Softball

The Central Park Game

The last time I played softball in Central Park was on August 21, 2016. My team, the Ball Busters, had just won the league championship.

Four years ago today, I played my last softball game at Central Park.

My friends and readers of this site know that playing softball each summer has been a big part of my life for almost as long as I have lived in New York. This summer, however, I haven’t played a single game—partly due to the pandemic cancelling my leagues, but also mostly due to other emotional traumas that I’d rather not discuss here. Not playing softball feels weird, but only in moments like this when I reflect on how it is gone.


Starting in 2005, I started playing on Sunday afternoons in Central Park with The Bandits. We had moved to a Central Park league after playing a year in a league run by EMTs that played weeknights in Harlem. The league was a terrible experience, not least of which because of the sound of gun fire that I would occasionally hear during our games.

Playing softball in Central Park has a unique magnificence to it. Photo by me, June 5, 2005.

Playing in Central Park each Sunday in the summer was a singular experience. I loved having throngs of tourists watching us play, especially Europeans who posed many questions about our peculiar game. However, being on the Bandits was a tough experience. We were not a very good team, consistently finishing at the bottom of the standings. The only exception was in 2009, when we recruited a few players from my Brooklyn league and finished in second place and lost in the finals to the top-ranked team in a three-game series.

Despite the great finish, I was disappointed that we lost in the finals to a team I felt we could have beaten so bailed on the Bandits. I switched to a different team—the Ball Busters—run by my friend Johnny in the offseason. The Ball Busters finished 7th on 2009, but, as I looked at their schedule, I saw that they had lost a lot of one-run games. Three factors aided my decision: I had been pitching in McCarren Park for a couple of years and wanted to pitch more, the Bandits didn’t let me pitch, and the Ball Busters didn’t have a full-time pitcher. I figured that if I could pitch, I could help turn a few of those loses into wins. Indeed we did. In 2010, we finished in first place but lost in the first-round to the Bandits partly because I missed the game to attend my friend’s wedding in Connecticut.

The Ball Busters posted a winning record for several years, never finished lower than the second seed. We even won two titles: once in 2012 and again in 2013. I pitched almost all of our games, including the playoffs. I loved the pressure of pitching in big games, especially when I had pitched every inning of a triple-header. It took a while to learn to pace myself, but once I did, I relished the exhilarating combination of exhaustion and pressure. : why can’t I do this in the parts of my life where it matters.

The Ball Busters after our second championship. Photo by me, August 18, 2013.

After the 2015 season, my friend Johnny announced that he was moving to Florida and that the team would be run by Hermes, an affable teammate who quickly passed on the management to someone else, a guy everyone calls Cano.

The 2016 season was very different than the others for the Ball Busters. First, many of our teammates left for various reasons. Some went on extended vacations, some moved away, and others cut down to playing on Saturdays in a different league. Second, we had many new players that the new manager brought to the team. The biggest difference for me was that, after pitching in nearly every Ball Busters game since 2020, I didn’t pitch a single inning in 2016. I played a bit in the outfield and was the “extra hitter,” a unique softball position created to allow someone to play but not really play.

Our new manager took our team in a very different direction, including the new pink team shirts. Photo by me, April 10, 2016.

The 2016 Ball Busters were a force. We lost only three games in a twenty-four game season, but I didn’t factor in many of those wins (or those losses). We swept our opponents in the quarterfinals and in the semifinals, and if I played in those games, I don’t remember. I certainly didn’t pitch a single inning of these postseason games.


The finals were scheduled for August 21. The day before I had bought some oysters from the fishmonger at the local farmers market. In those days, I ate raw oysters all the time, and I even fancied myself a capable shucker. But this weekend, I think I failed to keep the oysters sufficiently cold. The next morning on the day of the 2016 finals, I woke up feeling sick, lying next to a puddle of vomit on my pillow. At first I thought I was hungover. I did drink quite a bit the night before, but after a while, it was clear that the oysters made me sick.

