Stepped back under the lights for the first time in about nine years. SK Field in Culver City and softball. I'm a late entry to the team (didn't know about it early on) which is made up of people at work. As a toddy-come-lately, I only made one practice last weekend, and tonight was the first game. I acquited myself well enough at practice (after a rather weak ground ball the first at bat, the next two were home run and line drive single), so I was in the starting lineup, albeit batting 10th and playing right field.
I have to admit that I'm not extremely comfortable playing in the outfield. God knows I've shagged tens of thousands of fly balls, but from the age of eight I've been an infielder. During the little league years there was a brief flirtation with the outfield (when I was ten and made the majors), but soon it was back to 2nd base, which I called home for many years.
Flash forward to college and playing both intramural and city league. I had taken up pitching at a fairly young age (as my dad was a fast-pitch pitcher for about 30+ years, and I essentially grew up on a softball diamond), and migrated to doing that as well as making the shift from 2nd base to shortstop. Shortstop gets a lot more action in most games, and I had pretty good hands and range...again having taken literally tens of thousands of ground balls over the years. I was always the kid that would keep fielding them until either the hitter got burned out of the sun went down. But I digress.
So through the 80's and 90's, I played a lot of city league and tournament softball, either pitching or playing shortstop. The only exception being on some tournament teams where I was about the weakest guy out there...with ther rest of the team composed of ex college ball players, etc. My organized baseball ended with little league, and instead I migrated to softball.
A long winded explanation for why I'm not that comfortable in the outfield. It's all about seeing the ball come off the bat and being able to make a quick first move. In the infield, it can be trick as well...playing shortstop is different than playing 3rd base (which I do *not* like), which is different than 2nd base (which I *do* like). The view of the ball coming off the bat is slightly different due to the angle, and once you get used to one there is an adjustment period to picking it up at the new position.
Also in the outfield you have to cover a lot of ground. Back in the day that wasn't an issue for me...I was always pretty quick around the bases and out in field, and had excellent range as a shortstop. In fact I was somewhat infamous in the Pasadena city league for playing rather deep (on the grass) but being able to get away with it because I had a very quick release throw and charged the ball pretty hard. There's another issue with being in the outfield though...my throw is totally optimized for infield use. Very quick release for a fairly short distance. Outfield requires a bit more of a "windup" and a longer, flatter through.
But, you play where you're told, and playing is playing. I won't go into too many of the details of the game. Let's just say that management picked the wrong league for us to play in. The other team was hitting the ball a mile. And the first 6 hitters in their lineup could all hit the ball a mile. Our team...umm...could not. I finally got up in the 3rd inning I think it was and took the first pitch in my typical inside-out fashion, lining into right field for a single. But was eventually stranded on 2nd. And that was it for hitting. Never got up again. Had a couple of balls hit to me on the ground out in right...had one that I didn't play clean but didn't get past me (my old little league training for the outfield...go down to one knee to make sure you block it...especially with the blotchy grass in most city parks), but otherwise non-eventful. Our 3rd baseman may have broken his finger. He took a ground ball the wrong way and the next thing I know he's running to the dugout, then taking off for the hospital with one of the other people while blood was dripping. Not good.
So why didn't I get up again? Well, this league has a mercy rule. If your'e down by 15 (or maybe its 20) runs by the 5th inning, the game is called. We came up in the 5th and went quietly, and at that point the score was 24-2. So mercy it was. Didn't bother me as I'd pulled a hip flexor on my first fielding attempt (I don't like those long runs inthe outfield at age 45), and I needed to get Calvin to bed. So the early mercy put us back on the road at 9:45pm, and the boy was in bed by about 10pm, and I was on the couch with wood lock oil on the inside of my thighs and hips by 10:30pm.
And so the season begins. I'm a no-show for next weeks game as I'll be in Beijing. But after that, it's back under the lights. And we'll see what that brings...