Speaking of sandlot baseball—referring to my poem, A Game Forgot—I’m sure many of us remember the “choosing sides” before the game could start. Two captains would be chosen—sometimes self appointed for one reason or another, and they would alternately choose a player to be on their team. This was done until all the willing participants were divided up. If you are the last one chosen on the sandlot, it probably—usually—means you are not a very good player. But, hey, I always looked on the bright side; I got to play, and maybe I could get a big hit, or make a great catch; that’d show ‘em!
A similar situation occurred during my young adult years. I’d been playing softball since I’d graduated high school, and was a pretty fair player. We moved quite often, though, and I found it difficult to get on a team when we’d move to a new town. Softball teams are typically formed by a group of friends or co-workers, and it is hard for a newcomer to break into the ranks.
When we moved to Sacramento, I met some young guys—Dan and Pat—and began to pal around with them, and when softball season rolled around, found out they had a team. I was thrilled, thinking since I was friends with the captain/coach—Dan—I’d be able to get on the team. No such deal.
Dan sadly informed me the roster was full, and there was no way he could get me on the team. I bugged him about it for weeks, and went to all their games, hoping that maybe one day they’d be short a player and ask me to play. I figured if I could just get a shot, they’d see I could contribute, and want me on their team. I’d show ‘em!
Mom and my brother Ken happened to be there on this particular Saturday—they knew Dan and Pat, too, and often went to watch the games. Right before the game, a sheepish Pat came up and asked if I still wanted to play on the team. I tried to be cool, but I’m sure he could see how excited I was at the prospect of getting a chance to play. He was quick to inform me, however, it was for this one game only; seems several of their regular players were unexpectedly absent. Dan actually needed two players.
Ken was not a softball player, but he had natural athletic ability and fearlessly agreed to help the team out. They stuck us both in the outfield, hoping, I’m sure, no one would hit one our way. I was the eighth batter in the lineup, and Ken batted ninth. It was a bit insulting to me, but I figured they didn’t know any better, so it was cool.
My turn to bat finally came around in the third inning of what was a tight, scoreless game. Our team had not gotten a hit yet, and there was one out when I stepped into the batter’s box. I was fired up, and determined to show them their folly in not letting me play on their team, and batting me in the bottom of the lineup.
I swung with all I had at the first pitch, and watched it sail over the center field fence as I trotted to first base then around the rest of the bases to score the first run. The rest of the team was stunned at first then jubilant as they greeted me at home plate with hand slaps and high-fives. But my home run wasn’t even the best part.
Ken stepped up to the plate and he was grinning as the pitcher lobbed the first pitch toward him. I’m thinking he must have had a premonition or something. He smacked the first pitch, and it flew over the fence in almost the exact spot mine had. Again, there was stunned silence followed by an eruption of cheering and screaming from our bench.
Ken and I each got a couple more hits, and played flawlessly in the outfield, and after the game, Dan approached us, wearing a huge smile.
“You guys want to play on the team?” he asked.
I Looked at Ken, then turned back to Dan, and through a very large grin, said, “Nah, we’ll pass.”
You should have seen the look on his face.