I told Megan that I was going to skip the finals games in Central Park that morning. I felt sick and didn’t have the energy to leave bed, much less take a five-mile bike ride to a game in Central Park. She tried to coax me to the game noting the magnitude of the game: “but it’s the finals!” But more important, as I remember telling her, it’s not as if I would play anyway. After a while I mustered enough energy to get out of bed and bike to Central Park. This was I could at least cheer on my teammates and sneak in to the team photo if we won.

The finals were to start at 10:00 am that morning, and I arrived on the field at about 11:15 or so. I figured that I had missed the first game and arrived in time for the second. I asked someone on my team for the score. “We’re up by a couple,” he responded. When I asked for the inning, he informed me that it was fifth inning of the first game.

“Wait, didn’t we start at 10 o’clock?”

“No, the fields were closed because it rained. We started really late. This is the first game”

The Ball Busters held on to win the first game. We lost the second game, meaning we were tied in the series and had to play a third game. Hermes pitched the first two games. He was drenched in sweat and looked wiped out, and I told our manager, Cano, that he was “done.” Cano looked around to see who could pitch the third and deciding game. He asked his wife, who is a really solid pitcher. “Nope,” she declined. Again, our manager continued to scan our bench and looked at me. Holding the ball, he twists his wrist, now palm-side up, and shows me the ball. “You ready?,” he asks me. Without saying anything, I take the ball and walk to the field.

As I watched the first two games, a guy named Tommy came to watch our games. He said hi to me, and asked if I wanted a steak taco. He had cooked the steak at home, packed hot tortillas into a styrofoam warmer, and even made a “cilantro pesto” for the tacos. The tacos settled my stomach, which had been wrenched the day before by rotten oysters and too many whiskey shots. Tommy was like the mythical Saint Bernard that nurses lost explorers in the unforgiving arctic conditions. Except here, he nursed me back into playing shape.

As I walked to the pitching plate, I realized that this was the first time I had pitched all year in Central Park. The Central Park fields are a bit different than others in the city. They are in much better shape and they also have a real pitching rubber that’s dug into the ground. But also, the infield dimensions are different than the infield at, say, McCarren Park: I think the distance from the pitching plate to home plate is about fifty feet, about five feet further than it is at McCarren Park and most other NYC softball fields.

It took me about a dozen warmup pitches to get the ball to reach the plate, and then several more to find my location. This league is a modified, fast-pitch league, meaning I can throw the ball hard, as long as my hand doesn’t go above my shoulder in the wind-up: no slinging or side-winding is allowed. As the game started, I was still struggling to throw strikes and to locate the ball. But I knew that this was a big game and that the batters would be as nervous to face me as I was to face them. I decided that instead of throwing hard, I would throw the ball as slow as I could.

Except for a sneaking in a few fastballs, I pitched as slowly as I could, and it worked. The batters all seemed very anxious and for the most part, didn’t hit the ball square. There was however one home run. Our team managed to scratch across three runs, but our batters didn’t produce much. The previous two games apparently wiped them out, too.

The game ended with a weak flyout to the outfield. As the ball was caught, I pounded my fist against my mitt and met all my teammates in the middle of infield for the obligatory celebration “on the mound.” We had just won the league championship.

It took three games, but we won the best-of-three final series to take the 2016 Heckscher Cup. August 21, 2016.

We celebrated for a bit on the field, drank a few beers and, yes, I ate another steak taco or two. Afterward, I biked Williamsburg to meet Megan and share my news with my Brooklyn softball friends. I remembering getting stares from everyone from looking soaking wet from sweat, drizzle, and who knows how many beers.

As I told the story, I began to realize that this might be the best softball outcome I could imagine. I had spent over a decade playing in Central Park—underneath the magnificent Manhattan skyline—and capped it off with pitching my team to a 3-1 title-clinching game. It was my third title with the Ball Busters, and I had pitched in each of those deciding games.

In the offseason, I told Hermes and Cano that I was not returning. I mumbled something about not wanting to play games so close to Trump Tower, but actually it was because I didn’t want to start all over—at the square one—to recreate this feeling of joy and accomplishment. Experiencing that was truly special, and it would be foolish to attempt to find it again.

