Jersey Pickup

Opening day is less than three days away. The forecast is for rain all weekend and the word on the field is that we’re playing even if there’s a hurricane.

We played our first scrimmage game on Wednesday. I hadn’t practiced in over a week because of a sore foot and was feeling out of sorts. The game was scheduled for 5:15, which meant I had to leave work a little early, run home, put my contact lenses in, get my gear together, and then pedal across town without any dinner in my stomach.

There were about fifteen minutes where I thought was I going to bail on the whole thing and call it a night. Work has been really busy for me lately, and I wasn’t sure I would be able to concentrate. The hardest part about playing sports is finding the energy to play them. It’s easy just to throw in the towel and call it a day, but then I remind myself the point of playing sports is so that my life doesn’t become an endless series of work, eating, and sleeping.

I was the last member of our team to arrive to the field. My teammates were already warmed up and on the field, and Coach was hitting the ball out to them. As I was putting my cleats on I noticed that another team was gathering in the opposite dugout. When Coach said he had organized a scrimmage game I just assumed he would be dividing our team in half, not playing another team in the league. And here I thought I would have a couple of more practices to suck before I had to share that fact with the entire league.

I ran out into center field where I fumbled with the ball and threw horribly. I tried not curse myself but wasn’t very successful. Coach hit a few more balls into the field before we went back to our dugout to let the other team warm up.

As we waited to play, Coach reminded us that none of us had expressed interest in representing our team in the Miss WESA Pageant.

“Now we don’t have to enter the pageant,” he said, “But I will just inform you that we will be given a hard time by the rest of the teams in the league.”

I had privately told myself that I would take one for the team and enter the competition if it came down to it, but then I attended an Easter Bonnet party over the Easter long weekend. I had really looked forward to the party, but once we were out on the street and in the bars in our bonnets, I was surprised at how self-conscious I felt.

Of the five of us that decorated a bonnet, mine was the least flamboyant, which only served as a reminder that I don’t have what it takes to be a drag queen. Furthermore, the host of the bonnet party posted a shit load of photos of us in our bonnets on Facebook and my sister saw them. She sent me an email telling me what a good time I looked like I was having. My sister is never on Facebook, and while her email wasn’t condescending in the least, the experience played into my worst fears about doing in drag in public.

I was assigned to play catcher for the game, a position I have never played before. I didn’t even know if I should be squatting or standing behind the plate or what. Our pitcher was a guy I had never seen before and I missed every ball he threw at me. I wanted to dig a hole in the sand and die.

We played a team of heavy hitters. They got about six or seven runs in the first inning. One guy threw the bat behind him after he hit the ball—a big no-no in WESA—and I had to jump out of the way to avoid getting hit. When it was our turn to bat they pretty much took us out of the inning in four players.

Things were not looking good for our team. I made one really stupid mistake in the second inning where I forgot the ball was still in play while it was in my hand and a runner on second made it to third. I didn’t know enough to throw the ball to the pitcher to end the play. I could hear a communal groan come from the field and I had an instant flashback to the schoolyard. Put it to inexperience all you want, I still felt like a moron.

My hitting wasn’t much better. I flied out my first time up to bat; struck out the second, but got to first and eventually made it home on my third try. I know I suck at catching and throwing, but I’m a pretty decent hitter. Every time I stepped up to the plate I had the feeling the pitcher could sense my anxiety. Never a good thing. After I struck out, Coach said I was leaning too far back in my stance and not getting a good swing in. I’ll work on it during batting practice on the weekend.

We didn’t keep score for the game but I’m pretty sure we lost, although not by much. I have a feeling I might be playing catcher on Sunday for a few innings so I should probably take the time to learn what I’m need to do. Hopefully I can regain some of my confidence before Opening Day. I know I’ll start to relax once the season starts and I have a few games under my belt.

After the scrimmage game we went to pick up our jerseys at The Oasis. Our jerseys are really nice this year. I’ll actually keep this one. As soon as I walked into the bar four different people shouted my name from different parts of the room. I might be a shitty softball player, but I felt loved.

Once I got to our team’s table Coach informed me that WESA gave our team permission to let my boyfriend represent us in Miss WESA. My boyfriend left for South America for work a couple of days ago and Skype is our only means of communication at the moment. I hope I’m not putting him in an awkward position. As much as my boyfriend loves doing drag, the pageant is pretty time consuming, and he works a lot. I was hoping I would catch him online tonight so I could give him the news via video chat; it’s not something I want to spring on him in an email.

The atmosphere at The Oasis was pretty jovial as all WESA functions are. It was interesting seeing all these guys I partied with in my club days during the late-eighties/early-nineties aging. I bumped into a few people I haven’t talked to in a while and could see the crow’s feet around their eyes. I never imagined us as middle-aged men when I was younger, and here we all were talking about mortgages and our plans for retirement.

I was one of the last people from our team to leave the bar. After a couple of ciders I was moaning to the assistant coach about my poor performance during the scrimmage game.

“None of us were playing well,” he said. “It’s going to take us a few games to get our groove going. Just remember, it’s all about having fun.”

I know it is. But winning doesn’t hurt either.

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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