It took three years, but we did it! We reclaimed the Lower Manhattan Softball League’s Heckscher championship cup.
Johnny, our longtime manager and spiritual leader, moved to Miami last fall and bequeathed the team to another player. With Johnny leaving, a lot of our veterans left, too. Some moved away while others felt it was time to move on.
As the team changed around me, I found myself playing a diminished role. Instead of pitching one or both games of the weekly double header, as I had done since joining the team in 2010, I returned to the outfield and batting as an extra-hitter in the bottom of the lineup.
I didn’t complain about my role, however, because the team dominated throughout the regular season, finishing 21-3. But by the start of the playoffs, we were losing players left and right. Some opted to play in other tournaments. A few key players were hurt. But we held on and rolled through the first two rounds of the playoffs. The finals, on the other hand, were much more challenging. Largely because our regular pitcher, who dominated throughout the year, missed the finals because he was taking his family on a weeklong vacation.[^ family first]
Below is a game-by-game recap of the finals.
After a lengthy rain delay, we played a very stressful first game against the Big Red Machine, the finals opponent we vanquished in 2012. It was back and forth until the sixth inning, when we broke through with four runs. We held on in the seventh to win 13-9.
In the second game, we scored a run early in the game but fell behind shortly thereafter. We played a pretty sloppy game, letting in a bunch of runs, but the shoddy defense did not factor in the game as we never scored more than one run in the game, losing 7-1.
By the start of the deciding game, Hermes, our pitcher, was gassed. Our coaches asked me to pitch the third and deciding game of the finals. The rest of the team seemed concerned because they hadn’t seen me pitch the whole year. I too shared some of their trepidation because I hadn’t thrown a pitch in Central Park all summer, but after a few minutes warming up, I found my groove.
We scored a run in the first inning and two more in the second, and our bats fell silent after that. But our paltry offense didn’t matter because our defense was impeccable. I gave up one run—a solo home run—on five hits and no walks. At just over thirty minutes, I’m pretty sure this was the fastest game I ever played in, largely accelerated to avoid the impending rain. We won the deciding game, 3-1, and were crowned champions shortly thereafter.