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June 16, 2011

Outdoor Corner

by Chris Feeney

"There is a fine line between courage and stupidity..." I was trying to figure that quote out the other night in the midst of the second outing of the men's slow pitch softball games at Johnson Park in Memphis.

I was gimping around with a bruised leg and an expanding headache after I nearly got myself run over at first base. You would think all of those contests versus the girls in Dance, Dance Revolution on the Wii would have improved my footwork, but that apparently was not the case as I blindly tapped danced around the dirt fishing for a base to land my foot on as I tried to focus on catching the throw from my shortstop.

I finally found the base, but unfortunately I was smack dab in the middle of the bag as the freight train arrived and I was derailed.

After the stars cleared, I found myself in the on deck circle two innings later, waiting for my at bat. My turn to hit arrived and I had to try to decide which of the three balls I was seeing, was the right one to swing at. Somehow I made enough contact to dribble the ball down to third base.

I'm sure as I hobbled down the base line I must have looked like I had placed my head on my bat and ran five or six circles around it before I started wobbling down the third base in a dizzy mess.

As the evening progressed I moved over to play second base. The opposition must have took notice of this. I never heard anyone actually shout out "weak spot", but the unspoken bulls eye appeared to have been placed on this obvious gap in the defense.

Now I know how that deer feels in the final second when he looks up and spots the crosshairs of the scope honed in on him. I suspect I simply looked like a deer in the headlights to the surprisingly large crowd on hand to watch the contest. I guess I shouldn't have been shocked, taking into consideration the surge in audiences of reality television shows whose stars subject themselves to risk of injury, loss of pride and nationwide ridicule.

As the batter steps into the box, I see his eyes scanning the field, looking for an opening. When his gaze settled on me it was as if he had just been dealt pocket aces and owned the worst poker face ever. I'm not sure he wasn't even chuckling to himself as the pitch approached and he waited extra-long to insure he hit it to the right side of the diamond, where the soon-to-be 40-year-old second baseman was trying to hide.

I can no longer yell at the kids on my daughters' softball teams for not listening to the coach. This hypocrite did everything wrong. As the sharp ground ball took its first bounce, I was not only backing up, but was virtually in full retreat. We teach the kids to charge the ball, but I was too busy running away to pause and think about what I was supposed to do.

I might as well have been holding a bull fighter's cape as opposed to a glove. I was considering my deductible for my dental insurance as I side-stepped the ball and took a blind swipe at it. The crowd should have shouted ole as the ball cruelly avoided my glove and raced into the outfield.

A few plays later, I was determined to make up for my error. I took a throw at second base and planned to fire a rocket to first base to complete the double play. Apparently NASA has run out of fuel, as my throw coughed and sputtered its way across the diamond on two or three hops before coming to a complete stop a few steps from the bag.

Next inning, when the coach mercifully moved me to right field, I went out to my position wearing a full disguise. I must have been good, because the only ball hit in my direction was a towering homerun by Stu Cline, which all I had to do was turn and watch it soar over the fence.

When it was all said and done, even though I took home the LVP award, I'm pleased to say this old man still had fun. I'll likely be out of traction by the middle of the week when I can start icing my throwing shoulder in preparation for Sunday night's contest. I suspect by the time the season's over this ballplayer will more resemble a medieval knight because all of the bulky pads and braces I'll be wearing to support failing joints, heal injured ones and protect the one or two healthy spots remaining. I just keep telling myself - "Be brave, dummy."


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