One Last Shot… A Real Life Baseball Story (Part 1)

I am fifty years old. I’ll turn 51 this summer. I’m no longer young. I’m not as flexible, strong, or physically able as I used to be. All of this comes with age. Of course. I’m not in the best shape of my life, but I’m not in bad shape. Last November, I ran the New York City Marathon. I was slow (4:47:47), but because I was coming off a torn Achilles and was under-trained, I was pleased. In the first Rocky movie, Rocky said, “All I wanna do is go the distance.” I went the distance. It was my 21st lifetime marathon. Not bad.

I also still play in two pretty competitive men’s softball leagues. One league is a 30+ league where I’m becoming one of the older players. I still play shortstop and handle myself well enough. The other league is a 50+ league where I play more of a utility role. That team won the league’s championship last year.

I love to play ball.

When I play ball and when I run in big races, I can often recapture the dreams of my youth… dreams that involved being a famous baseball player, specifically, a Yankee. When I make a great play, or deliver a clutch hit, or as people cheer me as I run past them in a big city, I can almost imagine what it would have felt like to be a Yankee. I like to share that I wore #2 as a kid, long before Derek Jeter wore it. It seemed, to me, at least, that the Yankees were holding the number for me.

Alas! It wasn’t to be.

While I still play ball somewhat well, and while I still run, I’m still not in my best shape. My chiropractor suggested the other day that I could afford to lose a few pounds. Ugggg. Middle-age is not always fun.

About a week ago, some of the dads of children in my school were talking about a baseball league – baseball, not softball – that they were creating a team for. It’s a 35+ plus league that only uses wood bats. As they talked, and I listened, I was invited to join the team. I wasn’t sure if these men were serious.

My first instinct was to say no and laugh off the idea.

I haven’t played baseball since I was 16 year old. That was my last year in any organized baseball league. I pitched that year (not all that well) on the JV baseball team for my high school.

I then found out that these baseball games will be played on Sunday mornings. That is when one of my softball teams plays. The conflict seemed unsolvable. But as we talked, I learned that this league starts in April and my Sunday Morning softball doesn’t start until late May or June. If they wanted me for part of the season, I actually could play at the start of the season and sporadically there after.

But I can’t play baseball any more.



Baseball has always been a big part of me. Much of who I am centers around baseball.

I still dream of being a Yankee. One day when I retire, I’ll attend a Yankees Fantasy Camp. But that’s years away.

As a dad, I taught baseball to my kids. And, for more than 15 years, I lived baseball as I coached all three of my sons through the majority of their recreation baseball league careers. I haven’t played baseball in a long time, but I haven’t been totally away from the game.

More reality then slapped me in the face – I then realized that since my children have grown, it’s been a long time since I even coached – six years at least. (Where does the time go?)

As the conversation with these men continued, I couldn’t help but wonder if I still had it – whatever that “it” was or might have been. I offered, “I am intrigued by the idea. I’m old, way too old. I haven’t played baseball in a long long time. I’m quite certain I can’t hit a baseball any longer. A softball, yes. But we play slow pitch or arc. I don’t think I can catch up to a fastball any longer.” (Truth be told, I could never hit a fastball.)

And then I suggested, “But if you DH me, I could probably…pitch.”

To my surprise, they all seemed to think it was a good idea. I was told, “If you want to pitch, you’re on the team.”

I had a lot to think about.

A few days later, I wrote the following to the team captains, “My fastball, by this point in my life, probably tops out at 15 MPH, my curve is nonexistent, and my knuckle ball doesn’t knuckle, but I can throw strikes, and lots of them.  If the batters hit the ball to my fielders, it just might work.  (I don’t envision many strikeouts…).

If you need a pitcher who has more heart than skill and you could accommodate me on the rare days off when my softball team doesn’t play, I’d be interested in taking the mound, if only once, for one last hurrah.”

Somehow even that didn’t scare them away. They said they’d still welcome me on the team.

But, I still wasn’t sure about playing.

As a result, two days later, last Friday, the first thing we did when I picked up Ethan from college for his Spring Break, was have a catch. I need to see how the old arm felt after a long winter’s respite.

It felt great!

We threw for about fifteen minutes before packing up the car and driving home.

We then threw again on Saturday in the front yard. The first few throws hurt in the way one’s arm always hurts the day after throwing. It’s a good dull pain that I remembered well. Then, the ol’ arm quickly loosened up and I still felt good.

But having a catch isn’t playing baseball.

