So Aaron and I just got back from our first softball game in the co-ed league for Asbury Seminary. I think we barely qualify for a co-ed league considering that there are only 2 females on each of the four teams. We are the token minority. It’s okay though, and for at least the first few games, I can use it to my advantage. You see, no one at the seminary really knows about my history; softball and I are old pals. So, when I get up to bat, at least the first time, the guys creep in, thinking I’ll swing, pardon the phrase, like a girl. Burning them gives me great joy! Then, if I get the ball in the outfield, the guys usually think that means extra base, not realizing that I am about to nail them with the perfect throw. Ahh, sweet satisfaction.
I played fast-pitch softball the majority of my life; competitively for 14 years, two in college. I have since played about 4 seasons of slow-pitch, but it had been about a year since I had played. Needless to say, it felt great to get back out on the field. It’s still strange for me to get to a game without having practiced everyday for at least 3 hours, and I have to admit, it shows sometimes! I’m glad I can rely on natural ability right now, because I need a few games to shake the rust off.
I’d tell you our team name, but we don’t really have an official or even semi-official one; the closest has been either Dan’s team, or Team Mostad, which is our coach and fellow seminarian. Tonight we played Team (enter name of coach here), and we lost 11-9, which I didn’t even realize until we got home, and I asked Aaron; the game was pretty relaxed, no scoreboards, and I’m not sure if there was a scorekeeper, other than the ump. Did I mention I was the only girl on my team tonight? Amy, the other token, wasn’t feeling well. If I already didn’t put enough pressure on myself to prove to the guys that I was one of them, just prettier, I now had the lucky position of odd-“man” out. Well, I wasn’t left out, as I played the whole game, but it felt strange to look around and see no one that shared the same chromosome as me. By the end of the game however, I claimed my spot, and I even found myself amused at some parts of both my game and the game in general that have not changed.
A little back-story. When my husband and I first started dating, he was an incoming college freshman and I was a transferring junior, Aaron felt he had some bragging rights since he was just 18 and he was dating someone who was about to turn 21. (Note: My mother wanted me to break up with him because he was too young and needed to experience life. I obviously heeded the advice well, and then made the right decision. I now think she likes Aaron more than me!) Well, Aaron was calling some of his close friends, telling them his good news, thinking that the age difference alone would earn him cool points, when he talked to Corey Graham, or Hard-Core as he was/is affectionately referred to, he was taken aback by Corey’s response. The thing Corey had to know was of the up-most importance, (exact question) “Does she play softball?” At this point Aaron knew he had hit the jackpot when he was able to not only say yes, but was able to elaborate on my experience, particularly as a home-run hitter. Corey was sold, and I was welcomed with open arms, and a spot on the Owasso FUMC Slow-pitch team, The Circuit Riders. During those two seasons, Aaron and others dubbed me with the name, Dead-pull Cartwright (maiden name). For those not familiar with the lingo, that refers to when a batter, either left or right-handed, usually hits the ball to the same side, generally hard-line drives or lots of foul balls, as they bat from. So, I, being a right-handed hitter, hit a lot of balls hard, down the third baseline, or long, fly-balls, often after a good number of foul balls in the same direction.
You might be thinking that this was because I switched from fast-pitch to slow-pitch, but no. I have been a dead-pull hitter my entire career, blessed with incredible bat speed. I worked at it some as well. While this was/is a great skill and ability (I used to hold the home-run record for most homers in season, in Broken Arrow), it has also been one of my greatest struggles, especially in slow-pitch; I get out on my front foot, and am way ahead of the ball, causing me to lose power in my swing or miss the ball all together. So, tonight, I was not surprised when my first at-bat resulted in what could only be called a slap-bunt, off the end of the bat. I could play it off, and pretend like I meant to do that, so the other team would think I was really bad, but unfortunately, old habits die hard. The only positive thing about it was that I got the embarrassment out of the way early!
My next turn up to bat was much better. With a 3-1 count, I hit a screamer of a line-drive between third and short, and I heard gasps right before the left-fielder snagged it out of the air. My previous hit had caused him to play up, so he was in the perfect spot to catch the liner. Still felt great though, and I had redeemed myself and ‘made the team’ with the guys. My third at-bat seemed like old times. I fouled off two, long line shots, and the other team’s outfield took some steps back. Then the catcher remarked to the ump, “Someone tell the third-base coach to watch out.” I almost laughed out loud. Not only have I heard that statement many times before, I didn’t dare tell him about the coaches that I have hit, rather painfully, in the past. I just prayed protection over him! My last at bat, held two other comments in store that caused reminiscing. I again hit two, long foul balls down towards left-field, and I heard not one, but two people encourage me to, “Straighten it out,” familiar comment one, and then from the first-base coach, “Wait on it,” comment two, and probably the most repeated comment to me over my years of fast and slow-pitch softball. It’s nice that some things never change, no matter how far from home you are. I got two base-hits those last two at-bats by the way, and yes they were towards the left side of the field. Between the lines is all that matters!
So, even though we lost, which I don’t like doing, I was just content to have a glove and ball in my hands again. As Aaron said on the way back to the house, “Felt like coming home.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.