It's already ten past eleven. The game was due to start at 11. The rain is falling, and we only have seven players. “Welcome to recreational baseball” says one wag. This is the time of year when it gets harder and harder to muster a team — people go off on holiday, early season enthusiasm wanes, and players drift off. And when we get a rare rainy day, it's even harder to leap out of bed on a Sunday morning to do your thing.
But with a patchwork team we took the field. Paul pitched for the first time — ever — in a competitive game. I took second base for the first time this season. And things didn't start that well, with the visiting Pirates racking up eight runs off us. I thought Paul did a really good job but we could have backed him up better. For example, one routine infield pop-up fell to earth needlessly. Off the bat it looked like it had some air on it and, being decisive, I gave a loud shout and moved in. But then it started to die, still yards in front of me. And I realised I wasn't going to get there even with a dive. It was falling close behind Paul, and Ilya was coming in from shortstop, but the ball ended up in the grass between us all. Now, Ilya had the right to call me off, but we are both learning our positions, so that is the sort of situation where you are exposed by lack of practice as a unit.
Overall, I think I still have a bit of a tendency to get sucked into the centre of the diamond looking for a play to make, as I have not yet developed the innate sense of where I need to be. Watching some Major League action on Monday I saw players move around so smoothly it made you sick. Earlier this season, my positioning cost me a couple of outs which I could have made had I been standing someplace else. On one occasion in this game when I had moved towards third (arguably for good reason — to help guide the cut off from the outfield, precisely because we are novices) the play ended with a tag out at second base made not by me but by Matt, the right fielder, who had astutely come in to cover.
I was pleased to get in one successful tag of my own. A runner made the turn for second — possibly on an overthrow, I can't remember — but our wily manager Marty, playing first base, saw the opportunity and sent a good throw my way. This time I had been able to think quickly enough about where I needed to be — over the bag, so I was out of the runner's way, but could still make the play in front of it. I was able to apply the tag just in front and get the out. I regret to say that I did indulge in a moment of celebration (for which I hereby apologise to the Croydon manager!). I meant no disrespect, but was merely excited to be part of a genuine bang-bang play. I got to make a couple more plays, including one graceless stop of a ground ball threatening to disappear up the middle, which ended with me crawling after the ball on the infield dirt. It's the results that matter, that's what I say!
And it was another week of terrible swings at the plate. Two strikeouts — the first from an at-bat which started 2-0 — and then a walk once I had got myself under enough control to foul off pitches and leave alone the junk! I'll give myself a brownie point for reaching base on a dropped third strike, the first time I remember ever having the presence of mind to do so. We put together a good rally in the final inning and it was a really fun game to play in. Once you get to late July, you have to enjoy the fact that you can keep it together at all.