The Wrecking Crew Wins 8-6

We broke a three-game losing streak last night. It wasn’t easy, but then again, nothing ever is for our team. I brought the waterproof camera with me to the game because I wanted to grab a few shots from the field. Predictably, the limited range of the camera led to some pretty pedestrian photos. Here they are anyway.

I love the 6:15 game.

“What’s this shower thing?” I asked Matty. “What?” he replied. “There’s this shower icon on my camera. What the hell does that mean?” I said. “I don’t know,” Matty said. “Oh, wait,” I said. I brought the camera to within three inches of my face. “Is that a light?” “Yeah, that makes more sense,” Matty said. Our game began ten minutes or so late. I still don’t know why. The 6:15 start time has a fifteen minute grace period built into it. I think that’s about as early as the league can start, taking 9-to-5ers into account.

It was a light. I think the camera was trying to tell me it needed light. Because as the night went on, the showerhead/light fixture was replaced by a moon. No mistaking that one.

Looks like a winner, Coach.

The Monday night CORP softball league isn’t exactly what you would call “official.” Yes, the league provides umpires (one per game) and score keepers, and yes, it does line the field prior to the first game. But that’s about it. Here is our batting order from last night, scribbled on a post-it note. As I’ve mentioned in the past, Matty and I play prominent roles on this team, and generally, saying “Matty and Phil Higa are integral to our team’s success” doesn’t really say much for those chances of success. Matty hits lead-off, but I’d probably hit him three or four, but then again, our team captain (Jay) usually gets Matty and I up in the first inning, so that works out. We’re not great hitters, but for the most part, we make consistent hard contact. I like to think that I justified my position in the line up by going 3-4 with two RBI.

Matty’s been entrenched at shortstop since he joined the team, and recently I’ve manned first base. While I don’t particularly enjoy this and would much rather play second base, I can see the logic behind it. Matty and I determined that Jay likely puts me at first base because I can catch and also A) I stretch with the correct leg, and B) I don’t stretch too early. That might sound like common sense, but only if you played baseball. Ironically, first base is the position I’ve spent the least time at during my baseball playing days, so I’m still trying to teach myself the position. The one really difficult thing for me is to give up on balls hit on the ground to my right. As an infielder all of my life, my instincts are to chase down any ball I have even the slightest chance of getting to. There have been at least three occasions during which I took two or three hard steps to my right, realized I wasn’t going to make the play, then couldn’t get back to the bag in time. I know, the pitcher should be covering, but that doesn’t always happen. The whole thing is amazing to me. My body moves, then my brain says “Shit!” then I try to slow down, turn and sprint towards the bag. You can imagine how that would turn out. It’s like watching one of those semis dragging a trailer trying to make a U-turn at an intersection. Unathletic.

Matty Higa was put on this planet for two reasons: to play baseball/softball and to eat tacos.

Matty had a solid game last night. He complained before the game of a sore shoulder, but I knew that as per our upbringing, he’d suck it up at game time. He made an unreal play at short last night. The ball was hit on the ground to his right. He slid and made the backhand play in the 6-hole. As I was crouching at first awaiting his throw, all I could think of was “Whoa, bebe, here it comes.” You see, Matty hasn’t adjusted for his age and decline in athleticism yet. He will always try to make the play the same way he would have in 2001. He’s like Austin Powers, but instead of being stuck in the 60s, he’s stuck in his athletic prime. Yeah, baby. That’s what I was thinking last night when I saw him snag that grounder in the 6-hole. And then he did the craziest thing. He threw from his knees, a perfect one-hop to me at first. The runner was out. I was so shocked at his conservative choice that I shouted “Nice throw!” “Wow, the old one-hop,” I said after the inning ended. “Yeah, I saw where the guy was and I was like ‘I can bounce this,'” he said. This, of course, is an anomaly and will likely never happen again.

Matty also had the swing of the night. He hacked wildly and missed by about a foot, eliciting and howl from one of our teammates. No, really, it was that bad. Matty would later explain his thought process. For the sake of accuracy, I ask that you read the following statements in a deep, slow drawl:

I wanted to go the other way, but then I saw it was inside, and then I said “Ah, I can pull this over the third baseman. Then I pulled my body off the ball and was still early. Shit.

The view from first base.

I put the camera in my pocket and broke it out after a base hit in the first inning. Had my father or grandfather been at the game, I likely would have been screamed at the minute I returned to the dugout. But like I said, the only thing our league frowns upon is drinking in the dugouts. So many guys on our team smoke cigarettes during the game that our dugout is like Don Draper’s office in Mad Men, minus the leggy secretary and the booze.

A new wrinkle was added to the league last week: longer base paths. According to someone who runs the league, the ASA (some kind of national softball governing body) is moving towards 70 feet base paths for next season. So they already made those changes to the four CORP fields. That extra distance might not seem like a lot – at least philosophically – but for a guy who can’t really throw and is fat and slow, it’s kind of a big deal. I actually took a picture while I ran to second where I was forced out to end the inning, but the only thing the limitations of my camera was able to produce was a hazy swirl of brown. At least I didn’t have to run out the full 70 feet.

The Wrecking Crew.

I took this horrible shot while coaching third base. It’s super-blurry and I couldn’t tell at the time because the screen on the camera is so small that it makes discerning the quality of the photos extremely difficult, and near impossible in low light. As has been noted several times in this space, I am a superstitious man. Whenever I feel we need runs, I go out to coach third base, so long as my spot in the batting order is not coming up soon. I have no statistical evidence to support my belief that our team actually produces more runs when I am out there, but it certainly feels like it. It’s just one of those things, you know?

Because our team is comprised mostly of guys who did not play organized baseball, I feel an added pressure to perform and never screw up. Whenever Matty or I make an error in the field, I become insane. Last night, one of the batters hit a foul pop up down the first base line with the bases loaded and 1 out. I pursued the ball in a semi-sprint. The entire time I tracked the ball, all I thought about was wheeling and firing to nail the runner (who I believed would undoubtedly try to tag up) at home plate. I got my glove under the ball and shifted my body so that I could turn and fire more easily. Then the ball hit the side of my glove and fell to the dirt. “Shit!” I said as I scooped up the ball and threw it back to the pitcher. Of course, the batter laced a two-run single to center on the very next pitch, to which I responded with resounding “****!”

Aside: Before our game started, my friend Mark tried to explain to us how the Seahawks/Packers game ended. The overall summary was that the replacement officials screwed up and essentially decided the game. This morning, ESPN reported that the blown call cost at least $150 million dollars in wagers. Yikes. During our game last night, our umpire blew a call (in our favor) and was called on it by a member of the other team. The whole thing took five minutes to resolve, with the umpire having to ask the score keeper for help. She was no help. I was irritated because it affected the number of outs, and that’s a pretty important thing to be clear on. After the game when Matty and I rehashed the game over Taco Bell, we couldn’t get the order of events clear, either (I won’t bore you with the details). Right before I went to bed, I caught the ESPN replay of the game. It was ridiculous. All I could think of is that I was pissed off about a call in a CORP softball league. But to have that happen in the NFL? To decide the game? It’s impossible to ignore the signs. There is now at least a 7% chance the Mayans were right all along. Should I hypothetically go 0-5 again this weekend with my fantasy gambling, that gets a bump to 9%.

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