Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Season Five, Week One: After The Fireworks, The Fireworks

What is a patriot, really? Let me jump in here and say that I'd really prefer if the Democrats among you didn't attempt to answer this question. No offense intended, I just think it's kind of unfair to the troops, you know? Anyway, the fellow to your left has an idea about what patriotism is. That jaunty chap is Pat Patriot, and he's the erstwhile logo of the New England Patriots, the Official Team of Champions Everywhere. Pat Patriot thinks a patriot is a snarling vest aficionado prone to, uh, compromising stances and tricorn hats. He thinks it's him.

And I'm not saying Project Pat's wrong, but I have a different definition. To me, a true patriot -- someone who loves the best of America, and embodies its true spirit -- is someone who can go out and do whatever it was you did on July 4 (if you don't remember, I'm sure not going to tell you) and then was willing to get out there and softball on July 6. And also is in the military. But the softball part is what really matters. I'm not saying that those of you who didn't play aren't patriots. But I am. Apparently that's a privilege True Patriots are allowed. (Peace, John "Change We Can Believe In" McCain)

Anyway, sorry for the impugning. That's...that's not really me. I'm not about that. I'm about 1) freedom and 2) market-based solutions to the problems you deal with every day. And softball recaps, I guess, since that's what this was supposed to be. But I don't know, there's something about the weekend of the 4th that always gets me kind of jazzed on America, and it's tough to shake that off. But I know you're not here for my McCain imitation (it's even more wince-inducing in person). You're here to see how poorly I remember Sunday's game three days after the fact, and in that you will not be disappointed, I assure you. So I'll just let you watch this video -- which pretty much sums up what I was getting at above -- and then get to the softball part.

/wipes single tear.

So: Season Five. That's a long time. But what I find inspiring about the league (and I'm being for real, now) is that even as longtime players and friends have moved away -- and five years is a long time, and New York isn't an easy place to live, and there are hangovers and hamstring pulls and jobs and heavy brunches and a myriad of other reasons not to play, weekly, for all of us -- the league has proven protean enough to change to suit those who remain and welcoming enough to attract cool new people.

This might be a tribute to all of us and how unfathomably awesome and good we all are, or it might just be that playing softball when the weather's nice is a pretty awesome thing to do, and people will kind of always want to do it. But when I came down the hill into the softball basin a few minutes before 4pm, I couldn't have been happier to see the dozen or so people who'd beaten me to the field.

Well, there's one way I could've been happier: if we'd had a ball or a bat. Triumphant returnee Gregg Ciprioni -- who rescued the equipment bag from Jeff and Beth Ann's apartment after they'd left for a work-related sojourn in Spain -- brought the bats, balls, bases, nuanced understanding of the phrase "flavor profile" and knife skills to the party a few minutes later, and we were good to go. More players kept arriving, and even though I'd seen roughly 50% of them at some point during the previous 72 hours, I'll admit to being pretty sentimental by the time we circled up to start choosing teams. I wanted to say all kinds of emotional things, start breaking everybody off with Iron John bro-grabs and professions of gratitude and effusive compliments on how fly everyone looked, but instead I just said "two," when it was my turn to count off, and took to the dugout.

Due to the fact that I was off trying to be commissionerish -- I don't remember just how I was doing that, but if I had to guess I think I was making sure everyone on the other team understood just how much I loved them or whatever -- I found myself batting 10th upon returning to the bench. Ramin, another welcome returnee, claimed to have constructed the batting order at random, but the order seemed pretty savvy almost immediately, as we -- I'll call us the Blue Jeans; the ones will be The Bodegas, at least this week -- jumped out to an early lead. The Bodegas battled back in innings two and three, which set the tone for the game: close throughout, surprisingly well-played on defense, and remarkably, blessedly free of any serious injuries.

The Jeans held on to win 9-8 (I think) in 8 innings (I know), with the win going to your junkballing author and player of the game honors going either to Ramin or Mark, who was one of three skilled and good-natured randoms who joined the game after Kelsey and Amber discovered them -- poignantly, I think, in a sort of Felix Pie showing up for his big league tryout without shoes way -- hitting a ball with a stick on the field when they arrived. The former drove the ball in every plate appearance; the latter played amazing defense at third and hit a game-changing two-run homer in the sixth (or so) inning that wound up being the difference in the game. On the Blue Jeans bench, we discussed whether it was the longest home run in Buttermilk history, finally agreeing that -- regardless of the damaging allegations of physical fitness that have been leveled against these two in the sporting press -- Scott Snelling and Seth Nelson probably have hit balls further. But not by much. Dan May, showing the sort of all-field pop that led the scouts in attendance to term him the next Todd Hollandsworth, also went deep to right center.

(Incidentally, unless you want to be sad, do not scroll down to see how much money Hollandsworth made over his career)

A few stalwart Buttermilkers were MIA -- Joel Meyer was on the air at WNYC, making like Cousin Brucie, except bringing you news and weather instead of, like, "Silhouettes on the Shade"; Jeff and BA were in Spain, eating types of ham for which there are not even words in English; Scott Snelling was either working or climbing a mountain; Jasper (now 12: time flies!) was MIA and may have belatedly realized how old and corny we are; Molly Bielinski, who joined us at the bar, was apparently sidelined by flu-like symptoms after watching the appallingly shitty "Interview with the Vampire."

Their absence was offset -- on the field, if not in our hearts -- by a crew of returning heroes, visitors, newbies and randoms. Among the notable debuts was Kate "Bird" Garroway, a Buttermilk spectator of long standing making a much-awaited debut (both in the league and in...ever, as a player) who took her nickname from former Tigers phenom Mark Fidrych and her advice on how to play softball from my father and me just a few hours earlier; Steve Patnode's buddy Jordan, who's the first West Virginian to grace field five; Dave, who picked the league's info up on a bulletin board at Buttermilk and played brilliantly; Erika Friday, whose 15-year absence from the softball field in favor of getting some reading done was not at all evident; and Seth's sister Jessie, who played with all the excellence we've come to associate with the surname Nelson. To wit:

That's some excellence, right there. Also: strong, shiny hair.

What followed at the bar -- beers, conversation, tacos, a frank discussion between me and Gregg of this guy, a creeping realization that we were making the bar smell kinda funny -- was no less lovely for having been, you know, the same thing we've done most Sundays for five summers. The same can be said of the whole experience, I think. See you in a week. Stay beautiful. You're all so beautiful.

1 comment:

Jeff said...

No, that was beautiful.