Note: This is something I should have posted a couple of years ago. But looking back, I’m kind of glad I held off on it as it gives me the chance to chime in with some thoughts. I’ll be putting this out over the next couple of weeks (one per week) here as I work to find my rhythm with blogging again.
Decisions in life will let you know if it was right or wrong. When I decided to stop playing softball, I wasn’t sure how I would react. It’s now been two summers where I didn’t pick up a bat, ball, glove etc., in more than 25 years. But it was coming and it was time.
About 10 years ago, I made myself a promise that I wouldn’t hang on too long when it comes to softball. I wanted to go out on my own terms and when I thought the time was right.
Turns out, the time was right.
I played summer softball for nearly 30 years, running a team for 27. That’s a long time to play a game, but it’s one I’ve loved and been highly passionate about.
All good things come to an end.
It was a wonderful run. I enjoyed every aspect of the game, and made a ton of friends through it and had the chance to play at a top level. I watched as the teams I “coached” morphed from a bunch of high school kids who just wanted to have a team to a team that others often “chased” throughout a season.
But when it’s time to go, it’s time to go.
Over the years, I’ve seen the game change a lot — for better and worse. In recent years, it’s been tough to watch modified-pitch softball start to dwindle in this area. When I first started playing, there were at least six solid leagues in the area with this brand of softball. The season started for some in late April and went up until late August.
Back then, when you played softball, it was usually something you planned on doing many weekends. That’s what it was all about. At the peak of my playing days, I remember playing about 90 games over the course of the summer. That was with three leagues and tournaments on many weekends. And it was all modified pitch and mostly with the same group of guys.
That number wasn’t even high for some people, who often approached the 125-130 range.
That’s a lot of softball!
Remember, though, this was before the age of the Internet. Not as many people in their 20s and 30s were choosing things like golf over softball. People worked, got done, and played softball. There weren’t people with eyes on their phones or tablets; or running home to get online and such. This was before all that. So, softball was King.
After games, you’d often grab a bite and throw back a few cold ones.
Then do it again the next day.
In the past few years, I’ve seen the one remaining (all-age) modified league falter. Last year, that league didn’t even have a men’s league — only women’s. I’m not even sure what happened with it this year.
As it faltered and we all gained years, we moved to the local Over-35 league. That was a good choice. We had success over two years in the league — winning it both years. But even there, despite a few decent teams, a lot of it was watered down.
So, for me, it was time to go to the bullpen, so to speak.
Nagging injuries helped with this decision. Make no bones about it — I’m not getting any younger. My knees aren’t the best, my shoulder hasn’t been right in years and I have no power throwing with it and, honestly, I don’t like playing in the infield anymore as I don’t want to take a line drive to the chops.
It’s not the easiest decision, either, as my final three or four years were some of my best hitting seasons over the past decade. But when it’s time to go, it’s time to go.
Those final two seasons were tough trying to get people to games. I don’t enjoy playing with seven or eight, and I really don’t like having to postpone or change vacation plans so I can be the seventh player. Still, I always felt I’d know when the moment and the time was right — and 2017 was a good one to call it on.
We swept the championship finals in the league we played in for two years.
We won by two runs in the first game; and one in the second. They were highly competitive and fun games. But even though we won, we only had nine for the first game and barely fielded 10 in the second. The ending was exciting. I had a blast. But I also knew when I took my cleats off after that game, it was probably the end.
And so it came to an end.
The final chapter of my softball life was a good one. I had the chance to play with some people I’ve played with for many years; and others who have only joined in the last year or two. We had a lot of fun. We won a lot of games.
I also caught during year. Yes, it was in a no-bunt, no-steal league. So there’s not a lot of pressure catching. But that was my true love position. And though my knees ached and it was more lackadaisical back there outside of some close plays at the plate, it was a great way to finish things up.
Though I can’t imagine this will be amazing reading for some people who don’t know me, I’m going to split this up over a few postings so I can talk about softball and how it’s been for me. Then I’ll wrap with my final thoughts.
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