Opening Day 2018

It’s not quite forty degrees here in New Jersey.  It’s cold.  Hand stinging cold.  It’s the cold that makes your nose and ears hurt. 

Did I mention it’s April?  I think the fact that it’s actually spring makes the temperature outside that much colder.  

At least the sun is out, though the day will remain in the low-40’s.

Yet, even with the (close to) frigid temperatures, I am excited, very excited, unbearably excited, to get outside this afternoon.  Today is the Opening Day of our softball season.  

I just love to play ball.

Even if it’s cold.

I have been playing in various competitive men’s softball leagues for the better part of the last thirty years.  Growing up, I was convinced that I’d be a New York Yankee.  I wasn’t good enough.  Not even close.  I never even made it to high school varsity.

This then, is, and has been, my Major Leagues.  

I just love to play ball.

Today I’ll be playing for a brand new team.  They drafted me to be the young hot-shot rookie.  This is probably the last time I’ll ever come to a team as the young guy – my last rookie season.

This new team I am joining is in an “Over-50 Men’s Softball League.”  I’m not (quite) fifty yet (but I will be this season so I am eligible to play).  I was told by a teammate that the “young guys” like me will be expected to play all nine innings so the older guys can rest a bit.

I love the fact that they want me to play all nine innings!  I can’t wait!

This year I’ll actually be playing in two leagues.  In my hometown of Wyckoff, New Jersey, I play in an Over-30 league.  I’m actually still a shortstop, but I’m certainly not one of the younger players and as I get older (and slower) and the competition gets younger (and faster), I wonder how much longer I can play at a competitive level in that league.  Luckily for me, there are a host of players round my age still hanging on.  Like me, they don’t ever want to give this up.  

Maybe this is also their Major Leagues…

From what I understand, the two leagues have some differences.  In the Over-50 league, players can run through the bases.  I guess once you reach a half-century, you no longer need to slide.  I still might slide, though, unless it makes me seem obnoxious.  It’s not to show off, I don’t know if I’m good enough to show off, it’s just that when I play, I think that I’m a lot younger than I really am.  

When I play ball, I’m a kid again.  I don’t want to ever grow up and realize that I’m at middle-age and might not be able to do this for many more years.  I just want to play.  I want to be a kid again.  I don’t ever want to grow up.  

I also understand that the Over-50 league plays with metal bats.  This both excites and terrifies me.  The Over-30 league went to wood about seven years ago.  With a metal bat, I was (somewhat) of a power hitter.  I hit my fair share of extra base hits and would even club a few homers a year.  I haven’t hit a homer since they went to wood.  In some recent seasons I haven’t even hit a triple.  Or a double.  (Ouch.)

I’m hoping for a few round trippers with the older guys this year.  Hitting the ball and touching them all will feel good.  It’s been far too long.

But, since I play on the infield, I’m a little terrified about the hard line drives that rocket off of the metal bats.  I haven’t had to field missiles like that since the Wyckoff league went to wood.  If my hitting suffered because I lost my power, my fielding improved because the slower exit velocity from the hitter gave me more time to react to catch the balls and make the plays.  I hope these old guys don’t hit the ball too hard at me.  I haven’t tested my reflexes against a metal bat for many years.  (The perfect league would allow me to hit with a metal bat while my opponents would be limited to wood.)

Ah, what does it matter?  Whether I catch the ball or get any hits, in a few hours I’ll be playing softball.  The long and wonderful season is on the horizon in front of me.  

I can’t wait.

I want to play forever.

I just love… to play ball.

 

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