I’ve been playing slowpitch softball ever since college intramurals, probably about 10 years now. Over the past 5 or 6 years we’ve put together a pretty consistent team in our Ann Arbor rec league. It’s not a super high level of softball, but it is competitive. Most of us are right around the age of 30, still pretty young in comparison to other teams. Our team is pretty good, not great, and competes with just about every team we play. It’s a double-header league and splits are common. Last night were our last games of the summer before I leave. All this background noise is important to understand one thing: we play for fun and to win. Last night we played a team that played to win. This team had expensive team jerseys and clearly all worked for the same company whereas our team is more of a ragtag team of friends that just for the first year acquired a sponsor. Think Benny “The Jet,” Scotty Smalls and Porter vs The Tigers from The Sandlot, plus 20 years.
Don’t underestimate when I say ragtag. We’re good. We play excellent defense and we run the bases extremely well. We hit well enough to win, but we are not going to power the ball around. On the year, we’ve probably been out-homered by 20 in 16 games. So, we have to scrap a bit for runs occasionally. Despite this, we play for fun.
“The Tigers” played to win. That’s fine to a point. Several of their players continuously worked the count – in a slow-pitch softball game. They probably took 6 walks in the two games we played combined. Our team took one. And they ruthlessly abuse the courtesy runner rule. As one of my teammates put it last night “If your over 32, sorry you don’t get to run the bases.” Once, a player legged out a triple and then they used a courtesy runner for him at third base. This happened many times.
We don’t look for walks. We don’t use courtesy runners unless someone is hurt. We have fun. That’s why we’re out there. And in last night’s second game, as Smalls narrates in The Sandlot, we kicked the crap out of them.
It all came together for me last night, as we sat together and drank our second post-game beer at the appropriately named “Old Town.” One of my teammates, also at the bar, is going on the last leg of the trip with me. He is flying into Boston on August 19 and going to the last five games with me (Boston, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Detroit). I was flipping through tickets with him and we pulled the trigger on the first game.
Yankees-Red Sox. Fenway Park. Saturday night. The tickets were ordered and within minutes I had the PDF in my mailbox, on my phone. And it hit me. That game, that single game, is on most people’s sports bucket list. That single game. Over the past 4 months I’ve been so caught up in the details and the planning that I haven’t had a chance to remember that this is going to be fun.
See you in Toronto.