Monday, June 22, 2009

No Longer 18 Years Old

Every so often, I'm reminded that I am no longer 18 years old.

Case in point, Sunday morning and afternoon.

I woke up with sore muscles from my waist to my ankles. Nothing excruciatingly awful, but nothing pleasant either. Just a dull tightness and stiffness.

All from catching 4 innings at my softball game on Saturday afternoon.

Normally, I'm not a catcher. Pitcher and catcher are the two positions that I have played the least in my baseball and softball careers. I never volunteered to do either, and much preferred being a position player.

But our opponents on Saturday weren't that good. Fun team. Great guys. But not skilled at softball. They're presently winless this year, and remain that way after our 17-4 victory. Knowing that we were likely going to win the game decisively, our coaches shuffled the deck and allowed a few of us to play positions that we normally don't.

Early in the season, I made it clear that my favorite position to play is first base - I love being involved in many plays, and prefer catching balls thrown at me rather than fielding hard grounders or long fly balls. First base is the position that meets all of that criteria.

So I started at first base and played there for three innings, during which I had six put outs (of the nine outs recorded), including a great play where I caught a ball thrown off the base and tagged the runner as he ran past me at that instant.

I felt great about my defensive play for a change. Not that I don't play the field well, but when I'm in the mix of most plays, I make fewer errors and feel like I'm contributing more.

Fourth inning comes, and I'm asked to be the catcher.

I dread catching. But I did it.

As we don't wear masks in slow pitch softball, I have visions of foul balls smacking me in the face, knocking out my front teeth. Further, I picture swung bats cracking me in the back of my head as overexcited hitters toss their bats aside in mad dashes toward first base.

Plus, I didn't have a cup on. Normally, I'm an outfielder and skip wearing one.

I managed to escape any permanent injury catching those four innings, and did record three more put outs including two pop flies that I caught.

But since we were ahead by so many runs, our opponents batted their three final innings all at once. It's a rule in the league that if one team is up by so many runs, then they fore go their final at-bats and remain in the field for the final six or nine outs (although the bases are cleared after every third out is recorded).

So, I'm now catching for nine consecutive outs, those three innings that were pitched by our usual first baseman. I'm estimating I caught about 40-50 pitches in that inning, as he walked 6 or 7 guys, and went deep into the count many other times.

Hence, my soreness. I even worked out at the gym during six consecutive days last week, including Saturday morning before the game.

Sigh. I'm not 18 anymore.

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