One thing I’ve learned over the years is to appreciate those special experiences—be it a warm summer day, a well-made meal, a firm hug from a friend or relative, a smile from your true love—because just as sure as you found it, it will be gone. And you’ll be wasting your time trying to find it again.

Team Matchless Tees: Clear Discharge on Heather Denim Blue

As I’ve written before on the site, I have become a fan of discharge screen printing, but sometimes the results can be unpredictable. For example, I printed a whole batch of American Apparel jersey cotton t-shirts. Most of them came out to a light brown color, but some came out blue.

Discharge printing works by removing the dye from the fabric, and it really works only on all-cotton shirts. It sometimes works on poly-cotton blends, but you might not get the results you wanted. I was tasked with printing some more shirts for the softball team sponsored by Bar Matchless in Brooklyn.

The team selected a poly-cotton shirt in heather blue denim made by Tultex.

Tutlex Heather Blue Denim Raglan Shirt

They didn’t have any specific instructions in terms of print color. I was allowed to do what I wanted. At first, white seemed like a good choice, but I didn’t like the result. It looked like I had printed on top of the shirt, instead of printing in the shirt. Also, black seemed to fade away into a low contrast color. (Please excuse the poor white balance.)

Bar Matchless Shirts - Test Prints

The black might look a little gold to you, but trust me, it’s not. It’s the similar effect of that white-gold/blue-black dress meme from a couple of years ago.

I tried a series of different colors, including clear discharge. This “ink” removed the dye from the fabric but does not add any color. I was concerned whether this would work with a poly-cotton shirts that was dyed blue, but the results looked great.

Fullsizeoutput fdee

You can see that the natural color of the fabric complements the heather blue denim color really well, certainly much better than what I saw in my tests using white ink or black ink.

Here’s a look at the whole print on the shirt:

Fullsizeoutput fded

This example reinforces something I’ve learned over the years. Order a bunch of extra blank shirts to run test prints. You might be surprised how well one combination might work.

That Time All Three Summer Softball Teams Went to the Finals…and Two Won!

It only felt like it took us 108 years to win.

It only felt like it took us 108 years to win.

What a difference a year makes!?!

Two years ago, I was ready to give up on softball. I had become more enamored with cycling, and the postgame conviviality—hanging out with teammates and rivals for hours on end—helped contribute to the end of a long-term relationship because Sarah was not part of that world.

One year ago, there were a few health issues that made playing difficult. First, after crashing my bike on East Third Street in March 2015 and banging up my knee, I was unable to sprint for about six months, meaning I was unable to play well for the entire summer softball season. Second, that nagging ingrown toenail surfaced again, causing great discomfort for a few weeks. Ironically, cycling didn’t aggravate these issues. I often joked that although I could cycle for 100 miles, I couldn’t run to first base.

But this year, I found a renewed excitement for playing. My injuries were gone, and I was able to contribute more than in the past. It also helped that all three of my summer softball teams went to their respective league finals.1

Ball Busters… Champs!

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This year’s Ball Busters was an entirely new team, and I found myself playing a greatly reduced role throughout the year. I didn’t complain because we amassed an impressive record and made it to the finals. My biggest role on the team was pitching the third and deciding game of the finals, after not having pitched at all for that team all year. We won that game, 3-1, and won the league title for the first time since our “franchise” did so in 2012 and 2013.

Gibson Robots… Not Champs

I’ve been on this McCarren Park team since 2004, and it’s been a very successful team in terms of making it to the finals. We have done so eight times. Winning, on the other hand, has not been easy. We’ve only won once in 2011.

This year, we struggled throughout the season, barely amassing a .500 record. However, we played well enough to get a sixth seed, and when the playoffs started, we upset the #3 seed and the #2 seed in the first two rounds, allowing us to advance to the league finals. However, we got off to a rough start, giving up five runs in the first inning, and then not producing at the plate. Although I settled down during the game to keep them off the board, I went down in the fifth inning with a strained calf. I could barely stand up on two legs, much less play. I came out of the game and watched helplessly as my team lost 11-5 (or something like that).

