Published: Jul 07, 2012 06:00 PM
Modified: Jul 09, 2012 10:33 AM
Our losing season, Part 3
No wins, 10 losses ... and counting
Editor’s Note: J.D. Hermann’s first foray into adult softball, with a team called “George’s Pitches and the Pancake Batters” has not turned out the way he imagined when he and his friends decided to get into recreational sports.Our losing season, part 3no wins, 10 losses and many bloody knees.At some point George Pitches and Pancake Batters found ourselves with no wins, 10 losses, another sidelined infielder and many bloody knees. (We also had many bloody bedsheets and therefore many bulky, bloody loads of laundry).Those optimists I mentioned earlier — whose faith correlated with their lack of softball experience — still thought we could win a game. I was certain we would not.My fiancee often asked me whether we would win, and I invariably said "no."Do not misunderstand. I played with a great attitude and cheered my teammates. I enjoyed every inning until we played a Sunday-night game against the second-worst team in the league and lost by 20 runs in three innings that lasted for 25 minutes.The game was a makeup on an irregular night, so most of our best players were absent. Our defense was really something to see; I think we committed eight or nine errors in three plays.The game ended when the home-plate umpire spoke a few inaudible words with the scorekeeper and walked back to the field."Who is the coach?" he asked only loud enough for the infield to hear.I raised my hand.He dropped his head so that the brim of his cap covered his eyes. He gave me the grimmest come-hither gesture I have seen in 28 years. I jogged toward him with the awful feeling of knowing exactly what would be said and that it did not need to be said.It was insulting. I was suddenly the face of something I did not want to represent on my own."It looks like we've reached the third-inning run rule here," he said with eyes still directed downward. "I'm very sorry.""OK," I said. I wished I had something better to say.Also known as the "slaughter rule," originally formulated as something to protect the feelings of Little Leaguers and later adopted by many municipalities to hustle malingering teams off crowded fields, the rule puts a halt to games where one team is ahead by seven runs after five, or 15 after four innings, or 20 runs after three.The dugout after that game was tense. Losing by the mercy rule was nothing new, but the 20-in-the-third rule felt quite fresh.Our earnest left-center fielder explained to everyone that we should be embarrassed. I already was, only because of the umpire's odd gesture. But I also knew that our lineup was the weakest it had been all year. Even crazier than the humiliating loss was the belief we could easily beat the team that had just beat us by 20 in three innings."Did they cancel the game?" my fiancee asked when I walked in the door 40 minutes early."No," I said. "We lost in 25 minutes by 20 runs. We will beat them tomorrow."I was not showing resolve. I just knew we would have a better lineup than them in a second game 24 hours later, and we did.We won by 2.They were surprised, but we weren't.Still, we celebrated on Franklin Street and recounted the game inning by inning. We thought it might be the only opportunity.A day later I refreshed the league results page a dozen times. I wanted to see a 1 in that first column. It was important to me.Winning is more fun when you're a loser.We beat the same team a second time a week later to take two of three from them. Then we lost in the first round of the playoffs to the best team in the league.As was the case 10 years before, in a baseball season interrupted by a concussion, I did not want it to end.At least now I can regret 2012 instead of my lost season of 2002.We will be back next year.And maybe, with several strokes of good luck and good health, we will be back in 38 years, which is exactly how long one of the current teams in the league has competed. Their roster has undergone a few makeovers, but their name is still McCauley Street and their two white-haired founding players are still swinging away.Amen.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.
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