On Sunday, Ethan and I went to the nicest full-sized baseball field in town so I could throw off the pitcher’s mound. It was cold and windy. It was probably no more than 42 degrees out. Still, I had to throw. I pitched from the wind-up and the stretch. I wasn’t as accurate as I remember being as a kid. I didn’t have much in my arsenal back then, but I could always throw strikes. Thirty four years later, I still didn’t a collection of pitches, but on this, my first time truly trying to pitch in decades, I struggled to find the strike zone. At least at first.

By the end of our throwing session, I was getting better. I kept tweaking my wind-up. I needed to find that old (very old) muscle memory. Sure, I threw batting practice as a coach, and I’ve thrown billions of pitches in backyard Wiffle Ball games, but throwing a baseball off of a mound was something new again.

As Ethan and I walked home, I said, “I’m not encouraged by how I did, but I’m also not discouraged. Maybe it’ll all come around.”

But, even with this, I didn’t commit to the team.

I was just living a pretend fantasy.

Until yesterday when the e-mail came.

“Dr. Sem, what size uniform shirt do you wear? And what number do you want?”

They really wanted me. I didn’t hesitate to respond.

I asked for uniform #2. That’s always been my number. I flirted with asking for #56 which was Jim Bouton’s* number, but in the end, I had to be true to me.

(*Jim Bouton had a short-lived Major League comeback in 1978 after being out of the big leagues for almost a decade. He then pitched in my area for many years in a semi-pro league lasting well into his late-fifties – always throwing his signature knuckleball.)

I immediately texted my wife and kids.

“I’m going to do it. I just agreed to play on the baseball team.”

Mike Trout may have just signed for over 400 million dollars, but I think I got the best baseball offer this winter. After 34 years, I’m going to be playing baseball again.

If only for one game…

I’m back.

As is my dream of putting on the pinstripes.


(This story is also published on


Author Visit – March 18, 2019

I am looking forward to another great author event on March 18, 2019 at the Oakland, New Jersey Public Library.

I appreciate all of the support, kindness, and encouragement from so many.  

I hope to inspire many people tomorrow to help them realize that, like me, they truly can achieve their dreams.

Living The Dream

Those of you who have known me long enough have read stories of my hopes to be a published author and all of the trials, travails, failures, and bumps along the way I have faced as I pursue this dream.

Along the way, there have also, of course been some successes, but these only came after much failure, many rejections, and more than a few (sometimes harsh) criticisms from those in the business of publishing. 

Continue reading “Living The Dream”

“Scattering the Ashes” Preview & Excerpt (Coming October 22, 2019)

My first novel, Scattering The Ashes, will be published on October 22, 2019 by Artemesia Publishing and is now available for Pre-Order here.

This novel tells the fictional story of Sam Holmes as he struggles though the aftermath of losing his father and having the responsibility and obligation of fulfilling his late father’s final request.

Readers will become attached to Sam Holmes as he seeks to find himself in this trying period of his life. Initial reviews of the novel have been very positive.

Baseball is one (of many) themes that forms the framework of the story. Throughout this year, leading up to the book’s release, I will share excerpts from the novel here on these pages and on my Yankees site:

The following is an except from Chapter 5. In this scene, early in the novel before his father passes, Sam Homes awakes in pain the morning after his longest training run as he is preparing for his first marathon – the New York City Marathon. He is feeling doubtful about his abilities as a runner. Soon the prospect of a fictional encounter with two former baseball stars changes his outlook on the day…


(From Scattering The Ashes (2019, by Dr. Paul Semendinger, with permission from Artemesia Publishing)

The next morning, after I swung my legs out of bed, I realized I could barely stand.  The plantar fasciitis in my foot screamed with pain every time I put even a tiny bit of weight on it.  I had never felt such pain.  Have you ever stuck hot needles into the bottom of your foot?  I haven’t either, but it sure felt like I had.  In addition to this foot agony, everything else, especially the fronts of my thighs, seemed to ache.  I wondered if I had pushed my body further than it was able to handle.  Was twelve miles my limit?  Maybe I wasn’t built for a marathon.  Dr. Alfonzo, my chiropractor (who is also a miracle healer), advised me to always stretch before a hard run and also to always ice this injury after the effort.  Why didn’t I listen to his advice yesterday?