Librarians… Champs!

This is the most unique teams I’ve ever played with. Our games are in the middle of the week, during the day, and over the years, since I took over the team, I’ve stocked it with a lot of players from Williamsburg.

I’ve been with this team since 2007, about the time I started dating Sarah. At first, she thought it was cute that I played softball in the middle of the week, during the day, but by the end, she was less enamored with the idea: “you loser! Why are you still playing softball in the middle of the day!?!”

But running this team is very challenging because the games are in the middle of the day, and I have to find people that either have flexible schedules or can take a day off work to play. Also complicating matters is that we need three women to play. And in addition to those challenges, the competition is very good. One of our players once noted that this league must be very hard because the players we have are really outstanding but the team can’t win a championship.

Of the teams I’ve been with, this is the one I’ve been with the longest without winning a league title.

That changed on Friday, after we beat the defending champions, The Wolf Pack, in four games in the best-of-five series.

We started the series last Friday. We lost the first game, 7-4, but won the next two, 4-3 and 5-4, coming back late in the game, despite trailing the entire time. We played the fourth game a couple of days ago, on Friday, and won that game decisively, 12-1.

It was a true team win. We all played splendidly in the field, and although we struggled at the plate in the early games, we battled to remain competitive and win each game. It was heartening to watch the team play the entire game and not give up until it was over.

And now, in early November, summer softball is finally over!


  1. I did sub on a few teams, but those don’t count, right? 

Ball Busters Win 2016 Heckscher Cup

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It took three years, but we did it! We reclaimed the Lower Manhattan Softball League’s Heckscher championship cup.

The team looks a lot different than the previous championship teams in 2012 and in 2013, and not only because we sport pink livery.

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.

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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.

Game 1

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.

Game 2

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.

Game 3

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.

T-Shirt Therapy for the Spring Semester

The end of the semester is a challenging and stressful time for both students, teachers, and administrators alike. It can be a very creative and productive time for most, but sometimes, it can be a frustrating as there might not be any immediate result to all that work.

Screen printing t-shirts can be a therapeutic, creative outlet where I get to work with my hands and make something tangible. Here are some shirts I’ve printed at the end of spring semester in anticipation of summer!

Kilo Bravo

With summer coming, I convinced the proprietress of Kilo Bravo that she should stock some t-shirts for their thirsty and overheated customers. The t-shirts are Gildan Soft Style, which is a blend of 65% polyester and 35% ring-spun cotton. She chose shirts in Heather Military Green, for the military theme that “Kilo Bravo” evokes (although it also stands in for her initials).

Kilo Bravo Military Summer 2016

The print is a single-color, white discharge ink that I thought would not be very bold because of the polyester fabric, but I was wrong. They really pop! In retrospect, I would have used clear discharge in hopes of getting the natural fabric color that would evoke the military color even more. Print and learn.

On sale at Kilo Bravo, 180 N. 10th St, Brooklyn, NY

Balls Deep

Easily one of the most “adult” logos I’ve ever printed, Balls Deep is a softball team founded by one of my oldest softball friends. As you can imagine, the logo has raised some eyebrows over the years, and some players have gone as far as quit the team rather than wear the shirt.

Balls Deep Softball 2016

This particular shirt is printed on American Apparel’s Fine Jersey all-cotton t-shirt in red. This t-shirt model is such a stalwart of the industry that you most certainly have one in your closet, if not wearing one at the moment. The print is nothing more than Holden’s water-based black ink.

Team Matchless

The manager of this softball team, sponsored by Bar Matchless in Brooklyn, has a favorite t-shirt. Printed for the Oregon Humane Society, she wanted to use that t-shirt for her team because it is so comfortable. She showed it to me, and I saw that it was an American Apparel Tri-Blend t-shirt in Tri-Athletic Blue. Wanting to do something different that the usual white print, she had me print the front logo and the back jersey numbers in water-based orange ink.

I even printed a couple for myself on Tultex poly-cotton shirts in a similar color.

Matchless 2016

The Tultex shirts look fine, but as I examine the shirt, I notice that the weave looks a little pixelated.

