Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Pro Wiffle Ball

My first moments of being part of a team took place in an alley next to our house. The game was wiffle ball. The beauty of this game is that it's cheap, you can set up a game in a lot of places if you have an imagination, and you can hit people with the ball. I still remember the intense joy I would get crossing home plate, as if I were quite literally home safe. High fives and team respect, winning and losing, disagreements, fights even, all happened. We worked them out on our own. There seemed to always be a game waiting to happen.

(Fast forward 25 years)

In the summer of 2008, me and a few friends formed a wiffle ball team to compete in a pretty intense tournament just outside of Trenton, NJ (I hate New Jersey). The average age of our team was about 40 years old. I had convinced everyone this was something we needed to do, and so we united. There were high hopes, practices, and I made uniforms. They were cool looking.

Trenton is a couple hours away so we got up early. I think we left right before 7am on a September Saturday. Locker room humor soon took over as we rode down.

We arrived at the huge park, which had at least 50 wiffle ball fields throughout the whole place, feeling a little nervous. Okay, at least I did. We signed in, having the best uniforms that day, and made our way down to our first game.

I pitched the first game. Now, I had a bit of confidence, being a little league legend, and I had a crazy knuckle ball which fooled a lot of my friends. We ended up competing against three pretty muscular bros in our first game. Picture it, little DaintyBones pitching to some strong experienced wiffle ballers. What the fuck could go wrong? All that had to be done was for me to hit the 3X4 foot wooden strike zone with my junk pitches. No problem. Yeah, and they had to swing and miss too.


It didn't take long. It didn't take long at all for the humiliation to commence. I had never seen a wiffle ball travel so goddamn far in my life. And with such consistency. I think I hurt my neck from turning around so quickly as the plastic ball would leave the park.

So, what happens is, when you end up giving up like 4 or 5 home runs right of the bat (double entendre), you get a little timid about throwing it over the strike zone. The batter realizes this, doesn't swing, and then you end up walking like 5 batters in a row. It starts to get cyclical. Walks - Home runs - Walks, with some outs and errors mixed in between. The whole thing was ugly, really, just quite shameful.

There is no point discussing the other two games, as they were all similar. By the middle of the last game, I broke out a bottle of whiskey, concealed in a paper bag of course, and we passed it around the dugout like four defeated men. Losing/failing is always a learning experience, and what we learned was that we had no business competing in this tournament, and that my knuckle ball was garbage.

As we headed home, through lovely Bucks county, we stopped at a few bars. One of the older fellas on the team made a "connection" with one of the servers at one pub (or, what he thought was a connection). We drank, ate, and discussed what would we do needed to do for the next time. Sadly there wouldn't be a next time for this roster.

You see, the Kutztown Hexxenwolves, as we were briefly called, suffered the worst off-season of any sports team ever. One player died, another ended up serving time, I fractured my hip, and the other player hurt is knee.

The summer after this wiffle ball tournament (2009), as I sat and laid on the couch, thinking about my friend/teammate who had passed, chewing up opiates like M&M's in recovery, watching Grease I and Grease II, and the Goldn Girls non-stop on the Lifetime Network (while having my piss buckets emptied), I had kept the dream alive that I would make the greatest comeback to wiffle ball. I read up on Bo Jackson (on wikipedia of course) who returned to baseball with a fake hip (I still have my own). I had committed to healthy living, even juicing greens religiously to speed up the return.

Reality set in, and I came to terms with the fact that my left hip will never be what it used to be - even after full recovery. Yes, I can still hump, and I needed to test it out (don't ask), but those days of pursuing fly balls, diving to for grounders and pushing off of the "mound" are over. My flexibility is half of what it was. Life's hard.

I'm quite blessed to have competed, even failing, with these three great gentlemen. Really, I'm happy I nagged these fellas to join me. I think it brought us back to childhood for a brief time. It made us all kids. More shit like that needs to be done.

1 comment:

  1. Hear Hear! I gotta get a new pair of sneakers.

    (I still have those ones in the photo.)