I stalked left field like a panther, my stride sinuous. Predatory.
My Wilson 6-4-3 Series 13 Slow-pitch glove embraced my powerful, lightning-quick left-hand like a pashmina.
I was ready for anything. A line-drive. A pop-up. Even a home-run that might try to fly past me just a foot over the wall.
But my vertical leap — which just surpassed Frenchman Kadour Ziani’s 57″ dud — would stop that cold.
My 11-year old opponent stepped up to the plate. Standing an intimidating 4′ 11″, weighing in at a muscle-hewn 85 lbs., she took her batting stance.
Was that a gangland tear I saw tattooed out of the corner of her left eye? Her impregnable helmet made it difficult to tell.
It was coach-pitch Little League practice.
Ostensibly, the most dangerous kind of game to be playing, that was sure, as the slow under-handed lob by Coach Jim could elicit the kind of bat-splintering contact that strikes fear in the breast of even the greatest outfielders; Ty Cobb and The Babe were terrified of Little League coach pitch.
But I was ready. I felt a little bad for my daughter, Clare, to be honest.
She was always annoyed when I came to her games, because I made her too nervous and she said she couldn’t play as well.
I can’t imagine why that would be the case, since she’d never seen my athletic prowess on the field, but my eye-hand coordination is legendary amongst ball-pool veterans from the days our children had their toddler birthday parties at Dan The Man’s.
Coach Jim strode to the mound, the neon yellow 12-inch, 530-pound compression Champro softball in his fist.
The hardest ball to palm, but no match against my rubber-band snapping reflexes. I crouched like a cheetah stalking an antelope in Oaxaca.
(My analogies know no bounds, like my athleticism.)
Coach Jim unleashed with a 5-mph toss, the batter wound up and CRACK! Struck the ball in the dead-center of her bat.
Wait a minute, what was this vaulting toward me?! A GROUNDER?!
Sweet mother of all that’s holy, grounders are my Kryptonite!
As it hurtled toward me, traveling at least as fast as a tortoise fleeing toward the shore, I pivoted glacially and pelted like wafting snowflakes toward the ball.
All eyes were on me as my stride began to get just the littlest bit away from me.
You know that kind of running where you step just a little too big, and then a little too much bigger, and then even a little bit bigger after that, with your head in the lead?
And then your head gets too far forward than the feet beneath it can withstand, and you begin to … how shall we call it … careen headfirst toward the dirt?
With twenty 11-and 12-year old girls and 4 daddy coaches watching, as you entirely miss the softball, which wobbles by and was your only justification for falling exactly flat on your face with your arms splayed out on either side of you, your empty mitt flung away and your feet flying up in the air behind you.
And then you are met with a dastardly silence.
Where the onlookers are trying to determine if you are really hurt and they should call an ambulance or whether you’re okay and they can laugh.
Here is an example of falls where it’s okay to laugh:
And time for me to take up knitting and gumming soft food.
Although I do think that had I been wearing cleats and an appropriate bra none of this would have happened!
But maybe it’s all for the best.
Because ever since the falling incident at my daughter’s softball practice, she is no longer intimidated when I come to watch her games and since then has never struck out, has hit countless doubles, triples, RBIs and just last Wednesday the kid stole home.