Tultex – "pixelated" weave

Nonetheless, for what both shirts lack in “pop,” they both make up in lightweight and soft-feel. It’s perfect for summer softball.

Robots

Having surrendered managing the Robots years ago, the current manager wanted to get jerseys made, instead of my usual t-shirt offerings. The jerseys haven’t materialized yet, but I made a t-shirt version of what I think he made for our team.

Gibson (Angry) Robots 2016

The t-shirt is nothing special, just a Gildan Soft Style 100% ring-spun cotton in black. But the print is discharge ink with red pigment.

Were I to do a full run, I would print on American Apparel’s sheer jersey “Summer Shirt” in black. That is, by far, the most comfortable all-cotton shirt I’ve ever worn. However, because they cost three times as much as this Gildan—and because they only ship from the Los Angeles–area mill, I would only offer it as a premium product for a sizable run.

Archived Bears

The Archive used to be a coffee shop and video store in the 2000s. Located off the Morgan Avenue L-train station and used to be considered a “far, far away,” the Archive also used to sponsor a softball team in our league: the Bears.

The Bears are still around, even if the Archive is long gone, and they wanted to print a new version of their shirt.

Archived Bears Softball 2016

This shirt is another Gildan Soft Style t-shirt in dark chocolate. The print is a water-based opaque yellow color that has a soft hand without the extra chemical process of discharge.

Librarians

On a whim, I printed a couple of copies of the stalwart Librarians t-shirt. Unlike our usual shirt, I printed the shirts on an off-white shirt in black ink.

Librarians Reprint 2016

I’ll debut the shirt at our season opening double-header and, perhaps, maybe even take a few orders for a lighter alternative to our current black t-shirts.

Hitting to Right Field

Some years ago, after playing a few softball games, I learned that hitting to right field is a advantageous strategy. First, in recreational leagues dominated by right-handed batters, the weaker fielders are often positioned on the right side of the field. It’s not a bad idea to take advantage of any defensive holes. Second and more importantly, hitting the ball to the right side allows baserunners to move around. For example, a runner on first base has a better chance of reaching third base than on a ball hit to the left side.

On Sunday, my friend shot a slow-motion video of one of my at-bats using his iPhone 6 Plus. It’s not an ideal swing as I dipped my right shoulder, in an attempt to delay my swing, and I also hit the ball very close to the handle. Hitting the ball in the air, rather than on a line, was also not ideal. In all, it was a pretty crappy swing.

But the right fielders misjudged the ball, and the ball fell for a base hit. Towards the end of the clip, you can see the third-base coach telling a runner to take the extra base. I can’t remember if that runner scored on that play, but I imagine that he at least reached third base.

Although I hit the ball pretty poorly, I reached base because I took advantage of an underused right fielder, and I moved a runner closer to home.

Home runs over the outfielders’ heads might be pretty, but hits to the right side do the job, too.

May It Suck Less

Yes, I am aware that this site went all of April neglected like a dissertation chapter and a pile of ungraded, poorly written undergraduate. I didn’t get to update it much because I’ve been preoccupied with a few things:

  1. Yes, I did get that MacBook Pro with Retina display. As you know, I decided the newly updated 13-inch model was the best computer for me…as long as we define “a computer” as a Mac portable. That turned out to be a curse because the computer and I have been inseparable since then. As is common at this time of the year, there’s a lot of work to do. A lot!

  2. I made two, two, two trips to California in April for a couple of weddings. Despite being very sour on flying recently, I kind of enjoyed getting back in the air. If one can be in “mid-season” form going to an airport and boarding a plane, I was in it. Personally, I hate taking taxis to an airport, especially by myself, because of the disproportionate cost in traveling five miles to, say LaGuardia, compared to flying 2,500 miles to Los Angeles. And the chances of crashing are much higher in an Uber on the BQE than sitting in a Boeing six miles above the ground. Thus, I prefer to save some bucks and go multi-modal, using the subway and bus. That results in some just-in-time arrivals, which I don’t mind because it spares me from the gate lice. My friend Mark, a multimillion-miler on American Airlines, concurs with this approach.

