Buttermilk Softball is a lot like being a session drummer. When you walk into that studio we call Field Five, you have to be prepared to play with any kind of musician, in any style. You accept that you’ll never know what you’re going to play in advance.
And, you’ll never know what kind of equipment you’ll get to play on. For example, you might be asked to play a kit that looks like this:
Dozens of toms. Ten crash cymbals. Four snares. Four kick drums. The sheer wealth of drummable objects offers an endless number of options. You become the Neal Peart of softball, engaging in flashy and complicated play … simply because you can.
And sometimes, you have to play on this drum kit:
On those weeks at Field Five, you have no choice. You’re Buddy Rich. Here’s how week five went down:
A women’s pickup game was in full swing when we arrived. We told them there was no way we’d be able to field a team before 4:30, but our permit was deeply respected, as if I flashed a Masonic ring or something. They moved to an adjacent field to continue an exciting game that I, frankly, didn’t want to stop watching.
We had a small crew – Scott Snelling, Colleen, Andrew, Sanj, Amanda, Linda, and of course, Jasper (who has perfect attendance this season). We needed to find bodies for our own game.
It should be said straight away: In his first game of the season, Scott did a yeoman’s job. He was the only person who arrived before four. He brought friends. And when it looked like we were going to be short, he got on the horn and started calling more friends. Then, he started asking passersby.
Jasper asked a group of four guys playing catch nearby if they wanted to play. They may not have taken Jasper seriously, unaware of the fierce Jose Reyes-like heart that beats inside that young man. But they declined, preferring instead to play a totally sissy game of whiffleball.
We nominated Colleen to go over to proposition a couple playing catch on the “nice” field just beyond our left field. After she took a few steps, it became obvious that Colleen wasn’t kidding about the heat stroke she’d taken home from a Yankees game yesterday. Yes, maybe she was maybe a little out of it today, so I trotted over and welcomed a handsome couple named Chee and, oh, I’m forgetting her name now.
Upon arrival, Chee immediately recognized Jasper, called him “little man,” and inquired as to his whereabouts for the past four weeks. A precocious 12 years of age, Jasper sort of dodged the question and answered in a way that didn’t necessarily bind him to us. We understood.
Eventually, we were able to cobble together a five-on-five game, using rules that were very fresh and flexible. Right field was foul. Three fouls were an out. Balls have to be hit past the pitcher or they’re foul. Baserunners passing third must sing the chorus of Peter Cetera’s “The Glory of Love” before touching home, etc. (Karate Kid II fans: this Miyagi-Danielson-Cetera portrait can be yours.)
Right field was briefly reopened when a group of three women from another game joined, but they left after two innings because our rules proved too intellectual, complex, asinine, etc.
Three of Chee’s friends turned up to fill their spots, including, I swear, the actor Ving Rhames (left, with Zombie Bat). Except I think a dog at the real Ving Rhames’ estate mauled someone to death over the weekend and I don’t think Ving had time for a quick game of “You Provide Pitchers and Catchers and One Team Can’t Have a Third Baseman.” But the doppelVinger pitched the whole game left-handed, wearing a righty glove – Jim Abbott-style.
Despite her heat stroke, Colleen was a trouper and made the catch of the game in left field. Amanda and Jasper played it smart and played a lot of catch to kill time while the braintrust tried to remember the rules at the top of every inning.
Scott’s friend Sanj proved to be one of the game’s biggest surprise. The second British citizen to play the game this year, Sanj called upon his cricket experience. He also probably benefited in some way from his experience as an officer in the British military, where he commands tanks in places like Iraq. Where he’s going again this fall. So, undaunted by our fearsome game, Sanj doubled in his first at-bat and then hit a homerun (although he nearly forgot to touch home plate).
(Sanj’s nerves of steel do have a limit. Later that afternoon at the bar, Scott and I explained the American health care system to him. He went fairly green.)
All in all, a classic Buttermilk game. Confusing. The score was lost to history. Some weird old guy took me away from first base to ask me where all the 17-year-olds were. But we played with a bunch of new people, had fun, and beers were consumed later.
As if yesterday didn’t provide drama enough: Andrew is stage-managing a production of “The Tempest” somewhere in the East Village. At 9th and Avenue C, I think. More details when I get them.