Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Sloppy Hero

Ever since I was a little girl playing baseball (and later softball) I had a reoccurring fantasy of hitting a game-winning, home run. My imagination created the ideal scenario. Two outs, at least one runner on base, and my team would be behind by one run. Sometimes the number of runs needed to win would vary, but the basic scenario was the same. My team needed me and I had to pull something off to win the game.

In my childhood fantasy I envisioned that the pitcher would throw a smoker over the plate, I’d swing with all my might and smack the ball over the fence! The crowd would cheer, my teammates would carry me off the field on their shoulders, and a scout from the Chicago Cubs would sign me up to be the first female professional baseball player. That was my dream.

Everyone knows I was never recruited by the Cubs, so don’t look for my name on the roster of players. Those of you who regularly read my blog know that I have never hit a home run either. But of course I’m still hopeful that I can make that happen in my women’s senior league playing second base for The Stingers. Given my power (or lack thereof) the likely scenario of my getting a homerun would probably consist of an infielder and an outfielder missing the ball, tripping on the grass, followed by a bad throw. Think Three Stooges on The Diamond. But it could happen. In fact, in senior women’s softball, it frequently does.

Anyway, last week, our team played the Gems in the Viewpoint Softball Tournament. We had lost our previous three games and our mood was low. But this game was different. We were the home team. It was our last time at bat. The game was tied 7 to 7. The bottom of our order caught fire and got key hits when we needed it. There were runners on second and third base. No one was on first, so there was no force. It was a do or die situation. I was up to bat.

I’m the lead off hitter. I’m no powerhouse, but I can usually get on base. But lately, my hitting smelled worse than a dead skunk on a windless night. During this particular game against the Gems I had two decent singles, but my batting prior to that in the tournament had been a disappointing 0 for 6 times at bat. Some of the problem was I injured my hamstring and wasn’t running fast enough to beat the throw to first base. I have a tendency to hit right to the short stop, or a low fly ball to shallow centerfield. I wasn’t exactly feeling confident, but I had prayed that day that I would play better and none of my teammates would be hurt. Side note: next time I’ll include no injuries for the other team too, because a batter on the other team got beaned in the head from a hard throw to first base. But I digress.

I’m standing at the plate. I took a strike, resisted swinging at an inside pitch, and hit a foul ball (which counts as a strike). The count was one ball (possibly two, I can’t remember) but I definitely had two strikes on me. My chances of walking were slim, so I knew I had to hit the ball. In senior slow pitch, if the ball hits anywhere on the plate (and an extended mat that is used in the league) it’s a strike. Sometimes the pitch can seem down right awful, and still be a strike. So I knew I’d be swinging unless the pitcher lobbed it over the backstop.

The pitcher made her delivery and I swung. It felt like I hit it hard, but not far. I resisted the urge to see where the ball went and ran as fast as I could. I crossed first base. I was safe. The Stingers were cheering, but I didn’t know why. Carol, the first base coach, said we won the game. The base runner scored on my hit. Huzzah! I was a hero.

Apparently it was not a pristine play. I hit the ball in my usual short stop location, but the gal bumbled the ball a bit. One of our players, Connie, told me it was because I hit it harder than they thought, but I’m not sure if that is correct or not. Connie is a nice gal and might have said it to make me feel good. Maybe the short stop just screwed up. But it doesn’t really matter. The runner on third ran home. The throw was late and the winning run scored. That was the end of the game. For the first time in my life I hit a game-winning run.

The point is (and yes there is a point) sometimes our victories in life are not exactly the way we envision. I didn’t hit a home run. In fact, it wasn’t even that great of a hit. But it worked. I tried, I ran my hardest, and my team caught a break on an error. It wasn’t our strongest players that were in scoring position. It was the gals in the bottom of the batting order that came through when we needed them.

Life is like that sometimes. We can’t all be the powerful ball players, CEOs of large corporations, or rich and famous. But we all have the potential to do something that can make a difference. We can use the analogy of softball. We may not always hit a homerun. Even the greatest players strike out. But if we stay in there, keep trying, and keep our eye on our dream, we can reach our goals, one little step at a time.

So don’t just stand there reading this. Go out there and take some action toward achieving your heart’s desire. You never know what you can do unless you try. It’s your turn now. “Batter up!”

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