Wednesday night was a beautiful night for a practice. The sun and the wind were near tropical. It felt more like August than May. I was grateful that I remembered to bring water and my sunglasses to the field since I have a bad habit of leaving the house without both.
I started practice as catcher. The first batter up told me how I was supposed to hold the glove on the ground like a dustpan, and point it to the top of home plate so the pitcher would have something to aim at. He also instructed me to put one knee on the ground instead squatting on my haunches. This was helpful information. I could have used it nine innings ago, but late than never. Now I won’t be walking like I’m trying not to shit after game day, although I was really looking forward to my killer thighs I was gong to have at the end of the season.
My batting was meh.
I was swinging at flies the first few pitches and the coach relieved the catcher so he could give me pointers. It’s hard not to feel like I’m on the short bus when I get one on one coaching during practice, but I’m not going to get any better unless people tell me what I’m doing wrong; as long as they’re nice about it.
I had been moaning to my boyfriend on the phone on my lunch break about being at the bottom of the batting order.
“Are you kidding?” he said. “The bottom of the batting order is awesome! All you have to do is get to first and let the heavy hitters get you home.”
“You make a good point,” I said. “But I still want to hit a homerun.”
“Everybody does baby,” he said. “But you can’t hit a homerun until you learn how to hit a single.”
Tonight’s batting lesson was about the weight of the bat and form. I tend to go for a heavy bat because it feels better in my hands and I’ve programmed myself to believe I can hit it farther. The first thing the coach did was hand me a lighter bat. Then he wrapped me in his arms around me like a vampire’s cape, and showed me how to stand.
I used to pride myself on my batting stance. I don’t know what my problem is. Maybe I’m rusty, but more often than not I feel like a spaz when I’m on the plate. My problem is I want it too bad. I think it comes from being a novice player. All you want to do is hit that one homerun so people know that you have it in you.
I had a few good hits, but I’m still struggling to find my swing and the sweet spot of the bat. This is going to take some managing of expectations on my part.
My catching is improving. I played first base for a bit and made some amazing catches. My secret is not to flinch when the ball in my direction. I caught a nice fly ball when I was moved to outfield but the more I ran around, the more I thought I was going to have a heart attack and die. I don’t have the endurance I used to. I blame smoking. I was going to quit smoking that morning, but I got as far as the corner store before I caved and bought a pack. Nicotine is a powerful drug.
After the game we had a little team powwow about the practice and our games on Sunday. One of my teammates, I’ll call her Bomber because she has an amazing arm, said, “I think we were pretty demoralized by the first game. No one had their head in the game.”
We talked about the whole C player thing, but Coach waved off that whole episode and said, “Our biggest problem was we didn’t bring our bats and we made a lot of stupid mistakes. We should have played better even if we were up against professionals.”
Coach pointed out a few of the things we were doing wrong in the game—mostly communicating with each other. He told us who to listen to in the infield and outfield, and to pay attention to which way the batters are hitting. We were told not to take it personally if someone tells us to do something while we’re playing, but if it starts to get out of hand, that we were to talk to him.
“The main thing is to have fun,” he said. And then he went around the team and told us individually what we need to work on like he was giving notes on a theatrical play.
As the catcher, I need to:
- Be aware of what is happening at second and third.
- Remember that the ball is in play until the ump calls time.
- Take control of the ball as soon as I get it and approach the pitcher, prepared to throw at any base.
- However, I am not to throw the ball unless it’s an easy out.
The coach told another player that he needed to pay more attention to what the shortstop was telling him,
“Okay, but he has to learn to speak louder,” the player said, wagging his finger with one hand on his hip. He reminded me of Aretha Franklin demanding a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T.
“Would you mind doing that again?” I asked him.
The coach gave him some pointers about running bases, particularly running to second. I can’t remember how it came up, but my teammate said, “I always get to first.” He reminded me of what my boyfriend had been telling me at lunch. And then I remembered that my teammate was batted in two or three times on Sunday after hitting a single. If anybody was the player of the game, it was he.
The ride home was nothing less than glorious. The sun was beginning to set, but I wore my sunglasses and took my time getting home. My neck and shoulders were stiff, but I felt relaxed and refreshed. Work hasn’t been bad or anything, in fact it’s been going really well, but I’ve been starting to feel like a cog in the wheel. It’s amazing how much stress throwing a ball can relieve.