This season though, I've only struck out once. See, I use the Think System. You know, like Professor Hill in The Music Man. If you think you can play music, you will. If you think you can hit the ball, you can. It helps that I warm up real good. I swing the bat ferociously and chant Bible verses like, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me," and, "Be strong and courageous.” Visualization works too. I pretend I'm that chick in the Old Testament who pounded a tent spike through some war hero's skull. Nailed him to the ground, literally. That's the kind of spiritual and girl power I try to channel.
This summer I've found it helpful to suck up to the umpires. So far, it's working for me. They've all been very nice. They try really hard to teach me the rules. And heck, they throw more balls back to the pitcher than I do. Plus, they give me grace when I throw the bat after I hit.
"I'll have to call you out for that next time, sweetie."
I blow them a kiss from first base. "Yes, sir. Thank you, Mr. Umpire, sir!"
My coach, Corey, says I'm much better at defense this season. It might be because I talked my husband into giving me twenty bucks every time I get someone out. I've caught a couple of pop-up fouls and I tagged a girl who didn't know her tee tiny hit was fair. I hoot and holler and jump up and down when I get people out. Even climbed the backstop once.
I've always been super good at psychological defense. No one had to teach me that.
"You're talking smack," my husband said.
"No, I'm not," I said. "I'm killing 'em with kindness, with sugar."
First off, I determine to learn everyone's name on the other team. Then I use their names, or their nicknames, as often as possible. When they're up at bat I give a running commentary of what I know about each hitter.
"This is Rebecca. She's a math teacher at the high school. She hit a line drive right to Corey last time she was up, but that's way better than striking out.” Or, "This is Samantha. Isn't she adorable? Not everyone can pull off a side ponytail. She's engaged on Facebook, aren't you, darling?"
My chatter makes some people giggle. Others get mad. Usually the guys. I see their shoulders tense up and if I step in front of them to get a ball, they often have furrowed brows and small eyes. Mad or glad, it tends to throw them off. Bad for them. Good for us.
I always cheer for everyone who gets a good hit, either team. And I praise anyone who makes a great play in the field.
Evan Almighty, our right center, says, "If it weren't for you, all the teams would hate us."
I tilted my head when he told me that. "Why?"
"'Cause you're nice to everybody," he said.
Evan's a pagan but I love him. He can't run very far because he smokes a boatload of cigarettes. His one and only bit of facial hair looks like a fuzzy thumbprint under his full, cherry-Kool-Aid-colored lower lip.
"You guys are all Jesus freaks, aren't you?" he asked Corey.
"Yep. Pretty much.”
I pray for Evan to kick his ciggy habit. And for him to get a honey of a wife. He was engaged awhile back but unfortunately, it turned out his fiance was from the Isle of Lesbos.
One of my favorite things about playing softball is breaking down the hardcore, rough tough cream puff, winning is everything players. They're not always guys either. I'd have to use a hammer to get some girls to crack a smile.
Once they get to know and like me though, some teams let me get on base, just because. One time, I even got hugged.
"Thank you so much," I said when I pounced on third base. "For dawdling, just so I could get here."
"Girl, you are the cutest thing ever," the third basewoman said. "Give me a hug."
I grinned and leaned into her arms. "Your lips look a little chapped," I told her. "Want some lip gloss?"
Besides making sure everyone has a good time, I really enjoy the hand pat line we do when the game's over.
"This was fun."
"You all are really good."
"Good luck the rest of the season."
"You, Missy, are the MVP of your team.” A big, tall guy with three white zeros on his blue jersey told me that one Friday night.
I glanced behind me then back at him. I pointed to my chest.
"Are you talking to me?"
He huffed. "Uh, yeah."
I pulled him aside. "I'm not a MVP, Triple Zip," I said. "I'm a S.W.."
He swept his sweaty bangs over to the side and squinted down at me. "A what?"
I stood on my tiptoes, cupped my hands around my mouth, and whispered in his ear.
He grinned and thumped me on the back. "That you are, Missy. That you are."
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