Top 5 Lessons Learned from My Return to Softball

field of dreamsMy softball team wrapped its season over the weekend, winning the first game of a double-elimination tournament before being manhandled two straight games.

No trophy, no worries.

It was the first softball action I’ve seen in some times, and for a 44-year-old who was hardly Babe Ruth in his prime not embarrassing myself was the prime objective. I didn’t. In fact, I played about as well as always. I made all the basic plays, picked up some solid singles and didn’t make any YouTube worthy miscues.

I’m itching to play some more, and while I’ll be another year older – and slower – next year I can still compete in a respectable fashion.

The other lessons learned during the season?

  • Always Challenge Yourself: I felt intimidated by some members of my team – they were younger, bigger and blazed down the base paths. It would have been easy for me to stay home, make up some excuse or even feel down after hitting into too many ground outs. I also had to play in the outfield, where my spitball of an arm did me little good. I challenged myself all the same, and I’m damn glad I did it.
  • Teamwork Counts: No matter how good you are it won’t matter if your teammates let you down. A perfect relay throw means nothing if the cut-off man overthrows home plate. It also helps to have a team leader, official or otherwise, to set a positive tone for others to follow. My teammates didn’t point fingers after an error, and even a routine play would produce an “atta boy” or similar shout out. Those attributes are easily transferrable to the work place or other social settings if you’re paying attention.
  • Baseball is a Thinking Man’s Sport: In softball you always have to be ready for the next swing of the bat. The shortstop must cover second if it’s hit to the other side of the field. A pop fly may seem like an innocent out, but if there’s a runner on third he could tag and tie the game. That element of the game always intrigued me, and even though I’m essentially a “no tools” player I understand the mental aspects as well as my peers. That gave me an edge – I didn’t throw to the wrong base or make other mental mistakes that cost us runs. Staying a few paces ahead of the action is a valuable skill no matter what you’re doing, even if it’s just anticipating how your toddler might misbehave in a restaurant.
  • Fear Is a Thing of the Mind: Forgive me for quoting a Vulcan in a manly softball post, but there’s always the chance you’ll get hurt playing sports. Those chances magnify when your reflexes are slower and you play on fields that produce plenty of wild bounces. The last season I played softball I got hit by a line drive and it fractured my skull. The softball hit my head in a way that briefly monkeyed with the speech center in the brain, so at first I couldn’t even tell my teammates I was OK (which, technically, I wasn’t). Get over your fear and play ball.
  • Yup, I’m Not 24 Anymore: The first few hours after I played three games essentially back to back weren’t pretty. I looked like I was moving in slow motion, but without that cool vibe you see in those Quentin Tarantino movies. Yes, softball isn’t soccer, a sport which involves near constant movement. I wanted a nap all the same. I eventually bounced back, but it reminded me of my age. So did that extra gulp of air I took after legging out a double earlier in the day. Younger Dads – enjoy it while you can!

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