My boyfriend nicknamed himself “The Queen of Softball Tears” during the WESA sign-up party a few months ago. We were out having a smoke and he was telling me how it was frustrating to be at the party knowing that he couldn’t play due to an injury. He apologized for feeling sorry for himself and promised he wouldn’t be like this all season.
“Just call me the Queen of Softball Tears,” he said.
“Can I get you a sash and tiara for that?”
On Sunday I assumed his title after I struck out three times and walked once over two games. It was my worst up at bat since I started playing.
There was really no excuse for my poor performance. Our first game wasn’t until 2 pm, but Coach asked us to show up at the field for 12:45 for a batting practice. I had a relaxing morning, got all my chores done, and had plenty of time to psyche myself up and get ready. I went over the things I needed to remember for the game and tried to visualize myself getting to first base each and every pitch.
I showed up to the field ready and eager to play. Team Celebrities was stretching on one of the grassy knolls in the park when I got there. Their white uniforms caked in the golden afternoon sunlight made them look like the Roman statues that decorate Caesar’s Palace in Vegas. It was a sight to behold, like a scene out of a sports fetish exercise video.
Things went south fast. I was the first person at bat for practice. The practice pitcher wasn’t warmed up, and there wasn’t a heck of a lot to swing at. Coach is always telling us, “don’t swing at shit,” and I agree, but I really wanted to work on twisting at the waist and keeping the bat level. It was getting to the point where if I didn’t swing at shit, I wouldn’t swing at all. I’m sure I looked like George Michael Bluth playing with his light saber.
I played the last half of the first game, which we won in the last inning. I got to bat once and struck out. I played the entire second game against my team from last year and I was swatting at flies. We lost that game in the last inning, but it was close. Walking off the field I felt like Sylvia in that Kids and the Hall sketch where Buddy Cole coaches lesbian softball.
“Striking out” is a metaphor for a failure for a reason. You’re up there by yourself and all eyes are on you. It’s sink or swim. You only get a few opportunities to prove yourself at bat, and when you strike out every time, you feel hopeless. I do anyway. Even a fly ball is better than striking out.
It’s bad enough I have to listen to the pitcher tell the field to move in when I step up to the plate. When a heavy hitter comes up to bat they’ll shout, “Show some respect.” I think part of my problem is I’m so busy wanting to prove the pitcher wrong, I’m not paying attention to what I’m supposed to be doing.
There were a few bright moments, like when the umpire in the first game asked me if someone was having a picnic at the end of the field. I told him I couldn’t see that far, and he said, “You should become an umpire.”
During the second game, the scorekeeper was trying to hurry the other team to the field by shouting the next batter’s name: “Jordan…Syria, Iraq!” And when my teammate Fry was discussing Ms WESA with a mutual friend of ours and said, “By the way, I still have your red pumps. I found them in my tickle trunk.”
The hardest part about striking out is that I feel that I’m not contributing to the team. There’s not a heck of a lot to do as back catcher; my throws to the pitcher are improving although I’m sure some would beg to differ, but the only thing I got right now is hitting the ball.
A lot of stuff starts to go through your mind when you don’t play well. What if I don’t get better? What if this is the best I can possibly do? It’s like when you haven’t been laid or out of work for a long time—you start to wonder if either will ever happen again.
I didn’t want to socialize with the team after the game, which was a sucky thing to do on my part. My game may have sucked, but my teammates played well, and I should have sucked in my lower lip, put my man-pants on, and celebrated with them. My friend Fry is having an especially good season; he hit the winning run of the first game and consistently gets on base.
After the game Fry did his best to encourage me and offered words of wisdom—and it worked—but my disappointment went a little deeper than, “there’s always next time.” I just thought I would be playing better this season, and while there are signs of improvement, I still feel like I’m going in circles.
Coach pulled me aside and reminded me, it’s only a game—and it is, hitting softball is a First World problem—but I’m also competing with myself. Ultimately, playing softball is about self-improvement; it’s about working with a group of strangers to achieve a common goal; it’s about taking myself out of my comfort zone and flourishing. When I fail it triggers all these little insecurities that I’m at war with on a daily basis.
I recently read David Lynch’s book Catching the Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness, and Creativity and one of the mantras I took away from the book was, “Keep your eye on the donut, not the hole.” In softball, there are so many donuts—the ball, the pitcher, the outfield, your own brain—it’s hard to keep your eye on just one.
In the end, I smoked a couple of cigarettes and went home because I didn’t want to be the rain cloud hanging over the team. Riding back to the West End, I considered calling my friend and scheduling another hypnotherapy appointment with him; that was when I realized I really needed to get over myself.
Now that I’ve had some time to lick my wounds and think about the game, I’ve come to the conclusion that this season will be about the search for my swing. I set a few guidelines for myself, drawn a few lines in the sand, and will try and focus on that fucking donut. If I’m going to be the Queen of Softball Tears, then I’m going to do it with dignity.