"Play like an old man," Beth always reminds me before I head to play softball.
"I will," I say.
I have every intention of keeping that promise in the abstract. I know that I'm the oldest guy on the team, and there's no need for me to dive after ground balls or run my hardest around the bases. It's a very laid-back league and nobody will really care if I don't give 100% effort.
But once I get on the field, I'm not so practical. I'm not much more than a singles hitter, but I pride myself on my defense. I try and get to every ball that's close to me, whether in the infield or outfield. I dive, lunge and hustle to the best of my ability.
After injuring myself in the first game of the season (see April 25, 2015, "My Favorite Pastime"), I took a few games off, and once I returned I took it relatively easy. I was feeling good about my fielding and hitting.
Last night was our first game in a few weeks, and I was excited. "Just stick to playing third base," I told myself. "You don't have to move too much."
But our team was shorthanded, so I ended up switching between the hot corner and the outfield. That was fine for the first five innings (one of which I sat out because, well, I don't know, rules of some sort about not having enough women on our team). In the bottom of the sixth I jogged out to right field, figuring not much would get hit to me.
Well, you know where this story is going. A right handed batter slices one between me and the foul line, and I take two steps, reach out my glove and feel a jolt of pain in my right groin/hip/upper leg. I hit the ground and know I can't get up. The center fielder backs up the play but the guy rounds the bases. I limp off the field and trade places with the designated sitter.
I stretch and try to walk it off for a few minutes while the other team bats. I know this won't do any good, but I have to try. Then it's our turn to bat, and I have to try that as well.
I come to bat with the tying run on second base and two outs. I hit a hard grounder to third, but two steps out of the box and I can't go any further. I'm out, the game is over, and I feel stupid.
I slept like crap last night, a cocktail of pain, self pity and inward-directed anger swirling through my body. I tell myself I have to stop playing softball, period. I'm a fool to think that I'm not going to keep hurting myself, especially after having had hip surgery (see August 1, 2013, "On the Mend").
But then I move around, and while my groin/adductor muscles are still quite sore, and I'm shuffling like a zombie, I begin to see that I have another game or two or three in my near future. I realize that if I play smart -- really smart this time, not just abstract smart -- I can continue to enjoy the game and the fun that goes along with it.
Maybe some day soon I'll be able to hit 'em like this guy: