I quit playing Little League when I was 11. I never excelled at baseball as a child, and fifteen years after my final season, some of the things I remember most are that I struck out fairly often, I was a decent outfielder, and maybe once a season, I could hit a fluke triple. I do not trace my favorite childhood experiences to Little League. I treasure memories of going to Candlestick Park, playing epic Wiffle Ball games with my dad in our driveway, and accumulating tons of baseball cards before I understood their value. It’s harder to get nostalgic about mediocrity.
A lot of ballplayers aren’t very good starting out, like Dale Murphy who once said in a book for children, “I’m glad my appetite for trying wasn’t quenched after my first season in Little League when I struck out most of the time. I loved the game and I had fun playing it. I didn’t really realize that I had had a bad season.”
In sixth grade, I had a bad season. My teacher assigned an average of two hours of homework a night to prepare my class for middle school, and while I later aced seventh grade, my passion for playing baseball died. Twice a week in the spring of sixth grade, I sat three out of every six innings on the bench for my team, and it began to seem like a waste of time I needed for homework. I never played another season.
So it was with some excitement and trepidation that I greeted an invitation to join an adult softball team this year. I wondered if I’d be a different player with the strength of a grown man, or if this would merely be a continuance of my crappy childhood career. It turned out to be a little of both.
I still sat the bench about half the time, partly because we were a co-ed team who needed to keep a certain amount of female players on-field, and we had more male players than we knew what to do with. I also still wasn’t a very good hitter, at least early in the season when I struck out swinging a few times, which is embarrassing in a slow-pitch league. For a time this year, it was like I was 11 all over again, and I sometimes resented giving half my Sundays to games or practices. Even as I’m in my 20s and relatively unencumbered, my life is busy.
I’m glad I didn’t quit the softball team. I improved as the season progressed, up to my final at-bat. We were in our tournament elimination game on Sunday, and I came to the plate in the last inning with two outs, our team down 12-9, and the bases loaded. I smacked a two-run single and represented the winning run, though I got stranded at second base, and we lost.
Regardless, it’s the kind of experience that will keep a player coming out. I look forward to next year.