Out With a Bang

The softball season is officially over. All that’s left is a beer bust, a banquet, and a draw for a train trip for two to Jasper, BC that I’m hoping I win.

The playoffs were held over the weekend. By the time they were over I felt like one of the Hobbits returning the One Ring  to Mount Doom.

The hardest part of the playoffs was getting up at 5:30 in the morning on a Saturday and Sunday. Each time the alarm went off I thought I had to go to work.

It was also the coldest, wettest weekend we’ve had all summer. It was so cold and overcast that some of the leaves were falling off the trees in Strathcona Park, which only cemented the feeling of finality to the season.

Our first two games on Saturday were against the top two teams in the league, and we got trounced both games. It was bad enough that we struggled to get runs in, but to add insult to injury, the umpire  kept calling illegal pitches against our pitcher.

A pitch needs to be above six feet for it to be legal,. Considering our pitcher is over six feet tall and most of his pitches were reaching his forehead, it seemed like an inordinate amount of pitches were being called against him. Then there were some obvious strikes that were called balls. It was exasperating. The only thing worse than losing to a series of grand slams is losing on a series of walks.

Our team as a whole couldn’t seem to hit the ball out of the infield, and when we did, an outfielder always caught it. I didn’t get a decent hit in either game, and I struck out once which I haven’t done in a while. It drove me nuts. I’ve been getting to first base consistently the last half of the season and when that wasn’t happening, I started to choke a bit at the plate.

In our second game against Team Celebrities, the pitcher could have thrown loopy-de-loops and they still would have hit the damn thing out of the park. At one point I had to shush the umpire after she made a comment about how big a lead Celebrites had on us. When you’re down that many runs,  all you want to do is narrow the score, even if you’re going to lose the game; the last thing you want to hear is colour commentary from the umpire.

The first day of playoffs is all about placement for the second day when teams get eliminated. If you’re in the lower half of the standings you play double-knockout the first half the second day; if you lose in the morning, you’re out of the tournament. The top five teams are allowed to lose one game on Sunday before getting eliminated.

After our dismal performance in the first two games, our goal was to place anywhere but last. We managed to win our third game of the day against the sixth placed Team Barette, and play one more game after that.

The fifth game was against Dahl & Connors who were reduced to 8 players for the tournament. Coach joked that they had nine lives because they kept coming back. We led most of that game but D&C came back and won the game by one run in the last inning. That was a real heart breaker, especially after a whole day on the field.

After the first day of play, Fry, Bomber, Cricket and I re-grouped for beer and a bite to eat at The Junction. We were joined by our teammate Poodle and his partner, who coaches Barette.

As we were eating, Poodle’s partner tried to explain how the  team draft works, which, when boiled down is as complex as quantum physics. It’s amazing that a coach can get half the players he or she wants, although some of the coaches must have it figured out since there are several teams that have been playing together for years. However convoluted the process, it’s nice to know that the best teams of the season are often the luck of the draw and that no one team will dominate the league season after season.

Our first game on Sunday was against Pacific Spirit. They played 3 games on Saturday and were done by 3pm whereas we played 5 games and were done by 6pm.

“So you guys basically fought to play us,” a friend on Pacific Spirit said.

I had a lot of nerves going into the game Pacific Spirit. Not only had we worked so hard just to get where we were, I hadn’t had a solid hit or make it around the bases once in our five games on Saturday.  All I wanted was to end the season on a high note, even if we lost the second game.

Pacific Spirit might not have been the best team in the league, but they had a reputation for coming back in the last inning—that was how they beat Team Celebrities, one of the few teams in the league to do so during the regular season.

It turned out to be a really fun game despite the early start time. Both teams were getting runs in and there was a lot of joking on the field, while maintaining a level of competition worthy of the tournament.

Both our teams cheered for Pacific Sprit’s back catcher when she made it to first base after struggling at bat during the first half of the game. That’s what I love most about WESA: no matter how tough a game gets, people respect when you’re giving it your all.

We were ahead by 10 runs in the bottom of the last inning but Pacific Spirit was able to get 8 runs in. There were some tense moments in our dugout and on the field. We made a few errors that, had we been down by fewer runs, could have cost us the game.

We went directly from Game  One to Game Two against Team Oasis with barely enough time to pee in between. We had beat Oasis once (or so I’m told) and we thought we might have a chance of advancing to a third game. We played well but lost by 6 runs.

It was still a fun game even despite the loss. Again, both teams were cordial with each other, while respecting the fact we all wanted to win.

Our game against Oasis was the best I played the entire tournament. I was hitting the ball, running the bases well, and scored a run, but my defining moment came at the top of the last inning when a batter fouled the ball behind home plate. The ball went a good 20  feet in the air, although from my perspective it looked like 50.  My heart was in my throat as I watched it go up and then come back down.

It was a second or two before I realized the ball was safely in my mitt and we had shut Oasis down, but when I did, I started jumping up and down like I had won a million dollars. Then the whole team rushed up and gave me a hug.

“Just remember you can only dance around like that when there’s three out,” Coach said, with a wink.

We may not have scored the 7 runs we needed to win the game, but I ended the season on a high note and our team played 3 games more than the 4 games we were guaranteed to play in the tournament. Not a gold medal, but nothing to be ashamed about either.

Our team hung around the field for a couple of hours and watched a few games with some of the other players that had been knocked out of the tournament. There was a lot of bitchy gossip and cheering for underdog teams like Oasis and VanCity beneath the Coleman canopies that protected us from the drizzle.

The game against VanCity and Celebrities was exceptional. VanCity played amazing against Celebrities. Celebrities is a powerhouse team, but VanCity was at the top of their game and was able to shut Celebrities down at every turn. VanCity won the game by a run. Those are the best games to watch; no one wants to watch a trouncing. Plus everyone was dying for an upset in the tournament.

As one spectator put it, “If Celebrities gets knocked out, it will turn the tournament upside down.”

In the end Celebrities took the whole thing. I would have loved to have stuck around for the gold medal game between Celebrities and Fountainhead. As someone who lost against them in all six or our meetings, there was no denying the stars had aligned to form a perfect season for both teams. I would have stuck around for the game, but I was just too damn tired and too damn cold, although I spent the rest of the day asking if anyone knew what the score was.

As much as I would have loved to see an upset in the tournament, the final standings make sense when you look at the season as a whole. Every team ended up where they belonged, and we are none the worse for wear and all the better for it.

Now I have two competition-free months before I have to re-build our curling team at the end of September.

Life Lessons from the 2014 season:

  • The hardest part about  playing sports is not making excuses for why you lost.
  • The ball is always in play until the umpire calls “Time”.
  • Don’t smoke in the park.
  • Don’t smoke period.
  • Always aim for the chest.
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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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