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10-12-2017, 07:30 PM
“My Last Chance to be A Boy”: Reflections of a 74 Year-old “Rookie”

“It’s my last chance to be a boy,” former President Theodore Roosevelt said when he was asked why he had decided, in his later years, to join an expedition into the Brazilian equatorial forest to map out an Amazon River tributary called “The River of Doubt”.

This spring, 2017, about one-hundred years after T.R. had explored the Amazon, I too was experiencing my own: “River of Doubt.” I was re-visiting an activity that I hadn’t participated in for nearly 45 years. I was once again playing, or should I say, attempting to play slow-pitch softball.

The last time I had played in a slow-pitch softball league was in the early-1970s. I was then about to turn 30. At that time, I was playing in my own town (now a city). I had then played for a team called “The News” (I was, at the time, a history teacher at the local high school; I was also covering high school sports for “The News” as a part-time “stringer”).

At this juncture, you may be asking: “What motivated me to return to playing softball?” Well, several thoughts come to mind, but in a few words: Friendship. Enjoyment. Competition.
As I think about it, I believe the idea about playing slow-pitch softball was piqued by the fact that every so often my wife and I would drive past the diamonds where local Seniors were playing slow-pitch softball. We’d see dozens of guys, and a few gals, playing softball. I remember one time commenting to my wife, “These guys aren’t young.” I then added, “Maybe I can still do this?”

In fact, for several years, I had given the idea of playing softball serious thought. Yet, every time I began to think about playing I would soon experience gnawing feelings of doubt. I’d begin questioning myself. I’d think, “It’s been so many years. Did I still have the necessary skills?” After all, I was far-removed from being that young guy who had made Little League and Babe Ruth League All-Star teams while playing on the fields of Boston’s Dorchester-Mattapan section.

Finally, this year, after much deliberation, I decided, as they say: “To take the plunge”. I remember there was still snow on the ground when I spoke with the Senior Softball Coordinator. I remember that he was most cordial. He filled me in with all the particulars. I do recall asking him for advice about playing softball as a 74 year-old “rookie”. In so many words, he told me to ease into things. This may be harder than you think. Don’t risk injury.

Well, leave it to me. My first game. I take batting practice. I remember stepping up to the plate and taking my position in the batter’s box. I recall that I wanted to make a good impression. I was primed as the first pitch arrived. I took a mighty swing…and missed. I swung with such force that I cork-screwed myself into the ground. I landed heavily on my left knee. At first, I thought it was just a slight bruise. In fact, I immediately got up and continued taking batting practice. Yet later, I knew I was in trouble when my knee started stiffening up. I would later have difficulty getting in and out of my car (I would subsequently find out that although I had no structural damage, I did have a deep bruise).

Thankfully, at least from my standpoint, our game the following week was rained out. A chance to recuperate, or so I thought. Not. I managed to continue playing, but I was playing poorly. In fact, in that very next game, my knee buckled on a ground-ball to second. I could hardly get up off the ground. I would then become a rotating catcher. Yet, I was happy that was still playing. I was thankful that I was still part of my Senior League team. However, I was also concerned that my poor play was hurting our team’s chances of winning.

After weeks of disappointment (my knee was slowly healing), a turning-point occurred. I was playing catcher when I caught a ball that was thrown to me from third-base to record an out at home. I was ecstatic. I had, at last, contributed. At that moment, I truly felt a part of the team. Yet, offensively, my hitting was abysmal.

As weeks turned into months, my play continued to improve (at least that’s what I was told by my teammates and umpires). Where I had earlier felt like the proverbial “bear in hibernation,” I was now beginning to “thaw out”. I was starting to feel more relaxed. More confident. As we moved into the second half of the season, I was, on occasion, hitting the ball with authority. I was starting to get on base. In addition, I was told that my catching and fielding skills were improving.

In the end, our team finished last in our division. Yet, in our 6-team league, every team makes the playoffs. In any event, we were quickly eliminated.

As I think back, I only wish I had started the season the way I had finished it. In hindsight, I should have heeded the division coordinator’s advice: “Ease into things”. It was lesson well learned

Will I play next year? I ’ll have to see. Yet, I was happy that I had decided to play this year. After all, I was no youngster.

Yes, Teddy Roosevelt’s words ring true for me today as they did for him over a century earlier: “It was my last chance to be a boy!”

10-13-2017, 12:30 PM
When I saw the thread title, I thought it was about Bruce/Caitlin Jenner having second thoughts. :)