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I Worked One Hell of a Walk

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Originally uploaded by dangunderman.

Unfortunately, that was my personal highlight of a weekend of baseball (which admittedly was a highlight in and of itself), and a weekend in which up was down, left was right, and back was pain.

When I heard we had make-up games scheduled on Saturday and Sunday this week, I (almost jokingly) asked the missus if we could go up to Vermont just for the games. To my surprise and immense pleasure, she said, simply, “Sure.”

Is she not a fine woman, B&E; readers? Is she not?

The McNeill’s Brewers were to face the team with the best record in the league (the Saxtons River Pirates) on Saturday, and the team with the worst record in the league (and the only team the Brewers had beaten, the Brattleboro River Rats) on Sunday.

The missus and I left Queens at 4:30am to make sure I got to the game in time to stretch properly, warm up, take some fielding practice, and put on my protective cup (I’ve never played baseball without one since getting tagged in the nuts sliding into third at age 11 — one never forgets his first wracking, and it alters one’s behavior and attitude).

The Pirates are consistently the best team in the league, and my team, in the four or five years that we’ve been playing in one form or another, has never beaten them.

Two personal streaks came to an end that day against the Pirates. I hadn’t struck out in two years. It took my first trip to the plate against the Pirates to end that. At least I went down swinging (and left-handed, which may have been a mistake). I had also gotten hits in five straight games dating back to last season (I don’t play in that many games each year, since I commute and all). I went 0-for-3, but I reached on an error in the 7th inning, and in the 8th, down no-balls-and-two-strikes, I fought back, fouled off a few pitches, let a few out-of-the-zone pitches go by, and worked myself a walk. It was pretty satisfying, even though I knew it would mean the end of my hitting streak.

And get this: we beat the Pirates. 10-3. I scored the go-ahead run (which is a meaningless statement that sounds good) on a sacrifice fly (actually, I’m pretty sure it was the first time I’ve ever scored on a sac fly — sac flies are pretty rare at age 12, and I just haven’t played enough as an adult to get to third base with less than two outs).

There are many reasons (some perfectly legitimate) that the Pirates weren’t at their best against us, but regardless, we beat them, and we played like a real team. Our pitcher threw a complete game. About 145 pitches. He walked a lot of guys, but he, and we, held them to three runs. It was a hell of a game. Some of their guys were pretty mad. People don’t like losing to the (formerly hapless?) McNeill’s Brewers.

So we came into Sunday’s game optimistic. Confident, but not cocky (you have to have a record better than 2-8 to be cocky). And sore. Well, I was sore, anyway. I woke up with typical day-after-game soreness, including being a little stiffer in the lower back than normal. But again, I got to the field early, and did some stretching and was feeling pretty good.

Then, during fielding practice, my lower back completely clenched up. I could barely pick up the ball that I’d been attempting to chase down. I stayed in the lineup for the game (for some reason swinging the bat didn’t aggravate it), but I couldn’t run for shit and I couldn’t bend over.

The River Rats played solid baseball, and we didn’t. I handed out a lot of ibuprofen to my teammates before the game, but we just couldn’t get our act together. In my first at-bat, I swung at a bad pitch and grounded sharply back to the pitcher. He made a nice play, and on the first step out of the box, my back clenched up again. So I couldn’t even run it out. Man, I’m getting fucking old.

I ended up 0-for-3 again, and in my last attempt I popped out, pretty much straight up. I’d gotten a fat pitch to hit and I’d missed it. I only ever get angry at myself in these games (I’m much more self-competitive than outwardly so), and this was the angriest I’d gotten all season. I let out a primal scream, threw my helmet, then gave out a “Fuck!” for good measure. A few of the guys had their wives and kids at the game, so really, I should watch my mouth. I didn’t even remember dropping the F-bomb, until the missus accused me of being a potty mouth.

The River Rats seem like a fine bunch of guys, and they were thrilled with their first victory. I think they felt very much on Sunday how we felt on Saturday. So as I gimped off the field, nearly paralyzed by back pain, I walked by their dugout, which was all smiles, and thanked them for a good, well-played game. I think every single one of them thanked me back, extra-enthusiastically, a fair amount of post-game adrenaline coursing through their veins.

I’m sitting on my couch in Queens again now, barely able to move. My batting average dropped over two hundred points, and I can’t put on socks. But goddamn if it wasn’t worth it.

Man, I fucking love playing baseball.

And there goes that potty mouth again.

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