Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Opening Day!

Today officially marked the start of summer softball season.  Technically, opening night was two weeks ago, but my long-standing rival, Spring Plan, prevented me from committing to play in the first two games of the season...not that I'm bitter.  I hadn't touched a glove or bat since last August, so I was interested to see how things would go. If things were going to go at all, that is.  When the view out the windshield looks like this minutes before the first pitch, nothing is certain:

Despite a slow and steady rain as the game got underway, we actually went ahead and started that thing on time.  The clouds came and went, but the showers eventually slowed enough to prevent a truly miserable experience.  Playing outfield was no picnic, though--it was more like standing in a marsh, and for people like me who don't take softball seriously enough to wear cleats, any sudden movements threatened to instantly put me face-down in the swamp muck.

The most interesting part of the night was the umpire, an older guy who vaguely resembled Steven King.  He seemed like a nice enough guy, but he was a bit too intense for a C-league coed softball ump.  I'm all for respecting the game, but we're not exactly playing at Fenway Park, either.  Before my first at-bat, one of my teammates mentioned that the umpire had told another player to turn his backwards hat around before he batted.

I was wearing my hat backwards--it has one of those annoying bills that refuses to hold a curve.  When I wear it forward, it's a straight-billed monstrosity that makes me look like I think I belong in a rap video with a New Era sticker on the bill.  I can pull off a lot of looks, but rapper/gangster is one of the few that I struggle with.  With this particular hat I was wearing, backwards is the lesser of the two evils.  But when I walked toward the plate, I reluctantly turned it forward before stepping into the box.

 Separated at birth?

I hit a double in my first at-bat of the season, and when I stopped at second I immediately spun my hat back around--style is everything to me, after all.  As the next batter stepped up, Steven King called time for no apparent reason, then yelled, "runner on second, turn your hat around!"  The shortstop on the other team mumbled sarcastically, "yeah, that was really distracting me..."

Apparently Mr. King is quite a stickler for the rules of the game--particularly his own set of made up rules.  When I was in the outfield on defense, I thought about testing his eyesight and seeing if he'd notice a backwards hat from 250 feet away, but I decided it was best not to get the king of horror on my bad side.

A few innings later, he struck again, this time lashing out at the opposing team.  Someone on their bench had an open can of beer, and he stopped the game, turned and yelled, "take that can, pour it out right now, and throw it away!  If I see another beer, I'll throw you out of the game!"  I think there's an actual rule against open containers in the dugout, but it's far and away the least-enforced rule in the book.  But after his hat hang-up, it shouldn't have come as a surprise that he'd enforce the alcohol rule to the letter of the law.

As the game approached the one hour time limit, Mr. King informed us that there were three minutes and twenty-seven seconds remaining, signaling the final half-inning of play (apparently he's as precise as he is disciplined).  We put the finishing touches on a 22-8 victory without further threat of penalty.

It was a convincing win, but my hitting deteriorated over the course of the game.  Solid line-drives gave way to two inning-ending popups on the infield.  At this pace, I'll be lucky to make contact by the middle innings of next Tuesday's game.  But I'll blame my lackluster hitting on the forwardness of my hat--I swear the bill interfered with my normally hawk-like hitting eye.

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