Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Game of the Century

I was driving around with all three of my kids yesterday afternoon. Somehow the conversation turned to softball, specifically my softball game that was going to take place later that evening. So far the kids haven't gone to any of my games this season because they've all been past their bedtime, and that was going to be the case again last night. All three kids seemed honestly sad that they would miss yet another of my games, but the Little One had a great question for me. "Can we just watch it on TV, Daddy?" she asked, as innocently as a 3-year-old can. If only they, and everyone else in the world, could have. It truly may have been the Game of the Century, if a mid-May regular season Church League softball game could ever hold that title...

The game started out looking like anything but a Game of the Century contender. My team, from my tiny little Wesleyan Church that is tucked in a seemingly hidden corner of NE Minneapolis, was taking on the hated Lutherans from the mega-church known as St. Andrews. I should state here that we don't actually hate any Lutherans. It's just a ploy I use to try to get my team to play with an edge. I think my ploy just makes everyone laugh, but being loosey-goosey can be a good thing when playing sports, too.

So, we were playing the guys from St. Andrews, and we were up to bat first. We were amazing, hitting sharp line drives and deep towering fly balls all over the field. And we were being aggressively smart on the base paths, too. It also didn't hurt that the opposing pitcher was having trouble finding the strike zone, as we took our fair share of walks. Before anyone could blink, we were ahead 14-0 after the first half inning. It was looking like another slaughter, just like our first two games of the year were. There was much jubilation on our bench, and much wailing and gnashing of teeth on the St. Andrews bench.

But then, like in many sporting events, there was a massive change of momentum. Apparently from the first inning to the second, we forgot how to hit, and St. Andrews remembered how to play. At the end of the first inning, the score was 14-2. Then after 2 innings it was 14-6. Then 14-8. Then we had a slight relapse and scored 5 runs to go up 19-8. Then it was 19-15. This was getting far too close for my comfort. I much prefer games in which we continue to annihilate the opposition from beginning to end. Not only were we not annihilating them any more, it was becoming quite apparent that St. Andrews had a very good chance of winning. No good.

So, the score was 19-15 going into the bottom of the last inning. We had to keep them from scoring 4 or more runs, but they had all the momentum, and we were listless and worried. That is not a good combination in sports, if you didn't already know that. The first batter got a sharp line drive single to left. Not a good start. The second guy got a sharp line drive single up the middle. Still not good. Next guy got a double down the line. Even worse. Now they had runners on second and third with no outs, and had already scored a run, making it 19-16. Next guy got a single. Oh no!! Two runs scored, making it 19-18, and still there was nobody out. By this time the area around second base looked more like a puddle than a ball field, from all of my cold sweat. My steely exterior was starting to rust.
Not a good fielding position when you are playing 2nd base...

The fifth batter of the inning also got a single, so there were runners on first and second with no outs. It was all I could do to not go into the fetal position at this point. My nerves were as tattered as could be. The sixth batter of the inning hit a rocket down the 3rd base line. Thankfully our 3rd base guy, Delton, made a great heads-up play, or else the game might have ended right there. The next guy hit a soft liner to left-center field, but not deep enough for anyone to score, so now the bases were loaded with just one out. The tying runner was on 3rd base, and the winning run was on 2nd. I was having a total conniption fit, and possibly hyperventilating...I'm not sure because I think I also blacked out for a few minutes.

I must not have been out for too long, because when I came to, we were still ahead by one run, and the Lutherans still had the bases loaded with just one out. Their fastest runner was up to bat, and things were not looking good for us. Our pitcher, my good friend Joe, was as cool as a cucumber on the mound, even though the count was full and one more "ball" would walk in the tying run. Joe threw a beautiful pitch, and their guy swung with all of his might. Perhaps he swung too hard, because he fell down trying to get out of the batters' box. He hit a routine ground ball to our heroic shortstop, Doug, who stepped on 2nd base, and then fired a strike to first base for a game-ending and conniption-ending double play. Ahh, the jubilation that erupted from my teammates was so fun. Too bad it wasn't on TV. It would have been fun to watch!

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