Thursday, September 17, 2009
The Guy Dressed in Full Regalia
Listen up, dude. There are no TV cameras in the area. The Goodyear blimp will not be making an appearance. There are three fans in the bleachers, and only one of them is awake. Ninety percent of the guys out here are wearing a beat up T-shirt, an old pair of Champion shorts, and some $25 plastic spikes from Dunham's . So please do us all a favor and explain why you are dressed to the f$%#king nines like it's the seventh game of the World Series.
Wearing long pants is one thing. Quite understandable, actually. The infield dirt is far from perfect and nobody wants to go home with a bloody wheel. But that doesn't give 'Full Regalia Guy' the right to show up all pinstriped out in major league quality gear like he just finished a photo shoot with Jeter and A-Rod. I might even go so far as to allow the baseball pants, but somehow the pinstripes being involved just puts this mook on a totally different, much sicker, level. Up top, this gear-obsessed individual refrains from simply donning the typical sweat-stained tee that most of us find perfectly suitable. He instead opts to wear an actual softball jersey from one of his former teams that reads, "1992 Garden City Fall Ball Regular Season Co-Champs" in a bizarre attempt to 'impress' the rest of us with his glory-filled history that most likely involved too few women and far too many late-night Tombstone Za's.
Throw in the thick Nike wristbands he wears on each wing, the eye-black typically reserved for big leaguers splattered all across his mug, and the prescription Oakley sunglasses he has perched atop his surgically-bent authentic Olde-Enlgish D cap, and you've got "Full Regalia Guy" in a nutshell. He might look good, and he might feel good, but none of that can ever make up for the immense amount of respect we all lose for him every time he steps between the white lines.
The Guy with the Cooler
This guy is always one step ahead of the game. Whereas you show up to the field on a blistering summer day with nothing but a warm (and soon to be much warmer) bottle of water, Cooler Guy comes fully prepared. He's got his equipment slung over one shoulder, but it's the other arm that carries the truly precious cargo...the cooler. In this little compartment of heaven, our hero has jammed in a healthy amount of cubed ice, below which sit all of the softball cooler essentials. There are the 3-4 sports drinks, all different flavors, a couple of 20 ounce waters just to keep everything balanced, and then finally, the grand finale. That one little pudgy can of Coca-Cola Classic, crammed into the deep corner of the cooler, enveloped in ice, just waiting to be cracked open and guzzled after that final pitch in what is undoubtedly the most perfect beverage choice for that exact moment in time. You might out-hit or out-run the Cooler Guy once in a while, but trust me, he will always be more refreshed.
The Guy that Cares Too Much
A routine single that could be a double with extreme hustle and a death-defying slide into second base?? Check. Able to recite the standings team-by-team heading into the final week and exactly what your squad needs from each game to get into the playoffs? Check. Willing to stay after your game to watch other teams play just to pick up a few scouting tips for the future? Check and mate. This guy has always held a special place in my heart because frankly, I am this guy.
I'm not bragging about it and I'm not exactly proud of the fact, but I won't try denying it, either. I've been known to show up an hour before game time just to secure the coveted 3rd base dugout that makes it easier to coach your guys rounding the bag heading for home. I lie awake many a night during the softball season lamenting a missed opportunity at the plate or a muffed grounder that could have been an easy two. But I'm not exactly the only one. My dad and brothers will also talk about last week's games until they are blue in the face, often forcing someone to declare a "moratorium," at which point no more softball discussion can take place until a new game is played.
Like I said, I'm not proud of myself...but it's who I am. I'm the guy perfectly willing to slide on a jagged-pebbled infield and live the rest of my life with an 8-inch scar along my left shin just to make sure I avoid the sweep tag on a play at the plate during a meaningless back-end of a doubleheader on a 96° day in the middle of July. You might beat me on a particular day, but trust me...nobody cares more than I do. I'm just not sure that's a good thing...
The Guy that Worships the Rule Book
Slo-pitch softball is generally a pretty controversy-free affair. Or at least it should be. Rules Guy is constantly looking to mix it up...once the play is over. In one game this year, older brother and rulebook aficionado Gabe spent the full seven innings calling out the opposing hurler for "not being on the rubber" when delivering the pitch. Now, in a sport where the ball is pretty much served up to the hitter on a silver platter, such a minor infraction would normally go unnoticed. Not when Rules Guy is in the building. He will bring it to the umpire's attention repeatedly even though it is painfully clear that the man in blue could care less if the pitcher was delivering the ball from Saturn. He's here to scoop his 27 bones and be on his way while exerting as little energy as humanly possible for the hour and a half he's behind the plate.
