Sometime back in January of 2011, I was coerced by several "friends" and an over the top spouse into signing up to play senior softball in a winter league in Minnesota. If you can imagine a bunch of aged males playing a little boy's game inside an aged inflatable soccer dome at 50+ degrees, you're spot on.
You see, six weeks back I showed up at the "field of dreams" to observe what the League refers to as Domeball. For me, day one at the Dome was a disaster. Just watching part of the first game was enough to set off an autonomic reaction in my nervous system affecting my sphincter. In the late innings I approached Domeball Commissioner "Baseball Bob" hoping he'd send me down to AA tee ball.
Before I could spill my guts, "Baseball Bob" (a.k.a "BbB") caught my eye raising my self worth to a new low bellowing out, "You need to stick around and play a couple games! We're short players!"
My man ego sunk into the depths of despair! The first six times at bat I struck out flailing the bat like I was defending myself against an early hatching of mayflies. Seventh time up I smashed a roller towards third. Two sprinting steps towards first I grabbed the back of my right leg thinking I'd been shot. I swear I heard some geriatric yell out, "Crap, that that dipstick runs like an old woman!". Then another voice blurted out, "No way Babe, he pulled his hammy", which is jock speak for hamstring. After that, I had a couple good swings. Game stats had me at 2 for 9, reaching first base twice thanks only to my fifty year old pinch runner.
Defensively, I became ever catcher for the day. I picked up the teams batting average by hitting last. Seems to me I did the same thing with one of my daughters when I coached her grade school team.
With a sick hammy I couldn't chase a ball, bend down to stop a ball, kick a ball to stop it. When I had to retrieve a ball that got past me I winced while half skipping to catch up with the ball. Yes, I was having a real ball.
Even our crack pitching staff, anchored by the immortal Sidd Finch, winced as the balls I finally retrieved were thrown back to where the pitcher wasn't. Honorable Japanese ballplayers of my caliber would have ended it all by swallowing the the skinny end of the bat, but my fate was worse. I had a contract and needed to get buff, and quick.
Week two started off better, but then dropped like the Dow. With a slowly healing hammy and Dome paranoia, I went to a remedial batting cage making pretty good contact. Hammy seemed better with each swing. My game face returned!
Later in the week on game day I lined a rope towards third base the first time at bat, sprinted four steps towards first only to feel an exponential whammy of the hammy which was 10x worse than the week before. Rules of the game allow for an injured player to still bat unless he has two broken arms. If unable to run, the batter is provided a pinch runner. So I stood there after every hit cheering on my surrogate.
Catcher became my final resting place for the day on defense. As the day went on I got better with the glove, but worse with my throws back to the mound. I know I saw "BbB" pleading with guys to pitch when I was behind the plate.
My future looked bleak for Domeball as I sought out advice from the Lifetime Fitness trainers. Hovering over my hammy, the trainer's trainer took notes as the 23 year old studly trainer probed my hammy on the rack of pain. I caught a glimpse of the young stud rolling his eyes, which reminded me that I was three times older than he.
"Based upon our analysis of your hammy sir, you need major work with us on streeeeetching," were the first words out of the mouth of the worldly 26 year old leader. From there on in, it was a long list of defects that could only be healed with the messiah's expertise if I ever hoped to fit in at the Dome. "Sir, we need to work on your core, your back, your legs, shoulders, stretching, lifting, sir," stated the messiah. With a straight face he suggested their concierge plan of 2-3 weekly visits for 12 full weeks at the VIP rate of $69 per hour. We settled on my Milwaukee Plan which eliminated the need for referring to me as sir, along with many other silly frilly stuff.
I knew I had already borrowed beyond my nominal neanderthal man clothing allowance through the year to pay Domeball registration fees. Now I was going to have to negotiate for more monies from the little Mrs. to pay for my own baby face personal trainer. Recalling she had no problem offering me up for sacrifice at Dome alter without remorse, I had no problem playing the guilt card for more money.
It worked. She agreed to make this a win-win for both of us. I think that she was beginning to dream that she'd be soon sleeping with a Joe Mauer type rather than her current Matty LeCroix clone.
As per my league contract, I got in touch with "BbB" right away to give him my injury status. I hoped he'd place me on the injured reserve list rather than waiving me, trading me or,sending me any further down than I already was. The bride and I were leaving for Florida for a few days of R&R and I lied a little telling him that the trip was mainly for rehab. "I'll be back on the diamond by mid February," I jawed pretending to spit out chew like a real ball player would. "BbB" agreed to the rehab indicating for some reason or other my absence might be noticed.
Days later as Minnesotans were enjoying the winter wonderland, I was en route to the Sunshine State with ace bandages, ibuprofen, glove, and softballs all tucked away in my senior softball duffel bag. I wondered if I would ever play again? Would I ever become the jock that "BbB" thought he had recruited?