Last Picked

Saturday was the WESA Draft party when everyone is assigned to a team. This is my second year playing with West End Slo-Pitch Association but my first time I at this event. Last season, my rookie season, I was on the wait list and didn’t get assigned to a team until a week after the kickoff.

It was pretty stressful having to buy all my equipment in less than a couple of days and then show up to practice with a team I was more or less foisted upon, but this year I found it even more nerve-wracking waiting to find out which coach picked me for their team. Last year the team I was assigned to was the luck of the draw; this year my overall ranking in the league was dependent upon last years’ performance, which was better than I expected, but would in no way make me a hot commodity.

Another contributing factor as to which team I was going to be on, is “buddy”. If you join the league with a buddy you’re guaranteed to know at least one person on your team. The Skip from my curling team convinced our Second that he should play softball because he’s shy and it’s a great way to meet people. Our Second said he would never play softball because it brings back nightmares of childhood.  My Skip and  I told were able to convince him that WESA nothing like the schoolyard and that it’s a lot of fun—which it is. That said, I hadn’t planned on becoming our Second’s  “buddy”.

I’m already starting to feel like his AA sponsor. He was stressed when I told him I wouldn’t be attending Rookie boot camp a couple of weeks ago and he was humming and hawing about going to the Draft party because he thinks guys in bars are standoffish. I don’t mind guiding someone through something new, but I also don’t want to spend all my time holding their hand making sure they’re okay and having a good time. I’m typically a shy person, so I’m out of my element in just about any social situation. It’s hard enough reminding myself not to withdraw into the corner without someone keeping me there because they’re afraid.

I was just coming off a bit of a cold the day of the Draft party. I had spent the previous day in bed trying to get as much rest as possible just so I could attend the event at Numbers. I went to the kickoff with my boyfriend, who can’t play this year due to a knee injury, and our friends Will and Don. Will is super-competitive when it comes to sports. This is Don’s third year playing; Don has been involved with WESA for as long as he’s dated Will.

Numbers had the decency not enforce that stupid ID scanning policy. I wouldn’t have gone to the party if they had. Most bars are pretty good about the Bar Watch Gestapo tactics for fundraisers, but I’ve been to a couple of events where I was expected to scan my ID and have my photo taken. I won’t go into any bar that enforces the rule. Some of my friends give me a hard time about it, but I don’t care; it’s invasive behavior and I don’t feel like I need to check in with the police to enter a bar.

The only reason I go to Numbers anymore is for sports event. Numbers used to be one of my favorite bars, but I stopped going once they enforced the Bar Watch. My boyfriend had been at Numbers the night before with his friend and said that half the people there were straight couples. This really depressed me. Numbers used to be a really sleazy bar back in the day, a sure place to get laid when you were really horny. They’ve cleaned it up a lot since I stopped going. There are big bright monitors everywhere; the alcohol is displayed on shelves of frosted plastic and that are lit with purple and red lights. Even the bar has been sanded down to look like a piece of furniture from Restoration Hardware. While I don’t begrudge any establishment trying to keep up with the times and stay in business, it saddens me to see a piece of my youth become gentrified. I thought if there was one bar that was going to stay gay, it would be Numbers, but even that one doesn’t appear to be safe.

We all received nametags on our way into the bar which was handy since I’m horrible with names and I’m sure two thirds of the people I met last year don’t remember mine. The bar was half full by the time we got there. Players were mingling on the main level of the bar while the coaches were sequestered upstairs picking teams. I found our Second sitting by himself at the bar talking to anyone. He looked like he was withdrawing into himself. This was not a good sign.

My boyfriend, who played for three years before having to drop out last year because of his injury, knew more people than I did. He was on his way to moving up to C Division before his injury got in the way. Unlike myself, my boyfriend practiced on his own his first couple of years of softball and was on a couple of World Series teams that had gone to the States. This is the second softball event we’ve been to this year, and both times he’s expressed a lot of frustration that he can’t play. He’s trying to cheer himself up by saying that he’ll get some pom-poms and cheer me on at every game. I’m counting on him to help me improve my game.

Everyone was saying this is going to be an odd year since four coaches dropped out of the league due to moving away or personal reasons. Will circled the bar trying to get the inside scoop on all the gossip. He didn’t share any juicy details but he did say there was one hot player at the rookie boot camp that all the coaches were tripping over themselves to get on their team.

“Hot as in a good player, or hot as in handsome?” I asked him.

“Hot as in handsome,” Will told me. Will pointed the hot rookie out to me in the bar; he was definitely handsome, which made me feel even more insecure about my chances of getting on a good team since I’m old, I smoke, and I wear glasses.

I was starting to feel the beer when they finally announced the team assignments. My team was one of the last announced which made me feel bad even though they were reading out the team names in alphabetical order. After our names were called we were told introduce ourselves to our coach and teammates on the dance floor. I practically had to drag our Second by the hair to come meet the team. I was already beginning to lose my patience with him. Something tells me he’s going to drop out before the first practice or shortly thereafter.

I’m on team Pumpjack, which I’m glad about because as a sponsor, they’re really good to their players. My coach is a friend of boyfriend’s. I had met my coach and his partner last month at a going away party for one of the coaches that moved away and really liked him, but between the cold and the beer I didn’t recognize either of them. My boyfriend is really glad that he’s is my coach, which makes me glad. I also know a few other people from last season even though we didn’t play on the same eam. Everyone seems nice enough. I just hope I’m up to some level of play where they don’t hate me by the end of the year.

After the kickoff my boyfriend and I went to see Divergent, which is about a dystopian society divided into factions based on your personality and skill set. Over the course of the movie, I couldn’t help drawing comparisons to the Draft party I had just been to, although granted, in Divergent, you ultimately got to chose which faction you belonged to. But like the factions in Divergent, you have to learn to make the most of it.

About garpinbc

Author of the forthcoming "Same Love" published by Lorimer, as well as the memoir "Foodsluts at Doll & Penny's Cafe", and the YA short, "Haters Gotta Hate".
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