Published: Jul 03, 2012 07:00 PM
Modified: Jul 05, 2012 11:40 AM
Editor’s Note: In Part 1 of J.D. Hermann’s account of his first foray into rec softball, he told how “George’s Pitches and the Pancake Batters” entered blithely into a league peppered with older players who appeared to be easy pickings. He was about to learn that appearances can be deceiving.
We opened our softball season against a church team composed of middle-aged men with scant athletic ability but more than 20 years of league experience, an amount of time that approached our team’s average age.
Some of them had children who attended the high school at which several of my teammates and I taught.
I did not know it at the time, but some of those children attended that game to watch their daddies invoke the 12-run mercy rule on their kids’ sprightly, young teachers.
A botched play at the plate saw one of those daddies run over our starting pitcher, whose shoulder turned a puffy yellow. Our guy sat out the first half of the season while it healed.
I saw the son of one of those opposing players at school a couple weeks and many consecutive losses later.
“I heard you have a softball team,” he told me as I was copying some papers in the teacher’s workroom.
“I do,” I replied, still unaware of how he knew how I spent my Monday and Wednesday nights. “A few teachers play on the team.” I went on to identify them by name.
“You have a young team,” he said.
“Yup,” I said. “We are young compared to the other teams.”
“Don’t you think it’s strange that older guys beat you by double digits?” he fired.
“No,” I said and proceeded to explain our plight.
We discovered early that our defense, which actually improved as the season progressed, was not our only problem. Offense was our other area of concern. Optimistically speaking, those were our only two deficiencies.
Hitting a slow-pitched softball was easy, but we failed to hit it where the fielders were not. We had no guys with home run power and no guys with the patience to wait for a good pitch. They all looked good to us. The ball was big and yellow and slow. It was hard to miss but harder to resist.
To say that hitting was our only offensive problem would have been an understatement.
We overran bases that could not be overrun.
We stopped on bases that should have been overrun.
We even took an illegal lead off and paid the price with an automatic out.
If Yogi Berra was watching, he was also blushing.
When I was about to introduce our defensive troubles to the bold 17-year-old, he tired of listening and interrupted my monologue.
“My dad almost killed your pitcher.”
I picked up my copies and scampered away from the ambush.
It was not long after that short conversation that I was running to second base on a fielder’s choice and tore my hamstring, which had never happened to me before.
Without a good reason to heal or someone to tell me otherwise, I decided to play the rest of the season with the injury. I pulled, strained or tore that hamstring at least a dozen times. I learned to run slow and play out of position to protect it, but fielding ground balls was painful.
One night my fiancee yelped when I turned around while wearing my boxers. A large purple stain suddenly had appeared on the back of my leg above the knee.
Worried that it was a dangerous infection or bite, I went to my doctor. He explained that my hamstring was bleeding from repeated tears.
Somehow that left me deeply satisfied.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. Sunday: no wins, 10 losses and many bloody knees.
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