting, I discovered that the next youngest guy was at least 10 years older than me. Another fellow wore two knee braces.
One purpose of the meeting was to debate a couple of flexible rules. The American Softball Association of America had recently lowered the maximum pitch height from 12 to 10 feet to make the ball easier to hit.
To my surprise, all of the coaches wanted the leagues ceiling to remain at 12 feet. The guy with two knee braces felt strongly about the existing rule.
"Two years ago I pitched to a guy who broke my arm," another guy wearily said. "I didnt see the ball, but I felt it."
My vote meant nothing. I was in the presence of older men without the reflexes to protect themselves against a 50-foot line drive.
The ceiling stayed at 12 feet by a 7-1 vote.
I left the meeting without making a single friend.
But things were looking up for Georges Pitches.J.D. Hermann is an aspiring writer and high school math teacher who lives in Chapel Hill and played in the local softball league for the first time. Next week: Part 2.
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