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.