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  • My softball team, the Diamond Flames, found themselves in a familiar position going into last night’s games. Tied for second place with 2 other teams, one game out of first, with 8 games to play. Of our next 8 games, 6 would be against the teams we’re tied with, and the team we’re chasing for the championship. Which puts us into a position of controlling our own destiny.

    We’re playing this Spring without 3 of our biggest, young guns, so I’ve had to scramble and try to find replacements for these guys, and put together a team that plays well together, not as dependent on that one guy who will knock in 7 – 10 runs a night. Age-wise, and otherwise, we certainly have one of the more diverse teams in the division. Our ages range from mid-20’s to late 50’s. Most of the teams we play have guys mostly in their 20’s and 30’s. We have such a diverse mix of people, most of us normally would probably not be hanging out with each other, but we have this common purpose, this common love for the game, and we have a great time playing together.

    Ramon was one of the guys I picked up to replace the missing big guns. He’s turned out to be a pretty damned good gun, himself. Last night, in his second at-bat, he pounded one over the fence. He’s dealing with a foot injury, and stepped on it funny after he hit the bomb, and was reacting to his hurt foot – the other team’s pitcher thought he was trying to show him up (slightly oversized ego going on there), and had it in for us the rest of the night. He decided to just intentionally walk Ramon for the rest of the night. His plan backfired on him, as Ramon wound up scoring practically everytime he got on base, which was everytime he got up, all 8 times.

    We were playing one of the teams we’re tied with, and we were two pretty evenly matched teams, talent-wise, but their pitcher really wound up taking them out of both games with his antics. He kept trying to egg us on, and it only served to make us more determined to beat them. The other players on his team grew tired of his antics. I had a little too much fun with him. He had pissed me off at one point, yelling from the mound for us to get a batter up to the plate quicker than we were moving, as we made the transition from being in the field to batting up. That wasn’t his job to be worrying about – it was the umpire’s. The umpire was just fine with our pace. When he continued, I gave it back to him, a little bit. This really sent him off, and the umpire had to issue a warning of no banter between the teams.

    I wound up hitting a double, so I was standing behind him, on second base. The guy just could never shut up. He stood there whining about what whiners my team were. So, just loud enough for him to hear from behind, but not loud enough for the umpire to hear, I said, “Dude, the only whining I’m hearing is coming from the mound.” He became apoplectic, and yelled at the umpire (like a little tattle-tale), “”Did you hear him just now? He’s continuing to talk shit to me. You issued a warning.” The umpire looked at me, I shrugged my shoulders, and the umpire told him to shut up and pitch. The guy pitched a terrible game, walking too many batters, giving us more chances, which we took full advantage of.

    He was a big guy, who tried to use his size to an intimidating advantage. He tried stretching a single into a double when I was playing shortstop, and I got the ball just in time to swipe a tag down on him as he slid in. I know that, in this league, where there’s only one umpire, behind the plate, and he can’t always be on top of every play, so they make the calls as best they can, running out to try to see the play. On plays like this one, if the ball is there, and the fielder get s the glove down there, whether or not the tag is actually made, the umpire will call the runner out 9 times out of 10. On this particular play, he slid perfectly and avoided my tag. But, the umpire, whose view was slightly blocked by the pitcher, called him out. The poor guy was just beside himself, bitching at the umpire all the way to the dugout. I’d had a pretty lousy night in the field, for me, not making all the plays I should have made – field conditions were rough, and my knee is still not 100 % - but that one play, that I didn’t really make, made it all worthwhile. I also had a pretty good night at the plate, so was overall satisfied with my own performance.

    But, my team played like champions, like they wanted it. Like a team. That’s what I love about my team. There are no over-sized egos, everyone is treated the same, from the best player to the weakest, we’re all a team, and we all pull together. We won both games, handily, and the team we’re chasing for first split their two games, so we are now tied for first, with 6 games to go. I’m liking our chances this year.
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