Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Softball—Pure Terror

That's the only way I can describe tonight's softball game. I had to leave early, so the good news was that I got put in the first lineup, batting tenth and playing right field; the bad news was that I had to play.

After warming up and realizing that even though I'm not in fifth grade anymore, I still can't catch a ball because I'm still scared of it, I head to the outfield. But not right away. Someone was standing in right field already, if that was right field, and from what I remember of fifth grade softball, only three players get to stand in the outfield—and draw pictures in the grass with their feet and jump on ant hills and gaze at clouds shaped like ice cream cones—and three players were already out there. Plus, all the other outfielders were guys so I didn't want to get out there and be told to head back to the dugout or that right field was actually over there, on the other side. So I asked the "coach"--who told me that he went to UVA as we were walking to Central Park from the subway because I was wearing a VT sweatshirt--if I was playing right field, hoping he'd point me in the right direction of right field. Even though just I had listen to him read the lineup just minutes before and he had said, "Eldridge, right field."

"Is your name Eldridge?"


"Yup. Right field. Hey Dude-Standing-In-Right-Field, help out Bridget."

I do actually know right from left. (My left hand can make an "L.") On stage right is the dancer's right, not the audience's. So was I suppose to head to right field in regards to home plate (oh this is now making sense) or my right once I was standing in the outfield?

First play of the game, I'm already somewhat zoned out (balls never got this far in fifth grade), and the first batter on the first pitch hits the ball right, as in both "at me" and "right field," where I'm standing, and it sails way over my head. Shocked this has happened so soon (I had expected it at some point, definitely later), I sort of freeze and watch DSIRF run behind me and get the ball. Then I get nervous that he's going to throw it to me, but he can throw far enough that it will reach someone in the diamond, so I'm bypassed.

We're up to bat now and I'm tenth in line; I think this is good. We'll never go through ten players (As an end-of-the-line-up veteran, I batted once, maybe twice, per fifth grade game) so I'm certain that I won't have to bat. My teammates cheer things like, "Good eye!" and "Wait for yours!" I get nervous; I don't have a good eye. Then I'm up next.

"How are you feeling?"

"I'm terrified.."

Everyone laughs. Bridget gets one point for camaraderie.

"Keep your eye on the ball," my girlfriend tells me.

I'm bad at that. I'm scared of the ball, I think.

I'm up. I tap home plate. I remember I'm supposed to do this to line my body up with the plate. So far, so good.

The pitcher is a chick and I've noticed that she throws pretty whimpy and slow, also good.

The ball leaves her fingertips. I think, This looks like I could hit it with out missing. I take a chance.

I HIT the ball. Am shocked. Must run. Must run actually fast. Speed up. Maybe I shouldn't. Am I going to be hit by the ball if it's thrown to first base? Turn head. Look for the ball. Yup, it's coming my way. Slow down. Don't want to screw up. Must touch first base. Must not leap over it like a ballerina.

A mere second before I daintily land on first base, the baseman catches the ball with his foot on the plate. I turn and look at the first base coach who is responsible for calling outs and who is one of the younger guys on my team. I flash my best goofily hopeful don't-call-me-out-cause-I'm-a-girl smile and raise my eyebrows expectantly. I think it registers, but he calls me out anyway.

Back in the outfield again DSIRF is instructing me where to stand. "Back up." "Come in." "Move a little more right." "Go back to the left." "Yeah, right there." While I am indebted to him because I would be clueless otherwise, I totally resent being bossed around because I think he thinks I'm annoying since I really don't belong out there. And uh oh, oh man, it looks like that ball is coming my way again.

"Shit," I either whisper to myself or yell a little too loud, I can't remember which.

The New York Times softball team has found our weakest link—and it's me. That ball isn't going over my head this time. I have a chance to catch it. I miss. I turn around and run after it. When I pick it up and throw it to the second base woman, I pretty sure the play is already over.

My team is batting again. A co-worker gives me sunflower seeds and asks if I'm new to the company. "No," I say proudly, "I've been there a year." A whole year. I can't believe It. She says she's been there forever. Then I realize I'm still new. I'm pretty sure I'm supposed to spit out the shells, but she doesn't. So I don't either; I just keep chewing. Like a real ballplayer. I want to spit. But who spits a wad of sunflower seed shells as big as the clump that's in my mouth? No one. That's gross. Is there a napkin around? I see a paper towel in the grass. I consider it, along with the other and another one I see. No, I'd rather spit. I move away from my teammates so I don't hit them and so maybe they won't notice the disgusting act I'm about to perform. The seeds sputter from my mouth, not in a big clump as I was hoping for. I spit like a girl.

Just before I'm up again, we get three outs. I'm saved. I'm relieved.

"Bella! Go in for Bridget," says da coach.

"Yessssss," I say a little too loud.

The game's not over yet, but I have to leave, so I tell da coach I'm heading out.

"You're not going out with us?" he asks.

Because I overheard guys talking about the post-game beer pong festivities, I say, "No. But I am better at beer pong than softball."

"Thanks for coming out," he says. "You coming out next week?"

"You bet!" I say, relieved that it's over, yet already excited for next week and looking forward to tomorrow’s post-game recap e-mail, in which I’ll be referred to as Bridget "insert nickname here" Eldridge.


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