I have had two serious injuries in my adult life and both came from playing softball. Both times I was playing in leagues that were clearly over my head in regards to talent. When I turned 40 I wanted to get back in some type of organized team activity that would hopefully give me some exercise and also be an alternative to work. I looked up local softball teams in my area. The teams were ranked A,B,C with A being the most competitive…you know the high-school never ended, this is the World Series, don’t make a mistake or you’ll get yelled at, slide head-first, I’m going to beat my wife if we lose type players. I put myself in the level B league which was open to all ages but the majority of the players were 25-35. After attending a few practices I thought I was at the right level, some of the players were worse, a few better, and the rest of us about the same. But after a few more practices I started to feel out of place due to being older and maybe a bit below the others in terms of intensity. This was supposed to be exercise to get my mind off work and have some fun. I noticed some of the younger players sliding into 2nd and 3rd which immediately caught my attention as sliding was my cut-off line in terms of how far I was willing to sacrifice my body. A few others came to practice in full baseball uniforms which tips me off they might be semi-psycho. Then when the team captain posted a roster of those who had made the team, I didn’t even know these were try-outs, and watched those who had been cut walk off with their heads down I realized I had joined a Twilight Zone team…I mean, who gets cut from a city softball league? I fortunately made the cut, which later I would change to unfortunately, and tried to fit in. Didn’t happen. Practices got extremely intense after the cut and the team captain turned his ugly cheek and became a Billy Martin wanna-be. The first game rolled around and you would have thought it was Opening Day at Dodger Stadium. The manager came in a full major league uniform, took roll call, and benched anyone who was not there exactly 30-minutes from the game. He put me on 3rd base since I had an arm but no mobility outside 2-3 steps. We were in the field first and I made one play on an easy grounder. The manager was constantly screaming at our players where to position themselves and where the next play was…this wasn’t what I had signed up for. Then it happened at my first at bat. I hit a hard liner to first which was caught and I felt a pain in my lower back. It hurt and I was afraid I had really screwed something up. I played a few more innings and then my whole back stiffened up and I came out of the game. That night my lower back and left leg felt like a blow torch was turned on them. It was so bad that I didn’t sleep more than 2-hours and limped in to work the next day and straight to the doctors afterwards. Diagnosis – Herniated disk. My B league career consisted of one put out in the field and 0-for-1 at the plate for a .000 average. Game over, I was laid up for 6-months and ended up having back surgery. STRIKE 1.
My next attempt at softball came when I turned 50. After 10-years I thought I was ready for softball again and joined my church team. The team was made up of all ages from 16-50…my 50 being the oldest. But heck I had God on my side this time, what could go wrong. Even the players were nice, no one thought the world would end if we lost. There wasn’t even a team psycho…all was good. In the first game I played 3rd base again and made a double play and went 2-for-3 hitting. I actually felt good about the way I played. The second game was different, I played like a spaz on LSD. I had gotten to the game late and didn’t do my stretching and I felt it. I missed an easy roller to third for one error, then made a throwing error for my second error in one inning. The guys on the team were so nice they didn’t even raz me about my poor play, maybe I could make it up at my first at bat…Dead Wrong! I swung at the first pitch which was a grounder to short and took one step towards first base when the pain and agony of softball hit me again. My left leg & foot felt like a sniper had shot me from behind and I dropped about 5-feet from home and just laid there while everyone wondered what happened to the old man. I just groveled in the dirt until teammates could help me off. I was in serious pain, torn achilles tendon, STRIKE 2.
I just recently joined another softball team, this time a 50+ league, which at 59 makes me one of the younger players. When I saw the first practice with 50-70 year olds catching and throwing I thought I would be the Derek Jeter of this team. Did I look that geriatric when I played now? Is this the softball graveyard where old players go to die? I discovered that I had contracted polio of the legs and couldn’t run fast anymore, couldn’t run semi-fast, or even anything with fast in the title. My arm and bat still work and I enjoy the companionship of being on a team, this may work out. I was surprised to find that even with a 50+ team there is still one asshole who thinks each softball game is Game 7 of the World Series. I guess it’s a requirement for every softball league, one asshole per team. But on this team no one pays attention to the jerk, just not worth it. We are out here to have fun, be part of a team , and play baseball. I have been a little sore using new muscles again but have been healthy overall. This may be the team I was meant for…and I hope to avoid STRIKE 3.