Continue reading ““Scattering the Ashes” Preview & Excerpt (Coming October 22, 2019)”

The Best Books I Read in 2018

At the end of December, I always look back and review the books I read over the past year.  I have been keeping track of the books I have read since 1989.  Keeping these lists has been wonderful for it allows me to look back over the many books I have read in my adult life.  Through this exercise I get to remember great passages, great themes, and great ideas.  When I look back, I also remember the titles and authors I have particularly enjoyed which often brings me back to read those same books again.  I love reading and believe that our lives are infinitely richer through the books we read.

Here is a list of the best books that I read in 2018 with a short summary of each. (Quick note – not all of the books listed below are pictured in the graphic.)


Continue reading “The Best Books I Read in 2018”

Being Santa Claus

(The other day, I went back into the archives of passages that I wrote to the teachers at my school.  I found this piece from 2009.  This brought back a lot of memories, and also, with them, the reminder to savor every single moment.  That little boy sitting on Santa’s lap is twenty years old.  I genuinely miss those wonderful moments from long ago…)


Each year I get a terrific honor.  I’m Santa Claus at our annual church fair.   For the better part of Friday evening, and on Saturday morning, I am Santa.  I’ve been doing this for a long time – since my kids were little.

When my kids were little and they talked to Santa, they didn’t know that the Santa they were talking to was me.  It was a very special time – priceless might be the word for it. I savor in those great memories. 

Continue reading “Being Santa Claus”

My 2019 Marathon Plan (Part 1)

I ran my first marathon in 2002.  Since then, in my running “career,” I have completed 21 marathons.  That’s 21 marathons in 17 years, a pretty good rate.

I have run some races pretty quickly, with my PR taking place in Chicago in 2006 (3:25:16).  But, as I have aged, I have (not surprisingly) gotten slower.  I knew going into this year’s New York City Marathon that I would be very slow and that it would be a huge struggle for me for numerous reasons including the fact that I was coming back from an injury (Achilles tear) that kept me out of the previous year’s marathon and the fact that, while I was upping my mileage, I still wasn’t 100%, nor was I properly trained for a good showing.

You get out of it what you put into it.

I put in determination and heart.  Those traits got me through the race.  I din’t put in the necessary training miles.  That resulted in my slowest marathon time ever (4:47:47). 

While I am not overjoyed with that result, I have to admit that I actually thought I’d be a lot slower.  I was concerned that 2018 would be my first ever five hour marathon.  Determination and heart prevented that from happening because I was not, by any definition of the term, in marathon shape.

Now about a month after the marathon, I’m still not in great shape.  But, I am determined that when I take the starting line for what I hope will be two marathons in 2019, I will be in much better physical shape.  I have been on a cycle of poor showings for quite a while now…and I’m ready to break that pattern.

It is to that end that I designed this new marathon plan – a 10-month plan that (I hope) will get me to the starting line in my best shape in many (many) years.  While I persevered and got through the 2018 New York City Marathon, I did it with a lot of self-doubt.  Most of my most recent marathons have been run that way.   I need to change that. Continue reading “My 2019 Marathon Plan (Part 1)”

NYC Marathon: Rejoice In Suffering

I have had the great pleasure and honor of sharing inspirational words with my fellow runners at the Interfaith Chapel at the start of the New York City Marathon a number of times.  I find it extremely inspiring to share God’s word before the race as we all prepare for the long miles ahead.  This year I participated in two services and, as such, delivered two “sermons.”  I will share both of these messages here on my blog.  The first message I delivered is directly below this one on the blog’s home page.  I hope, these words inspire you and your faith as well.  

Rejoice in Suffering:

Continue reading “NYC Marathon: Rejoice In Suffering”

NYC Marathon: God Is With Us

I have had the great pleasure and honor of sharing inspirational words with my fellow runners at the Interfaith Chapel at the start of the New York City Marathon.  I find it extremely inspiring to share God’s word before the race as we all prepare for the long miles ahead.  This year I participated in two services and, as such, delivered two “sermons.”  I will share both of these messages here on my blog.  I hope, these words also inspire you and your faith as well.  

God Is With Us Today:

Continue reading “NYC Marathon: God Is With Us”


Well, I did it.

As I have shared, I was under-trained, a bit over weight, and unprepared for the race, but I knew I needed to do it. I’m still not fully recovered from the Achilles tear that kept me out of last year’s race. But all of that is now in the past.

At the Marathon Chapel at the start before the race, in one of the messages I delivered, I reminded the runners to trust God in their darkest moments on the course. I know I did.

I was toast by Mile 10. I had nothing left in the tank. But I pushed ever forward. Step-by-step all the way over the 26.2 miles to the glorious finish in Central Park.

Continue reading “I DID IT!”