    Of course, the trips themselves were fun, too. I saw a lot of people, including lots of friends and family. I ate King Crab on a pier in Santa Barbara and fried scallops in the warehouse district southeast of DTLA. I even got to go on a bike ride.

    And the weddings were great, too. I realized that, despite my earlier reservations, I like going to weddings. It helps that I don’t have to hear Sarah’s friends criticize every aspect of their own friend’s wedding, such as “can you believe this food?” and “this has to be the worst one yet!” Also, since there’s no immiment threat of staging my own wedding, I don’t feel that sense of failed dread I had when I was a teenager riding in my friends’ cars before I had even had my learner’s permit.

  3. The weather is finally nice enough to enjoy cycling. Aside from crashing my bike on East Third Street in late March, I have really enjoyed being out on a bike. That crash, which happened on my way from Brooklyn to NYU, was bad enough that since then I’ve been unable to fully bend my knee. I can extend it just fine so I can ride a bike as far as ninety miles with almost no pain, but tying my shoes has been an entirely different matter. March was an especially miserable month for bicycling, and we had to two rides shortened because of icy road conditions. However, in the last few weeks, we’ve stepped things up and have been riding 80-90 miles on a single weekend day.

  4. It’s softball season. Softball really is like the mob. No matter how hard I try to get out, I can’t not play. The only possible ways I can see “getting out” is to relocate to a far-off, remote place where no one knows I ever played softball… or to die. I wound up on four teams again, although I have missed a lot of games to that nagging cycling injury and because of my other commitments. However, it’s nice being out there again doing something I’m relatively good doing.

Now that I’m becoming accustomed to this new pace, to carrying around a heavy backpack and a light sweater, I’m genuinely excited about breathing and such. No, seriously. Not only has it been a hard eight months, but over the winter, it literally hurt to breathe that bitter, icy air. I’ll settle for the occasional allergy attack.

Cycling vs. Softball

At the beginning of the spring, I promised that I wouldn’t let softball take over my life. I can’t even begin to count how many Saturdays I squandered because I had a game later in the day.

Escaped New York

But on Saturday I had a dilemma. I was committed to riding in this year’s Escape New York ride as I was more active with the cycle club than in years past so I felt like I had a stake in this annual event. Moreover, I also had a free entry since I had helped mark the route. I had done the same job for the last few years, but I hadn’t ridden because the Robots were in the playoffs. To paraphrase a line from a movie, the problem is not when your hobbies get in the way of work, but when they get in the way of each other.

Route marking for the 65-mile route of the Escape New York ride.

Route marking for the 65-mile route of the Escape New York ride.


This year, I had the same conflict. The Robots were playing a single-elimination playoff game against Matchless at 4:00 PM. As a means to not let softball take over my cycling, I compromised. Instead of riding the full 100-mile course, as I had hoped to do when I was racking up miles every week, I “settled” for the 65-mile, metric century course. That would allow me to finish by 2:30, head home to shower, and make the game in Williamsburg. The appeal of doing a supported ride, such as Escape New York, is that I aim for longer distances than my usual weekend ride. It’s a special occasion after all. And this year, my weekend rides were each about 65 miles long, so this amounted to one of those.

Escape New York 2013

Although it had been about a month since I rode my bike, I pedaled from Long Island City to the ride’s starting point at Sakura Park at Riverside Drive and 122nd St. From there, I was feeling especially strong, and managed to maintain a little better than a 14–mile-per-hour pace throughout the entire route, including the slog from Queens to upper Manhattan and the rest of the 65-mile course. I finished by 2:25 PM, five minutes before my goal. I grabbed some food and liquids at the finish line, headed home just after 3:00, showered and changed from cycling to softball clothes, and arrived by 4:15 to fill in as a pinch hitter. By that point, however, the Robots were well on their way to big 20–9 win, and advancing to the finals.

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Ball Busters Win 2013 Heckscher Cup

Ball Busters 2013 Champs

We did it again!

