Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Still Playin' Softball

I play on a softball team. Our games are on Tuesday at 6:30, but this week we played Monday and Tuesday to make up for a rained out game. This is fast pitch with balls and strikes (not arc pitch, not windmill). I love this style of play because the strategy and flow of the game is much like "real baseball". That is because all three aspects of the game (pitching, fielding and hitting) are important. Our league is evenly matched, with most of the games being close. We have some slugfests of the 15-14 variety, but some nights we'll have a 4-3 game too.

I'd say the average age on our team is late 40's. One or two guys are relatively in their prime, but the rest of us are at various levels of decline. Some guys were surely excellent players when they were younger, while some were average, and the declines are in proportion to where we used to be.

I've been playing catcher the past few seasons. In softball this is usually the position to play when you aren't too good in the field. This is probably true for me, but what I try to do is play catcher really well. I observe the other team's hitters, try to figure out the best strategy to pitch them, and discuss it with our pitcher. However, we don't have many big meetings at the mound. I check out our fielding alignment and suggest adjustments when needed. I keep the fielders alert as to number of outs, and situations. About once a game there is a foul pop-up to go after (they are harder to catch than it looks, lots of spin). Fairly regularly there are plays at the plate. These are also harder than they look, and obviously, when there's a play at the plate its always important to the outcome of the game.

I always had a good eye at the plate and could hit pretty well. You'd never know it now, but I used to hit with some pop. Now I try to hit line drives, and sometimes will look for an outside pitch I can hit to right field. In fast pitch you have to be aware of the count, and if you are behind in the count, some pitchers will throw pretty hard, or try to get you to swing at tempting pitches out of the zone. Sometimes if I think a good pitcher is trying to get ahead of me, and if I think the first pitch is the best one I'll get, I'll jump on it. Sometimes I'll take a strike, just to look the pitcher over. I try to think about what I'm doing, but sometimes you can think too much, and it's better to just try to hit the ball "down and hard".

I have a few observations about softball, for what they are worth.....

There is a big difference between being 35 and 55.

If you hit the ball on the ground you have a much better chance to get on base than if you hit it in the air. The same could be said to Jose Reyes.

You can't win without good pitching.

If you throw to the wrong bases, run the bases poorly, or play sloppily, you won't win.

With first and second, on a ground ball to shortstop, the best play is usually a force at third.

With a man on second, and a single to the outfield, the best play is almost always to concede the run and hold the batter at first base.

If you are playing with 10 in the field (very common in softball), you have to decide whether to play four outfielders, or three plus a "short fielder". We usually play four, but in last nights game the other team killed us with a short fielder.

When the players on your team are nice, and the league is generally nice, it is much more fun. I played a few years for a Knights of Pythias Lodge team, where the people were not so nice, and I stopped playing because it just wasn't fun.

When I played for the Lodge team I was in my early 30's. I played shortstop and batted lead-off, in a pretty good league. Not only would the guys on my present team not believe this, I sometimes think I must have imagined it!

It would be nice to capture some magic

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