Sunday, August 27, 2006

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Home Field Advantage: Buttermilk Softball Week Seven

Why do we do this? Why do we run around in the sun, wearing outfits that are -- for the most part, with Carlos and Greg Ciprioni excluded -- not our most flattering? Why do we do things like slide into third base, get an authentic baseball "strawberry" and bleed through our jeans (welcome aboard, Ted!) or let my sister hit line drives off our shins (be careful, Seth Nelson!)? Is it because we don't get the chance to clap enough in our everyday lives? Is it because there aren't enough weekday opportunities to swing a bat? A shortage of rhetorical questions in the blogs we read regularly?

I think it's because of days like Sunday. And I'm not saying this because I played well -- I spent most of my day chasing softballs that had been hit far over my head, and managed to nail myself on the back of the head with the follow-through of my swing not once but twice. I'm saying it because Sunday's game was pretty close to the way softball is supposed to be.

Due to work obligations the next day -- if talking to NBA rookies for seven hours can be considered an obligation (the answer: yes, it can) -- I drove my car in from New Jersey, where it lives. Due to my customary time-management issues, I cut things kind of close in getting to the field. Had there been a parking spot right by the park's entrance, batmobile-stizz, I would've been there around 4:05. As it worked out, I gave the equipment bag to Colleen (pay attention: this will become important) and went looking for a spot. I had no idea what to expect when I got to the field. Well, I was expecting Team Vehemence to be playing its customary 16-inning split squad game while a few of my hungover softball paisans chilled out in the shade, grousing. But when I finally arrived at the field -- around 4:20 (dude) -- I was met with a glorious sight. Not only were the softball regulars out in force (even without Scott Snelling, Chris Martin and either of the Ciprioni Bros., seen above at left), but rising stars Anna and Molly showed up, brought with them their friends Kate (who'd been working towards her softball debut for weeks, to be fair) and Sam, and a large group of the team we dispatched in Week Five turned out ready to rock. Team Vehemence, it turns out, had been turned out -- willingly, pleasantly, and apparently in a transaction wholly devoid of rancor (I say apparently because I was trying to parallel park while this was happening) -- by Colleen, brandishing the permit with a cool forcefulness that I think it's fair to say I've never displayed in my life. We had our field back, and enough people to play a full game. The sun was shining, the temperature gently pushing 80 degrees. Green grass and dirt and softballs and bats.

So that was pretty awesome.

For me, it would wind up being one of the high points of the day. See, the thing with counting off is that it doesn't work sometimes. Like when one team has the formed-like-Voltron combo of my sister, myself, Ben Taussig, able randoms Kim, Jeff and Angelo (from The Week Five All-Stars), Molly and newcomer Sam, Ben's friend Ted (in a smashing debut that involved the aforementioned jeans-compromising strawberry) and, in her long awaited debut, modern dance dynamo/softball backstop Erika Hansen-Nelson-Nordicssen. And the other team has a bunch of varsity college baseball players on it (Emerson College, but still) and skilled players at every position. They scored early, and scored often. A partial list of sluggers who went deep includes Random Henry (from Emerson? Transcendent!), Random D.J., fresh-off-the-plane Random Crandall (spelled phonetically, because you made me run, dude), Drew, Drew's Dog Buster and Seth. Multi-hit games came from Colleen, Michigan alum Katie and Anna -- whose multiple hits included getting pelted by a thrown ball while pulling into second base. Except for one rocky inning from Seth -- throwing some reverse-spin ball that everyone hit very hard, including your slightly concussed author, delivering his only RBIs of the day on a triple -- their defense was game tight. The game was not tight: final score was something like 15-6.

Highlights on the losing side: Ted's authoratative first-inning triple, culminating with a knee-shredding slide that was officially on some Jody Gerut 2003 ROY shit; Ben handling first base with the grace, skill and mustache of a young Keith Hernandez; brilliant diving defense by Angelo, a standard-setting lefthanded 3B; continued accomplishment at the shortstop position from Kim; Molly "Boomerang" Bielaski (that is a joke only for my sister) nearly catching a scorching line drive and then displaying remarkable hustle by crawling after a ball later in the same inning. And I finally caught a ball in the outfield in the seventh and final inning after spending much of the game in center, breaking in on 475-foot line drives.

Anyway, good times. Alex is done for the season as B-Milk bartender, as he's heading off to Argentina and Uruguay to take photos and eat fried food for two weeks. I'm gone for a week to scout talent in rural Maine. My sister and Ben T. are out for a week to attend a wedding of redneck Jews in Michigan (seriously). Sam and Ben are out because they now live in Minneapolis, but I spoke to them in a happy coincedence on Monday night and they send their love to all. I'll see you all on August 27. Hopefully Jeff, or somebody else (Joel, I never did get that email about how to open up the blog to other posters), will cover next week's game. If he/she can do it in a more long-winded and needlessly allusive way than me, I'll buy him/her a High Life.

We're in the home stretch with this season, we've got our field back, got our games as tight as they get, and have hungry eyes on some P-Swayz shit. Here's to continued excellence. And maybe batting helmets. My brain hurtz.

