Blog: Maybe There's Hope Yet
(originally written 3/5/12)
Three weeks ago, I took my first softball hacks in over six months, having been reduced to a diamond invalid thanks to an evidently-permanent shoulder injury (which I'd detail if I hadn't already whined about it to anyone who would listen, or if I were here to talk about the past. Which I ain't.)
The results: inconclusive. During the game I swung pain-free, if ineffectively. The post-game BP was another story. Expecting to dazzle, I instead got profoundly humbled. It didn't make sense. How could the same man who came within six feet of clearing the fence at Cupertino Middle School in a game fail, less than one year later, to even hit a fair ball TEN swings in a row during practice?
Fast-forward to Sunday, 3/4. I assumed there would be Facebook/Meetup softball somewhere; Fred confirmed as much, and I decided to give BP one last shot. What I didn't tell him or anyone else: if I again proved physically unable to hit the way I always have (excellently), my career was going to end.
Michael Scott's philosophy: Never do anything to anyone, for any reason, at any time. Ever.
My philosophy: Always leave 'em wanting more. It is why I've never been dumped. Or fired.
Ken Griffey Jr., a guy who could accidentally hit 45 jacks a year during his prime, was unable to even display warning track power in his final season. His baseball skillz had completely eroded. He couldn't even hit nobodies. It hurt to watch. Skillz refuses to go out like that. Giving up the game of baseball/softball after 20 years of playing it wouldn't be easy, but watching outfielders creep in when I step up, or being politely asked to DH by a captain because my defense is indefensible would be far, far worse.
I ended up not practicing, but in the game—with the same private retirement rules still in effect.
1st AB: I pop up back to the mound about a mile in the sky. I felt right with my hands, but not my body. Fixable.
2nd AB: I drag a lonnngggg swing through the strike zone, out in front of a sinking pitch, and pop up to shallow left-center. It falls in. I'm promptly erased on a fielder's choice.
3rd AB: I found something here. I fouled a ball off—and felt every mechanical flaw in my swing repair itself. I wasn't extending my arms, or planting my legs, or watching the ball as I hit it, or gearing up properly. Basically, the only thing I'd been doing right at the plate was remembering to bring the bat.
A couple pitches later I drove one to deep left field for an out. As I declared right then, the upside to sucking is that when you make an out, you get high-fives. So true in my case.
4th AB: This time, I was right. Hips felt good, hands felt good, and I was sweating. Ball punishment was inevitable. In my mind, I prepared a speech to the loved ones of the poor saps playing basketball in deep centerfield, in the likely chance my upcoming home run put one of them in a coma.
Well, it didn't go quite that far, but over the outfielders' heads is still a pretty good wallop.
Pain-free and mechanically sound, maybe there's hope for me yet...
Even if there wasn't hope for my playing skillz, there could still be a role for me in softball:
After the game, a few of us took infield, then chilled in the dugout for some BS. An older gentleman and his leashed pitbull passed behind it, where the dog sniffed at all of us before going off on one guy, Armond, for no reason, snarling and baring its' teeth. For the first 15 seconds or so it was funny ("He thinks you're Michael Vick").
Apparently, the owner—not adhering to my "leave 'em wanting more" philosophy"—agrees and lets the beast continue to snarl at Armond for 45 more seconds. Think about it: a full minute is a long time for a supposedly passing dog to be left menacing you.
I turned to the man—who's grinning, mind you—and simply said, "Maybe you can keep walking, please?" He snapped out of his perverted daze and continued on. So there you have it, Skillz' post-retirement role in SBIO softball: "Idiot Dog Walker Dismisser".