Old Lawyers and 16 inch softball. Who knew?
Couple of weeks ago, I was asked by a colleague if I was interested in playing on his Over Fifty 16 Inch Softball team. I was flattered, certain that he had heard of my athletic prowess. Sadly no. As he explained, “You are the only guy I know who is over 50 and still healthy enough to play.” Oh.
I haven’t played 16 inch softball since college. Long time ago. And the years haven’t sharpened my skills. And I may have put on a pound or two. Nonetheless, I was pretty confident. After all, how good could a bunch of old farts be?
I got to the park late, right before the game started. Guys from both teams were loosening up on the sidelines. Average age on our squad was probably 55. Two of our players were probably pushing 60. The other team had players that voted for Eisenhower. I couldn’t wait to play. I was going to run would circles around those fossils. [The whippersnapper pictured above [photo courtesy of 16 Inch Softball Hall of Fame] would be far too young to play with us].
Turns out the fossils could play! In the first inning, our shortshop[pushing 60] made a one handed pick-up on a rocket and calmly tossed it to second for a force. I couldn’t have made that play with three hands. Two innings later, our center-fielder made a sliding catch on a sinking liner. I wouldn’t have caught that ball in 1987. Our first baseman, Mike, a powerful, barrel-chested guy, dug a number of tough throws out of the dirt. And the players on the other team were great as well. Their second baseman made a leaping grab of a line drive in the fourth, robbing one of our guys of a sure double. A couple of our guys said they heard he was only 49.
And the hitting was more impressive. I’ve never seen more relaxed approaches to hitting. I was certain one or two of my teammates had actually drifted off to sleep in the batter’s box. Then, as the pitch descended over the plate, they would uncoil at the last second and rip a line drive into the field of their choice.
My night? I was appropriately relegated to right field – generally where the worst fielder is stuck – while all the other fielders silently pray nothing gets hit in that direction. But there is an old baseball saying – the ball will find you. And it did. Three times to be exact. A pop-up and two fly balls. I managed to catch all three, but not without some drama. On the first one I had to run a bit and nearly fell down. My teammates were kind enough to turn their heads as they laughed. The other two balls were thankfully less eventful. My first two plate appearances at least looked like I had some testosterone. Both times I hit the ball sharply but at someone and got thrown out. My final plate appearance featured a weak foul ball and….an infield pop-up. Want to know who hits infield pop-ups in 16 inch softball? Eight year old girls and me.
Thankfully my ability to catch fly balls may have earned me a spot on the roster. I look forward to the remaining games. And I will never again equate age with diminishing skills. Unless I am talking about my own.