Thursday, November 09, 2006

I Love This Game!

Softball season is winding down. I'm sort of sad about it, but we have a few more games before we quit for the winter. A couple of more mild days before the bats sit silent and the gloves go into the closet, where they will calmly await the next year. But for now, ahhh, what a wonderful game!

It seems like such a trivial thing to fall in love with, this game. But once you step onto the field, it takes you, seduces you, and makes you one with it.

I still contend that there's no more peaceful and happy place than a baseball or softball field. Anywhere that there's a diamond, four bases, a pitching rubber, a backstop and an outfield, there can be nothing wrong with the world. It's almost zen-like in its nature. It's a place of fun, a place of play, a place that I must believe attracts the good spirits that look for those sorts of places.

Yes, it's slow-pitch. Yes, it's open to anybody. But that doesn't lessen the intensity of it. The drive to win is still there in everyone on the field, even if later on we'll laugh and joke about how it's "just a game," knowing deep inside that it's much more than that.

When I step into the batter's box, it's always the same. Clear the mechanism. Everything surrounding me disappears. Tunnel vision sets in. I tap my bat on home plate as if to say "put it here, baby." The pitcher and I lock eyes, exchanging the looks that mortal combatants must share before engaging each other to the death. Will he put a nasty spin on the ball? Will he try to sneak one past me to the back part of the plate? Or will he serve me up a nice juicy fat beach ball for me to hop on and ride to Homerville? He comes set. My eyes go from his to the ball. The count is 2 and 1, but I forget that. All that matters now is the ball. Time slows, the ball approaches the plate, and it's just where I want it. I step into it and bring the bat around, connecting, the ping of the bat being the only reward I need. For the moment, I am the hero. For the moment, Derek Jeter or Sammy Sosa don't exist.

And it happens to everyone who steps onto the field. The guy from the checkout counter gets to make a diving catch. The youth minister gets to glove a line drive and turn two. The girl from Sonic gets to hit one into the outfield, scoring two. The game makes heroes out of us all.

Certainly it also defeats us from time to time, but we shake that off. We know that it has more in store for us than that.

It's a game. But!


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