Oh, also, the Not Mentioned: The Worst Day Ever To Be A Baby Near Buttermilk Softball And Seth's Attendant $100 Debt; The Molly-Sam parallel cutoff; The Randoms' New Bats (feel great bouncing the fuck off my head!); An Extended Discussion of Phillip Kauffman's super-shitty (and not family-safe) Rising Sun. Yeah, that's a good note to end on.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

The Scott Snelling Travelling All-Stars: Buttermilk Softball Week Six

Several days late, several dollars short: it's your week six recap of what was and wasn't in softball, several days ago. It's going to look something like the recap from the week before, but probably without another photo of David Foster Wallace.

The reason it's going to look like last week is that, once again, we arrived at the field to find forty-plus dudes going at it in a softball game of astonishing vehemence. As Colleen, Greg and I watched and waited, more of our less-vehement crew made their way to Field 5. By 4:30 there were eight of us sprawled in the shade of the right field tree in foul territory, just west of the rightfield power alley commonly known as Seth Nelson Cove. And when I say sprawled, I mean sprawled: everyone was lying down, Greg and I were still working off a hangover that had been born in the same seemingly innocuous bottle of Jim Beam, and Colleen was recovering from a day of devastatingly small-bore commerce at the stoop sale she and Kate (and me: I sold my VHS copy of Deep Blue Sea!) had held earlier in the day. Frankly I found it a little tiring watching the hundreds of players on our field getting after it. One dude, with a poofy ponytail and honest-to-God baseball pants, spiked his glove after every hit by the opposing team. His counterpart on the other team had to deal with the fact that Poofy P-Tail and Some Other Feisty Dude ran onto the field, and after him, after every ball he played. "Kick that nigga," they yelled, after he dropped a foul pop-up. (Reminder: he was not on their team) They proceeded to do so. I sat there and sweated bitterness. Softball?

Yes, eventually. We notified whoever listened on the squatters that we had a permit and were going to ask them to move once we got enough people to get out there and do our business. But we never did get enough people for our own game. We did, however, wind up doing our business when, after some rejections and vexations on our search for a spare field, we squared off with a group that had already been playing for some hours on a full-size (baseball) diamond on the other side of the basin. Once again, our opponents were a kind of bizarro version of Da Buttermilk Crew: people who knew each other and were comfortable mocking each other (in Carlos' case, during the previous game, very comfortable) and yet played hard and seemed to be around our skill level.

That field created some weird hops, offered a dusty shallow outfield, and a second base nestled in the green, green grass roughly 75 feet from home plate. But it was good enough, and since it was by then after 5 -- and since our opponents were very generous about sharing their Molson Canadian -- it was more than good enough.

But were we? Our personnel was limited to 9 (Drew's dog Buster, above, was physically unable to perform, lacking opposable thumbs) and, sadly, captain-less. I had been appointed acting field general, and was, as mentioned earlier, brutally hungover and not that fiery. Some comments were made on my lack of fiery-ness by Scott Snelling. They were ignored. Anyway, Jeff had jetted off to Memphis to collaborate with Three 6 Mafia after a triumphant and solo-tacular Metric Mile show at Union Hall (if you didn't make it, this random British blogger knows how you feel and would like to tell you about another band you might like). BA had been sea breezed away to the land where hangovers frolic gingerly. My sister and Ben were paying a $10 food minimum to watch Will Oldham get all Superwolf at 4pm. Our randoms were MIA, some of our regulars and semi-regulars were indisposed, depriving us of the depth that had carried us to our easy and inspiring victory a week earlier -- in short, the usual Dog Days of August attrition was in e-f-f-e-c-t. Those smooth operators left -- a triumphantly returning Chris Martin, Greg, Drew, Scott, myself, Colleen, newcomers and Naidre's of Carroll Gardens royalty Suvi and Jeanette -- did indeed operate correctly in the early going. Suvi, in particular, acquitted herself well considering that she is 1) from a Scandinavian country where softball is less prioritized and 2) hadn't ever played the game before. Timely hitting on our part and the other team's early inability get the ball out of the infield against my (if I may say) hellacious stuff lifted us to an 8-6 lead going into the bottom of the fifth inning. That was when the wheels came off, to the tune of a 6-run inning that featured me botching two plays at home (yeah, I was pitching, and yeah I was covering home unnecessarily -- I'm fucking sorry), Scott Snelling catching a throw at first base five feet shy of first base, Chris booting a few at third and some balls that either fell in or flew way the hell over everyone's heads. And then our bats went dead -- we pushed across only one run in the last two frames, and ended up losing 12-10. I think they put something in our Molson. Like...I don't know, alcohol. And failure.

Anyway, we'll be back this week. Hopefully on our field, but if not, we'll do what we do: grab the bag with the bases and softballs in it, and find some chumps to chump. This may be my last game of the season, so even if you just want to share a shot of Absolut Peppar with me and a similarly soon-to-depart Greg Ciprioni, you owe it to yourself to make it out.

Not mentioned: Mexican Wedding Dances; The return of Drake "Shirtless" Beefcake in the multitudinous game; unsupervised young kids throwing stuff at Drew's dog and being chastised by Colleen; Squeaking purple chew toys; the guy on the other team who batted and fielded with his hands-free phone set in; Colleen being nicknamed "Gorgeous" by the other team's catcher; The New York Nitros softball club, sponsored by HBO (apparently); The fact that I woke up smelling like a bar towel. There is always more. This Sunday, there will be.