Ampersand

Diary of a Senior Softballer

By MARC LIPMAN | Sep 20, 2017

It’s 8:30 a.m. on Monday and it’s time to go to my softball game. The game is for players age 60 and over; we occasionally allow a youngster of 55 to play. We start practice at 9 and start playing at 9:30. The season begins as soon as the temperature is above 50 degrees and continues as long as it stays warm or until our players head for Florida.

After I change into my softball outfit (I put on my cap), it’s time for stretching and warm-up. As I do this I remember the rubber band analogy. When a rubber band is new you can stretch it and it comes right back to its original shape. But when it gets old and you stretch it, snap, sprong; it’s all over! Therefore, I make about a dozen throws and my arm is as ready as it’s going to be.

Soon it’s batting practice time. I head for the outfield to practice my fielding. I think back to when I started playing here four years ago. I had not played in 20 years and I had lost my ability to judge how to get to the ball, and how to catch it once I got to it. After a few games I regained that knowledge but realized that my 20-year-older body could not do what my brain wanted. It took a lot more games to reconcile my brain with my body. They are now in sync.

I was still using my old equipment. Recently I broke down and got a new glove from a local sporting goods store. The old one seemed as old as some of our players. After a week I brought it back and asked for a replacement under the warranty, stating that the glove dropped some fly balls. They didn’t buy that! Actually the new glove was fine and I managed to catch a few.

After all the righties have batted, it is time for us lefties. I took a half a dozen or so swings at the plate. I concentrated on having the bat make contact with the ball. The results remind me of my age.

While we are having our batting practice, three players have been “volunteered”: a visitor’s team captain, a home team captain, and a person to comment after the first inning: “Who picked these teams?!” We do our best to have even teams. We need players for shortstop and third base who can bend down far enough to pick up a grounder and have an arm strong enough to reach first base without rolling the ball. We need two pitchers who can throw strikes most of the time. Right field and catcher are prize positions for those who pulled a hamstring or suffered a shoulder injury the last game. Other positions are up for grabs.

Our field has a few additions for the safety of our players. There is a second first base outside the foul line for the runner to go to. That way there are no collisions. The same goes for home plate. We have a plywood plate for the batters that is deeper than the standard plate. If the ball hits it, it is a strike. There is a noticeable thump when this happens. Whereas in a regular softball/baseball game players may yell, “What’s the matter, ump? Are you blind?” ours may yell, “What’s the matter, ump? Are you deaf?”

The game starts. I am in my normal position at right field. A lefty is at bat. I say to myself, “Watch the ball! Start running as soon as you see it hit! Keep your eye on the ball! Concentrate on catching it – with the glove, not your face!”

Later I am at bat. I am not a long ball hitter. Singles are fine for me. Only once did I hit the ball over the outfielder’s head. I was so amazed that I stared at the ball ... and got thrown out at first.

Occasionally we have spectators other than players who are still recovering from an operation or injury. Once we had a lady spectator. Every time I was up at bat she kept shouting, “Boo! Boo!” I had to tell her, “Judy, my wife should be a little more supportive.”

After the game we have the customary handshakes – sometimes with a compliment about how good I did, usually with one about how my screw-up helped them win. We may have a 50-50 raffle to help pay for new softballs or a collection to pay for a sympathy card and flowers for one of our previously injured players.

By the next day I will receive an email with the results of the game and its highlights. Since I did well this game, I can expect: “Marc did not play as poorly as he usually does.”

Marc Lipman lives in Green Brook, N.J., and Barnegat Light.

 

 

 

 

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