Slow-pitch heaven in Portland
The pitcher stood on the rubber, glove and ball together at his waist, his blue T-shirt saturated under the sleeves. He glanced at the runner on third, then turned to look at the man on first. He spit. The batter at the plate took another practice swing and stepped into the box. Her red T-shirt glowed darkly under the field’s lights. The pitcher wound up, underhand-tossed the ball high and said loudly, “oral sex.”
The batter, our coach Tiffini, swung wildly and missed. It’s hard to hit a moving object when you’re laughing.
Such is the course of events in the life of a co-ed slow-pitch softball team. Vodka/Red Bulls, pop flies. Sunflower seeds, throwing people out at third from right-centerfield – it’s all in a day’s play. And there are few things as fun as playing softball on a warm spring evening.
The Portland Metro Softball Association, which runs men’s, women’s, co-ed slow pitch and men’s fast pitch leagues, is celebrating its 68th year of existence and boasts 10,000 players and 700 teams.
My team played a single-pitch tournament a few weekends ago. Single pitch means one pitch. Your own pitcher pitches to you and you have one chance to hit it or you’re out. Bad pitch? Out! Foul ball? Out! Hit your own pitcher with a drive? Out!
It was stated that we had to have five men and five women on the field at the same time. The excitement factor was through the roof. Runs came like raindrops, raindrops fell like balls of electricity, and the energy of the team waxed and waned with the weather.
Stepping into the batter’s box in single pitch is kind of bizarre. With the inaccuracies of most pitchers, it pays to take your first pitch. Can’t do that in single-pitch, though, can we? So you have to step into the box with your hitting stance on immediately. Tons of people were fouling off their pitch and sitting back down on the bench without even putting a ball into play. It was bizarre. Winning a bit and losing once, we advanced through the bracket.
Suddenly, we were face to face with a team that had driven to Portland all the way from Yakima to compete and we felt doomed. Their men were built like tanks, the women like beautiful brick outhouses. Three or four of them shredded T-shirts just taking some batting practice, with tatters of cotton getting picked up by the wind and scattered across the turf.
And the moment they came up to bat, the balls started leaving the park, destination unknown. But when the second bruiser spanked the softball about 380 feet, our whole bench started cheering. I was puzzled.
Someone said, in a voice dripping with delight, “It’s a home-run rule. They can’t hit another one until we do!”
So, every time they spanked a shot into the ether, it was like they’d never touched the thing at all. Knocking the cover off the ball was as good for them as dribbling their single pitch foul down the line.
The irony, I must say, was very sweet for a change. Usually our team is on the bad end of some debilitating rules like: The runner must touch every base, or one-hoppers are not automatic outs. Our team lives for the little things, those simple satisfactions that make the game so much fun. It has to. Each run is a tiny victory, and we’re usually happy for every single one. And it’s thinking like that that can help you through tough times in life, where victories are hard to come by.
Slow-pitch softball is a high-scoring affair played by people of all shapes and sizes. If you want to play, log on to Portland Metro Softball Association’s Web site at www.portlandsoftball.com.
And you can catch games all across town nearly every day of the week.
Visit a local park in the evening breeze and catch a little softball for a change of pace. And no heckling us.