Opening Day

Sunday was Opening Day of WESA’s 2014 season. It was also the same day as the Sun Run. Normally, I’m all for letting the citizenry take the streets back from the cars, but I had to be at the field for 9:45 am. I was hung-over and one of the pedals on my bike is out to get me. The more detours I had to take to avoid the onslaught of humanity, the bigger the hissy fit I wanted to throw. I took Homer Street to the viaduct that goes right past The Centre for Performing Arts, which was recently converted into one of those homophobic churches, which only added to my frustration.

I was the first person at the field and was about to text my coach to see which field we were on until I ran into my two of my teammates avoiding the looming rain clouds under the gazebo.

“How are you feeling?” the younger of the two asked me.

“Hung-over,” I told him. “I made the stupid mistake drinking wine with friends and watching Allan Carr’s Can’t Stop the Music  last night.”

“Here,” he said, and offered me a bottle of Fireball whiskey.

It was tempting, but just the smell of it made me gag. I’m not big on whiskey or cinnamon flavored alcohol. It may have helped with the hangover, but one sip would have sent me straight to the bathroom to puke or shit.

The three of us stood under the gazebo watching to see what the clouds would do and pretending to warm up. My team from last year was on the field getting trounced 20-3. WESA may be a recreational league, but no team plays that poorly unless they don’t have enough players on the field. This score looked like it belonged on a basketball court, not a slo-pitch game.

We watched a couple of innings and I couldn’t help but notice the team in the lead was hitting a home run every time someone went up to bat. I could see the look of frustration on my former coach’s face. He was doing his best to rally the troops but they didn’t seem able get anything past the opposing the team.

“We play them next,” said one of my teammates, nodding his head towards the winning team’s dugout.

“Can I still take you up on that Fireball?” I asked my teammate. He held up the bottle. “Just kidding.”

I had a good warm up. The Friday before the game, my friend hypnotized me to help get rid of the negativity that I carry around in a Birkin bag of the soul. He’s training to become a hypnotherapist and has been practicing on all his friends. While I did feel calmer after our session, the hypnotherapy didn’t help me during batting practice on Saturday, but considering the team we were about to face, I wasn’t nearly as nervous as I normally would have been.

Our Coach clapped us into the game. Clap-ins are one of my favorite rituals of softball. The team starts a steady clap while the coach reads the roster to us. Every time a time a position is announced, the whole team repeats the player’s name and says they “Rock”.

“Playing catcher and batting ninth is Tony,” Coach said.

“TONY ROCKS!” the team shouted.

I was thrilled at the opportunity of playing catcher, but disappointed I was at the bottom of the roster again this year. I can’t say I was surprised.

The forecast was for rain with a chance of torrential downpours. There was a huge puddle at first base that we were warned to avoid. The first play of the game our first basemen lost his balance took a nasty dive into the pond, eliciting a gasp from the stands.

“I’m okay, I’m okay,” he insisted. “Just part of the game.”

We were vastly outplayed. Our team isn’t exactly World Series caliber in its current state, but we have a lot of experienced players that can hit and catch. We couldn’t seem to get anything past the infield, no matter how hard we hit the ball. Around the third inning, our first baseman shouted, “Are we playing C or D division?”

I didn’t want to seem like a spoilsport, but the same thought was going through my mind. Not like there was anything we could do about it. We were well into the game and it wasn’t like we could just throw our gloves on the ground and shout, “No fair!”

At one point a league commissioner came over to our dugout and pointed out the C players at second and shortstop. He suggested our coach bring it up with the opposing coach after the game.

I felt I did okay as catcher. I didn’t have a heck of a lot to do since the opposing team pretty much hit the ball over the Peace Arch every time they were up to bat. The only complaint I got was from our pitcher, who kept asking me to throw the ball higher when I threw the ball back to him after a pitch. I wanted to tell him it was beyond my control, but I shut up and did my best, which seemed to work.

I made it up to bat three times and didn’t strike out once, which is MVP material in my books. My first hit was awesome. The ball hit the sweet spot of the bat and it looked like it was going to go straight into the field, but the second baseman caught it.

In the end the game was a washout. They beat us something like 100,000-3. There’s supposed to be a mercy rule where if you’re getting trounced the coach can throw in the towel, but our coach was having none of that. I didn’t mind either way; our team isn’t going to improve by giving up. We might as well play our innings and learn from our mistakes.

Coach spoke to the opposing coach about all the C players on his roster after the game. Apparently the other coach only had 6 players as of Friday night and was scrambling to find people on the spare list. While that may have been the case, Coach explained that there’s a gentlemen’s agreement amongst the coaches that they wouldn’t use C players on the spare list for key positions like second or shortstop. Apparently, this got lost in translation somewhere.

The second game against went better. The first couple of innings were a little rough. We were playing the team we had the scrimmage game against, so I knew they had a lot of good hitters. They scored five runs their first inning. In the second inning I got a runner out on first after I picked up a ball that dribbled off the bat.

The first baseman and I bonded after that. This is his third year of softball, and he’s always joking about his lack of skill. The assistant coach has been bugging us to represent the team in Miss WESA. He’s already done it once and was first runner-up, but he got to step down since the previous year’s titleholder moved away. He friended me on Facebook right after the game so the day wasn’t a total loss.

We brought our bats out the second half of the game and were able to narrow the score a bit, but we still lost. I only played three innings but kept batting. As much as I enjoyed playing catcher, my haunches were killing me from squatting for a game and a half. Again, I managed to hit the ball every time I got to bat but never made it as far as second base.

Our game went over time so we missed most of the ceremonies, although we did catch some of the festivities at the main field. Opening Day is like coming home, and this is from someone who has only played one season. Pretty much everyone in the league was there, celebrating and commiserating. The sun came out, turning Strathcona Park into Gay Pride Day without the boring parade.

After the game our team met up at the Pumpjack for the beer bust. Coach was able to talk our sponsors into giving us line privileges with our jerseys and a couple of pitchers of free beer. It kind of makes me feel bad we did so poorly. Despite the losses, everyone was in good spirits. We have a lot of work to do, but we get along, which is half the battle.


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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