The Ball Busters won the Lower Manhattan Softball League’s 2013 Heckscher Cup, sweeping two games against the Jackals in the best-of-three league championship series. We won six consecutive games to sweep the three-round playoff tournament.

I was a bundle of nerves on Sunday, but I pitched well enough in the first game to give us a 6-2 win. Although I hadn’t surrendered a run since the first inning of the first game of the first playoff round, the Jackals scored a run in the fifth inning of the first game, snapping my playoff scoreless streak at 16 innings.

The second game was a see-saw affair. Kevin pitched well but the Jackals got to us in the sixth inning. We were down 6-3 in the seventh inning and came down to our final out. But we didn’t quit. We put runners on first and second, and our designated hitter Chris hit a three-run bomb that tied the game at 6-6. We kept them Jackals off the board in the seventh, and we came back with six runs in the top of the eighth. I came in to pitch in the bottom of the eight but struggled with my command. The Jackals scored three runs, loaded the bases and put the tying run on first base. But I found my stride and retired the next two batters to clinch our second consecutive title.

It was a sweet win for our three newest players: Mark, Denis and Kevin. I played with the latter two on the Bandits, a team that underachieved every year I played with them except for 2009, when we had a second seed and lost in the finals. Denis and Kevin came to our team this year and helped us get this championship.

“I Don’t Believe What I Just Saw”

The Ramblers like to refer to ourselves as a scrappy team. We take big leads on the bases, we like to run from first to third base on a single, and we like to throw the ball to catch runners off-guard. It often results in pretty spectacular plays, but sometimes it costs us.

On Wednesday, we played the Creeperz in the QLSA Master Division best-of-three, semi-finals series. Since we were the lower seed, the Creeperz elected to play at Highland Park in Cypress Hills, Queens. We would play two games on Wednesday and, if necessary, a third game in Long Island City on Thursday.

Our aggressive scrappiness cost us in the first game. We gave away four outs on the base paths, and we threw the ball around that allowed runners to advance. We lost the game, 5–4.

I pitched the second game, and we quickly trailed, 4–1. In the fifth, we tied the game at 5. The score held in to the sixth and seventh. With the international tie breaker rule in effect, the Clippers scored two runs in the eighth. We needed to score two runs to stay alive and three to win.

With two outs and runners on first and third, our catcher Collin hit a gentle popup to the shortstop. Convinced that this would be the final out of the series, the shortstop tried to aggressively snatch the ball out of the air and ultimately dropped the ball. The tying run scored from third and put the winning run on second base. Our third baseman DJ hit a clean live drive in the “5.5 hole” and Dan scored from second to win the game and tie the series at two games.

We were still alive and would play the third and deciding game on Thursday.

I played first base on Thursday, after riding to Cold Spring earlier that day, and chatted with the umpire there. I asked if he had heard what happened on Wednesday and he informs me that the “whole fuckin’ league heard what happened.” After discussing the improbability of our winning a game like that, he tells me that “whenever a team loses a game like that, they never recover.” Ouch!

The Creeperz had not recovered. On Wednesday night, we said that if we came out swinging and scored a couple of run in the first inning, they would be out of it. In fact, we scored four runs in the first, taking advantage of the opposing pitcher’s trouble throwing strikes. We would have scored more but two very unconventional calls robbed of us at least four runs in subsequent innings. The Creeperz eventually tied game at 4, but we shut them down the rest of the game. We scored another five unanswered runs to take a 9–4 lead. By the sixth inning and with the game going our way, one of the Creeperz said, “This game was over before it had started.” The Creeperz were still demoralized from Wednesday loss and had essentially quit. The last out of the game came on a popup to second base. When the ball was in the air, we all yelled at our second baseman to use “two hands, two hands, two hands.” We won the game, 9–4, and clinched the semi-final series.

We sympathized with the shortstop. He was a very good player but made one critical mistake in a crucial situation. We gave him a friendly handshake because no one feels worse about losing the series than he.

With the series win, we face Los Muertos in the Master Division Championship series on Tuesday, August 20, 7:00 PM, at Whitey Ford Field in Astoria. Again, all are welcome.