The last time we’d played was about a year ago. On that last night, a couple of otherwise bored Clark County Metro officers were called to the second game of our men’s Monday D-plus league double-header at Doc Romeo Park. Someone, probably a parent, had complained about profanity spewing from our dugout. We were losing, the umps were screwing us into the ground, half the team (that half) was succumbing to too many Bud Lites, and it was screaming hot, about 129 degrees in the outfield.
As I peeled off the rubberized red ankle supports I’d been wearing to prevent injury while traversing the uneven terrain in the Doc Romeo outfield, I thought, “I am perfectly capable of being relatively happy not doing this anymore.”
And I would have reached that conclusion without the arrival of the two Metro officers, who talked down to my offending teammates as if they were nine years old: “Watch the language, boys.” In my head, I was saying, F-it. After so many tumbles into the dirt and sod, I was in chronic pain the day after every game – my back flared up overnight, dancing to a herniated disco, and the next morning I walk with the general posture of a question mark. The groin and hamstring injuries weren’t healing as fast, and with each step I was the wince of wails. My right shoulder throbbed. I was also sick more often than accustomed, frequently suffering what Johnny Rivers would term the rockin’ pneumonia and the boogie-woogie flu.
After playing for more than six years with roughly the same cast of misfits and goofballs (and I hit leadoff for this crew in every regard), I’d had it. No mas. The softball phase of my life had passed, and I was fine with extracting myself from this particular form of fellowship and turn to something less painful, like golf or bingo. So it was something of a surprise when Jose (whose nickname is “Chico,” which is another tale for a later date) called and said he’d reunited the crew for another run at Arroyo Grande Sports Complex. I asked about a few of our longtime teammates who ran exceedingly hot (even during the winter league) and were apt to invite visits from local law enforcement, for fighting or cursing or even just existing, their reputations so badly tarnished. “None of that,” Jose/Chico promised. “This is going to be for fun.”
We played last night (Monday), the first doubleheader of the new league. We lost both, by scores of 7-5 and 16-12. We’re sponsored by Alsco, a linen-service company, and afterward I joked, “Well, they really wiped the field with us!” To which Ralphie, an Italian stallion who has been with the team since Day One, said, “We missed having you out here.” I missed them, too, though I’m a lot rusty in the outfield. A line drive I had to run back to corral vanished in the lights and, instead of slapping safely into my glove, brushed my right ear before bounding to the fence. That error led to a couple of runs, which wrecked our comeback efforts and probably ruined Christmas.
But in the fourth inning of the second game, we showed a flash of our former form. With runners on first and second and nobody out, Billy V snared a crisp one-hopper at third, scrambled to the base and wheeled to Donnie at second, who pivoted off the bag and fired to Chico/Jose at first. A triple play. So stunned were we that, for several seconds, we stayed in our positions. Then we strode to the dugout, laughing. It was a good moment, and periodically throughout this season, I’ll blog about this gang that is all about the fun and, once in decade, the triple plays.