But back to Rule-Man. He's not so much concerned with the normal ins and outs of the game. He goes to a deeper level, where few have gone before and even fewer have returned unharmed. He'll research the legality of an obscure softball item like the "Knob Cuff," a device attached to the bat handle to improve grip. Again, it's no big thing either way...a knob-cuffed bat ain't gonna make or break someone's day at the plate. But Rules Guy isn't hearing it. He's by the book, through and through. You can try and sneak one by him, but I wouldn't recommend it. The last guy who did wound up getting his "knob" cuffed...if you know what I mean.
The Guy that Always Has "Somewhere to Be"
This guy takes scheduling conflicts to a whole new level. Sure, he only has one or two softball games a week, but you can be sure that those games will be taking place at the exact same time as another monumentally important event in the guy's life. You would think that only the President of the United States could be this busy, but apparently you'd be mistaken.
And the thing is, "Somewhere to Be Guy" never really has a classic excuse. He'll give you a heads-up during the week that's as off-putting as it is reassuring. You'll get a curious E-mail that gets progressively more bizarre with each word you read.
"Might only be there for 1st game this wknd. B'day party at 11:30. Clown needs ride. C ya Sunday...if I'm still alive."
You sit there and re-read it a good dozen times, but the message never becomes more clear or less insane.
Is it actually his birthday party, and that's why he has to be on time? It could be a kid party, but you know for a fact this guy is unmarried and doesn't really have any friends with little ones of their own. And why is he the one in charge of picking up the clown? Don't clowns generally transport themselves to such events, and to take it one step further, haven't we all pretty much decided as a society that clowns are just too downright creepy to enjoy at any more large gatherings? None of these questions are answered, because the guy in question is always too hyper during the game to get any real information out of. He's always so worried about getting out on time, saying cryptic things like, "Let's get a 1-2-3 inning here, boys! Or else you might not be seeing me at all next week. Wish I was kiddin'!!!"
At this point, you seriously consider calling the police to report this mystery clown that clearly becomes homicidal if he is not picked up at the previously agreed upon time. But then you reconsider. Because having "Somewhere to Be Guy" on the roster is always way more trouble than it's worth, and having him clipped by some freak with size-26 clodhoppers and a giant red nose might be just the solution you've been looking for all along.
This guy can only hide his extreme level of inebriation for so long. He might show up to the field at a reasonable time before the game. He might take a seat on the bench and lace up his cleats. Everything appears to be normal. Then the Lush steps to the plate for his first AB and you realize something ain't right. He fouls the first pitch off, but it's one of those foul balls that could almost be considered a swinging strike with how little contact was really made. The next pitch is three feet outside, and you can tell it took every fiber of the Lush's being not to hack at it. The final pitch of the sequence is the one that finally jumps up and tells you..."This man had a LOT to drink last night." It's a meatball, right down the middle, perfect arc. But Lush starts his under-the-influence swing way too late. He loses hold of his back foot in the process. And when his bat finally finishes its adventure with a triple-hitched follow through that would make only Charles Barkley proud, the ball is nestling cozily in the catcher's mitt and Lush is presumably done for the day.
He might make it back to the dugout in one piece, but you can be sure that within the next 10-15 minutes, he will be taking a few steps towards the nearest garbage can and leaning over to let out some of last night's celebration while everyone else looks on in sheer horror. That's the thing you can never figure out about the Lush. If he's gonna go out the night before a doubleheader and just get absolutely blasted to smithereens, why even bother showing up?? Somehow, Señor Lush thinks he has this superpower-like ability to pound 16-18 brews, chase 'em with several unidentified shots, and still resemble a legitimate able-bodied athlete the next morning just because he got 2.5 hours of sleep on his buddy's kitchen floor and then crushed a 64-ounce Lemon-Lime 'Rade on the way to the field. A real chemist. Thankfully, usually after the Lush takes his first embarrassing turn at the dish, he calls it a day. He'll find a comfortable piece of dugout bench to pass out on or just try "walking it off," which will also generally result in him tipping over and then proceeding to black out for the next 2-45 hours. But every team's gotta have a Lush, or else it wouldn't be the great American pastime that is Slo-Pitch Softball.
Got a "Softball Guy" of your own?? Drop your example in the comments area below, or send me an E-mail with your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org