Our baseball season ended today. (We all call it “baseball”, but it’s really softball, or even more accurately, 3-pitch.) This past year, I was the captain of the iAnywhere Mobilizers, one of our company’s two teams. We play in the “B” division of the league, whereas the other team (the “Sybase Sluggers”) play in the “A” division. We usually refer to the Sluggers as “The A Team”, and after playing in this league for two years, it’s only recently that I don’t giggle every time I say that, thinking of Mr. T in a baseball cap and glove, yelling “C’mon, guys, force play at second, let’s get this one”.
The “B” division is for those teams that aren’t good enough to play in the “A” division, but don’t completely suck — those guys are in the “C” division. Well, for most of this season, I suspected that they’d move us down to “C” next year because we more or less completely sucked. We started the season 0-10, including scores like 24-3, 19-4, 33-11, 11-2, and 24-1. The week after the 24-1 loss, I went away on vacation and someone else made the lineups, and we won 13-12. Then I came back and we lost the next 6. I like to think that was coincidence.
In late July, we lost a game 20-15, but the 15 runs was our highest run total to date, and we played pretty well, and I started to realize that we were actually playing better as a team. In August, we won another game, this time in convincing fashion, 26-20. I was actually at the helm for that game, so that broke my personal losing streak at about 18 (including the 0-3 showing at last year’s September tournament). We ended the season in last place at 3-18, two games worse than the second-last place team. Doesn’t sound like there was much reason for confidence going into The Tournament, but we actually had some guarded optimism, since we played much better in the last month, and two of our three wins came in the last four games.
The tournament was played yesterday and today, and rather than one or two games per week, we suddenly had to play four in one day, and up to three more the next day. Our first game was 8am, and we played pretty well. We lost by one run, but because the score differential matters in the tie-breakers, we played the bottom of the ninth even though the home team was winning. They scored one more, so it goes in the books as a two-run loss. 0-1 and -2 in the run differential column after one game. Not great, but considering we were 0-3 and -30 in last year’s tournament (the max run differential in any one game is -10), this was an improvement. The second game was pretty good too, and we were losing by 1 when the umpires called the game because of time constraints. I went and argued that the time limit had not yet been reached (we were two minutes shy), and we wanted to keep playing. They agreed that the game should continue, and we proceeded to not score any runs and allow 5, so we ended up down by 6. After two games, we were 0-2 and -8. Still better’n last year, but not great.
The third game never happened. Someone on our team had heard from someone else (who heard from someone else who… ) that the team we were playing in the third game did not have enough eligible girls — the rules say that you must have at least three girls who have each played at least nine games during the regular season, or you forfeit the game. I asked the umpires and the other team’s captain, and he confirmed that they had three girls available, but one had not played the requisite number of games. The umps called the game a forfeit, and we were considered the winners (by a 10-0 score), but said we could play anyway if we wanted. We declined, saying that we didn’t want anyone getting hurt in a meaningless game, but in reality, I think we were just hot and tired and wanted a break. So we were now 1-2 with a +2 differential.
The fourth game was great, except for the part of the game that really sucked, but I’ll get to that in a second. We hit well, played defence well, and won the game by 8 runs. I don’t think I made any errors on the field during that game, and I missed turning a 5-3 double play by this much. Runners on first and second, I’m playing third base, and the ball is grounded in my direction, just to my right. I run forward, grab the ball, step on third, and heave a throw to the first baseman, who catches it just after the runner hit the base. Normally, that’s the kind of play where I’d (a) miss the ball completely, forcing the left fielder to come in and get it (probably allowing a run to score), (b) boot the ball, loading the bases, or (c) make the play at third and then blow the throw to first, so I was very pleased with the fact that I made both ends of the play.
The part of the game that really sucked was during the bottom of the third inning. I was playing left field, and the batter grounded the ball to the second baseman. I didn’t see what happened, but some of our players were yelling “Throw it to first!”, and I didn’t understand why it was taking so long to do so. Eventually, the ball made it to first, the first baseman stepped on the bag, and then everyone walked towards the plate. I had no idea what was going on, until I saw that the batter had never left the batter’s box. He swung, hit the ball, and then must have dislocated his knee when taking off towards first base. Someone called 911, and an ambulance showed up 10 minutes later and took him to the hospital. The whole thing caused a delay of about a half hour, and since the games were a max of an hour and fifteen minutes long, that was almost half the game right there. Eventually, we got back onto the field, but I think the whole game lasted five innings. I haven’t heard since about how the guy is doing, but I can’t imagine he’ll be walking much in the next couple of weeks.
So at the end of the day, we were 2-2 and +10, a tournament record with which I was completely thrilled. As I said, the only experience I’d had in the tournament was the previous year, in which we got smoked three games in a row. Both teams that we
beat won against (since we didn’t actually beat anyone in the third game) ended up going 0-3 on the day, with one game left to play this morning, while the other two teams in our grouping were 3-0 yesterday with one game this morning. So regardless of the outcomes from today’s games, we ended up third in the grouping, which meant that we played a quarter-final game today at 11:30 against the team that finished third in the other B-division grouping.
Yesterday, the weather was great for baseball. Sunny and hot. Today, the exact opposite — rainy and cold. It just flat-out rained for the first three innings or so, though after that it was just drizzly. We had one guy show up to play that I didn’t expect, since he said the day before that he couldn’t make it. I don’t want to put any blame on him at all, since the team is certainly better with him in the lineup than without, but the defensive lineup I had was done assuming he wasn’t going to be there, so I spent most of the first inning tinkering with it to make sure that he was included, but that nobody was sitting too often or in consecutive innings, that we didn’t have people playing in positions they weren’t comfortable with, and we didn’t our best defensive players all sitting at the same time. I didn’t do that great a job, though, since we ended up with too many or too few fielders in at least half the innings, and I had to make last-minute “You sit! You play right! You play third!” decisions on the fly. I think I ended up sitting out about four times just because I didn’t have time to figure it out properly. And to cap it all off, the hitting that came along so well in the last month of the season and all day Saturday completely vanished, and we ended up scoring all of two runs. We lost by about 12, and so ended the Mobilizers’ dream “worst-to-first” playoff run. The A Team (heh) got spanked in their game today as well, so both Sybase teams were eliminated.
Despite the win-loss record, I really enjoyed playing ball this year. It was much more work than in previous years because being the captain, I couldn’t just show up to games and play wherever someone else told me; I had to be the one to tell others where to play. One thing that I told everyone at the beginning of the season was that being the team captain does not mean that I’m the best player on the team, and it does not mean that I’m a good coach. I know the game itself as well as anyone, but I’m generally a crappy teacher, and I tend to forget that not everyone knows the intricacies of the game as well as I do. We had plays during the season where a fielder caught the ball while stepping on the base, but the runner was called safe because it wasn’t a force play. I knew it wasn’t a force play, but it didn’t occur to me to yell “Tag him!” because everyone knows that, right? Well, no, as it turns out. Anyway, due to complicated reasons that I’m not going to bother posting here, the league may not even exist next year, which means I may be looking for a new league. I remember looking into a league in Waterdown a while ago, but it was only for men 35 and older, and I didn’t qualify at the time. Now I do. Sigh.
It occurred to me earlier this year that if I played golf once a week during the summer instead of baseball, I’d become a much better golfer than I am now, and that concept certainly has some appeal. But can you imagine life without baseball? I can’t. I’ve played in a baseball league of some kind every summer since university, and I played pick-up baseball with friends every summer before that since I learned to walk, so until I get to the point where I am physically unable to play, I’m playin’.