First Practice

Yesterday was my first practice with the team. It was officially the team’s second practice, but I had to miss because I was out of town.

I was a little nervous. I haven’t thrown or caught a ball since last season and the verdict was still out on my new glove. It looks pretty and all, but will actually do the job?

I was also a distracted due I had to curl after practice. It’s the finals and our team moved up a division after the last round. Our Skip couldn’t make the game because he had a class to go to, which meant I would have to Skip in his place, something I’m not very good at.

The bitchy queen in me didn’t mind the thought of losing the game, but I didn’t want it to be a complete washout. The sportsman in me was still determined to give it my all and win. I’m not sore loser, but I do prefer to win.

It was a great day for a practice. The sun was finally out after a week of rain and the ground was somewhat dry. Our team was supposed to meet at in the centre field at Strathcona Park but apparently there were too many puddles to play there. All the diamonds were occupied with WESA teams practicing for opening day. The team I played on last year was practicing on the diamond directly behind us.

“Here comes our Miss WESA contestant,” my Coach said as I approached the team. I don’t know why everyone just assumes I’m a drag queen. I know I’m not the butchest guy in the city, but I don’t exactly mince around town either. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. It’s a free country; mince away.

No one on the team wants to enter Miss WESA this year. And I mean no one. Coach said we might have to draw names from a hat if no one volunteers.

I REALLY don’t want to do it. Miss WESA is pretty competitive and I just don’t have the drive to win that thing. Plus there’s a lot of work that goes into the competition: you need to buy outfits and rehearse. I just don’t have the time. You have to really want to do it or you’re just going to look like a tragic mess up there. I’m pushing 50; my tragic days are behind me now.

The biggest reason I don’t want to enter Miss WESA is that I don’t want to end up on YouTube and Facebook in drag. I don’t think anyone would use the footage to sabotage my career or anything, but I don’t need my family to see me in a dress. They’ve just finally accepted the whole gay thing.

I realize this is a form of internalized homophobia, but I don’t care. With people taking pictures every which and up, I work really hard to control my image online. You’re face and your name is all that you can truly call your own. Call me old fashioned, but photos belong in albums that should be taken out at a person’s discretion, not posted on the Internet for the NSA to see.

Last season I felt a little awkward during warm up since I was the only rookie on the team and wasn’t very good at catching and throwing. No one said anything to my face, but I always got the sense that the seasoned veterans preferred to warm up with someone who was at their skill level. As a result, I usually warmed up with people I felt comfortable with.

Since familiarity wasn’t an option this time around, I just picked the first person I saw to warm up with—one of the women on the team, who is British. I warned her it was my first time throwing the ball this year and not to expect a lot.

Whenever I feel insecure about doing something—especially sports—I tend to warn people about it. I figure if I tell them how bad I am in advance, then they can’t complain about me after. And if I turn out to be better at something than I anticipated, then they’ll be pleasantly surprised. I’m not fooling anybody. Either I suck or I don’t. Telling people how much I suck at something isn’t doing me any favors. It just makes me look more insecure than I already am.

The warm up went pretty well. The Brit I was warming up had her back to the street so I was trying to make extra sure I threw the ball directly at her glove so she wouldn’t have to run out onto the road to get it.

I don’t have the greatest throwing arm. There isn’t much I can do about it; I’ve had several bouts of carpal tunnel over the years, which still aggravates my shoulders, especially when I throw the ball a lot. I can’t throw far and I don’t always throw accurately. I think this year, I’ll just work on my accuracy and next year I’ll work on distance.

Coach had me play catcher for the first round of batting practice. I dropped a few easy balls but I did okay for the most part. I was beginning to wonder if he was going to keep me there for the season, which would have been a nice change of pace from right field. That got boring really fast last year. I understood that my coach was playing it safe by keeping in a position where the ball wasn’t hit a lot, but it didn’t do much to improve my game. On the flip side of that, I may have had an anxiety attack if I had to play anything further infield or to the left of where I was.

Playing catcher could be kind of fun, but you do run the risk of getting hurt when someone is running into home plate.

From there Coach moved me to center-left where I did much better than I expected. I caught two fly balls in a row right off the bat, which was a real confidence booster. I missed a few cutoff throws after that and the left-fielder, who coached himself until he moved up North, reminded me to keep my glove up. This is something I struggled with last year. I have this tendency use my ball as a shovel when I go to catch, which works as often as it doesn’t, but it’s not very good form.

Then he moved me to second base. I have never played second base ever and didn’t even know where I supposed to stand. I needed a lot of instruction there but it went okay. I started holding my glove up and was able to catch better, but I totally missed what should have been an easy fly ball. I seem to suffer from poor depth-perception; I think I’m right under the ball but I end up missing it by an inch. It could have something to do with my contact lenses. They’re not my actual prescription; I just use them to see when I play sports. I’m going to have to figure out how to compensate for that and really learn the dynamics of the ball when it’s in the air.

The biggest hurdle I had to overcome during practice was running. I’ve been smoking for almost a year now and could really feel it running around the field. I’ve been trying to quit ever since I picked up the habit again. Prices just went up; it’s over $10 a pack right now, which I don’t want to spend, but nicotine is a powerful drug. Hopefully I can nip it in the bud before the season starts. I have enough to work through this year without coughing up a lung on the field.

I was second up to bat since I had to leave early to go curling. My coach told me to only swing for the good pitches so I wouldn’t develop any bad habits. I had a some great hits; the ball hit the sweet spot a few times, but I felt like I could have done better. The good thing was that Coach told me what call the umpire would make after every ball I didn’t swing at to give me an idea of what was a strike and what wasn’t. Over all, I would say my eye was pretty good but I still need a lot of work.

We had to run to first on our last bat. I could already feel my cleats pinching my big toes. My cleats fit great but for some reason they really do a number my toes when I’m running. Last season they ripped the nails  clear off the skin. I’m not getting new cleats so I’m going to have figure out a way to prevent that from happening this year.

Next up to bat after me was the Brit. It turns out she can hit just about anything that is thrown at her. She knows when to move and go low when she has to. It was pretty impressive.

Overall I would say my game has already improved. The new glove was a good investment; it does seem to have made a difference. I caught a lot of balls I didn’t think I was going to catch, but I also missed a few balls that I felt that I should have had. I didn’t stretch before practice, which was a bad idea, and I was pretty exhausted after I got off the field, but I felt good all around.

After the game I had an hour to rest before curling. As it happened our Skip didn’t have class and was able to play the game. We ended up winning 8-0 and moving on to the finals.

Today I’m feeling my arms and legs, but in a good way. I feel healthy which is never a bad thing for an smoking coot like me.

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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