Tuesday, May 16, 2006

I Still Love This Game

There’s a faded chalk line that was put down by an underpaid park employee a few days ago. Dirt caked to the benches as a reminder of the downpours the field has been hit with over the past week. The outfield shows signs of regrowth and winter kill with a mix patch of lush green and off-white turf. Cars zoom by at 70 miles per hour on highway 610 a mere 100 feet away. The new dark green uniforms and unbroken caps await in a box postmarked to the sponsor of our team.

Looking up at the first batter from right field, I see that he’s got good mechanics despite a small frame. His stance is slightly open, and snaps his wrist quickly while finishing his swing. I make a note to the center fielders to move back a step because the breeze going out to center will push the ball an extra 15 feet tonight. And as I watch the ball come off his $300+ bat and sail into the marsh behind the left-center field fence, I think to myself, “damn I’m getting old, but I still love this game”.

My name is placed fourth in the lineup when I jog back into the dugout after the team with the orange crush uniforms notched together three runs. Two out of three teammates reach base safely ahead of me, depending on this lanky kid with a penchant for cards to hit it at least past the pitching rubber and please the watchful eyes of his spouse and newborn sitting in the bleachers behind him. The rotund pitcher announces the number four batter is hitting, the fielders take a couple of long steps backwards with anticipation that I might actually connect with the USSSA approved 12 inch ball into the outfield far enough for them to catch it. But the outfielders didn’t move, and rather just watched the scuffed white orb sail over their heads for a home run.

Home runs are a common occurrence in softball, after all it’s considered adult t-ball. I take no greater pride hitting a home run then hitting a rope down the right field line to a drawn in right fielder that doesn’t think a right handed batter could slap it opposite field. Softball doesn’t have the same feel to it as baseball does. The excitement is different but the same. There’s victories, defeats, rallies, slumps, and hot player’s wives/girlfriends in both sports. “I’m a retired baseball player” is a common thread for those who play softball at a semi-competitive level. Most of them could name off what school they played baseball for and name some injury that prevented them from taking hacks at 85 m.p.h. cut fastballs from Mike Mussina at Yankee Stadium (my injury is a bad rotator cuff).

But we come out to play for various reasons; most of the guys on my team are just getting a whiff of life after college and have a great competitive spirit carrying over from their baseball playing days, and matching trophies that haven’t had a chance to collect an inch of dust. Announcing tournaments for national qualifiers and leagues they want to conquer over the summer. Myself, I play for the camaraderie of a team, for two hours I get to compete once again on a scale that is fun yet sedates my competitive side. I used to be like them, playing three to five nights a week, hell I’d even shot myself in the foot during a work interview stating softball was more important then moving up in the company. I’m truthful to a fault sometimes, not a good poker personality quality eh?

If you read here, obviously you read of JoeSpeaker’s wonderfully described tales on the soccer pitch (did I get that right?) or HDouble describing his rugged days of battling on the gridiron. Can an athlete use some of that spark they get from lacing up their cleats or tapping up their shin pads to becoming a good poker player?


Granted for internet players, the field isn’t as majestic as Fenway, or contain the bedlam of an English premiership match, or even as semi-memorable as your old high school ball field for that matter. But the arena is laid out for competition whenever you want it, what you do with it is your decision.

Are you going to “lift weights” by reading books, poker messages boards like 2+2, listen to advice from friend, or even a read poker blogger since they’re known for throwing a nugget or two of useful information out there. Or are you just going to show up to play, maybe win a little, lose a little, but are there to enjoy the entertainment value of having people berate you for playing that 53s for a min-raise and hitting a flush vs. their expertly slowplayed Aces. HOW DARE YOU!

I still get myself in some kind of shape to play ball, not to the three hours of practice extent, like the pitchers were required to endure at my high school. But, I lift a weight to absorb some the punishment enacted by throwing a ball 80+ m.p.h. with a bad shoulder. It also helps at the plate when I’m called upon to not suck by not swinging at pitches that may have hit the dirt before taking a cut at them (that may or may not have happened last night, I deny everything!). But, I don’t always prepare myself to play poker, relying too much on “getting money in with the best of it” and not so much “playing perfect poker”. There’s a difference in those two statements and it has nothing to do with “bad beats” or getting “cold decked”, it has to do with making each bet/raise/fold mean something. That’s something I didn’t do over this losing streak, I just sat and bemoaned “luck” when my cards were not victorious with a 70%+ chance to win.

In other words, I didn’t show up ready to play.

I’m changing that, getting away from the monotone game of sit and waiting for my turn to bat while staring at the decrepit barn sitting beyond the left field fence. Only time will tell if I can turn this poker hobby into something more significant. But until then I’ll be waiting for my turn to bat while watching the pitcher’s release, the ball’s spin, and where I am going to hit it before I step up to the plate. Not after digging in, not after the ball leaves the pitcher’s oversized club of a hand, and certainly not after ball’s descent.

That, and enjoy my time competing on the field.

Thanks for dropping by, now I’m going to JCousineau’s before the game tonight to do some 12 oz. curls, aiming fluid always helps before a game :)

Dial-a-shots anyone?

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