My firm has a softball team, which I stupidly agreed to play on. Miraculously, there are only three attorneys who play on the team - everyone else is staff... or staff's kids. And thank goodness for those kids cause they are ringers. They smack the cream cheese out of that ball.
Anyway. Growing up, I was not athletic. I played soccer like most kids in New Jersey, but I was not good. And as you get older, it becomes less about playing for the enjoyment and more about playing to win, and the kids who suck gets yelled at by the other kids for sucking. That was me - sucky. Also, I was that kid in gym class who was always the second to last picked (usually there was one kid in a class who was worse than me.... actually, said kid was usually not worse than me, but just happened to be less popular and sometimes you'll take the skinny kid with no reflexes over the kid with cooties). Not helping any of this was the fact that I seemed to perpetually get knocked in the head with the ball. My mom used to buck me up with sotries about how, when she was in high school, she failed gym, but she was the class valedictorian so who cares?
On the flip side of all this, I love team sports. Love love love. Baseball, soccer, basketball, hockey, and I bet I'd love rugby if someone would explain it to me. But since the age of 15, the only sports I have even bothered playing were tennis and golf - solo sports. That is mostly because, if you suck at those sports, the only person you disappoint is yourself. I hated that look that the good kids on a team would give each other when you struck out, or popped up, or dropped the fly ball - it was just so much easier to be a spectator.
Our firm softball team was formed last year and when I heard there was a team, I wondered how I could weasel out of playing. At the same time, I like watching softball and wanted to be supportive. Also, I wanted a team jersey. Our team captain, a fellow associate, is a pushy young man and somehow I got railroaded into playing. Tonight was my first game. Wendy gave me these words of advice: "Don't get hit in the head with the ball. I know you like to do that."
During first year of law school Josh went out and bought a Nerf bat and balls and as a break, we would go out behind the school and just hit the ball around. It was a great stress reliever and a great motivator. I learned that I still remember how to hit a ball from when my sister taught me as a kid (in an unrelated note, my sister taught me all the really important stuff in life - how to write my name, how to tie my shoes, the alphabet, and how to hit a ball). So I felt vaguely confident that I could hit the ball, though I was pretty sure it would just be an out. But still, so long as I didn't strike out!
I really didn't want to play any defensive role, though - I am not so great with catching a ball with a glove. So one of the paralegals and I traded off with catching duties, which seemed the place where I would do the least damage. At my first at bat, I did indeed pop up. But I didn't strike out! That was seriously my main concern. It takes effort to strike out at softball, and I know I am bad, but I didn't want to be that bad. I wasn't the worst catcher ever either, and after a few innings, I was definitely getting a handle on using the glove.
My second at bat - one of our law clerks had reached first base, and there were no outs. So no pressure - I could make an out and there would still be two chances for the rest of the team to score a run. But I got a hit! I got a hit! Grounder towards third base and I beat the throw. Hooray! Eventually, thanks to the people on the team who are actually adept at this sport, I scored a run. The aforementioned law clerk and I were both thrilled that we had contributed.
During the top of the 7th inning, though, the batter took a big swing and foul tipped the softball.... right into my face. Umm, yeah, it really hurt. Right into my eye. I staggered around for a minute, afraid to pull my hand away from my face, until one of my cohorts pulled me off the field. Luckily, other than some quick swelling, I could still see. But I might have a shiner tomorrow. After consultation with the teammates, it was agreed I should take out my contact lens before my eye could swell shut. Fun. Then there was some conversation about how I shouldn't over-ice my eye because the vitrious fluid could freeze. Also fun.
I called Dad when I got home to tell him the news. He was, naturally concerned, and wished I had been wearing a mask. But when I told him I had gotten a hit and scored a run, he couldn't contain the excitement in his voice: "You did??? That's wonderful!" Dad loves sports too, and I think he always quietly, secretly wished he had had athletic daughters he could go root for, instead of a coupla nerds who stayed inside reading (one of whom was always fighting him for the sports section). He asked if I cried when I got hit. "Nope." "You didn't cry, and you got a hit. You're tough, kid."