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05/10/2006 - 9:02 a.m.

HOLD THAT BAT!

So a promising minor league player has been suspended for 50 games for throwing a bat. I do not follow sports much, at least not intentionally and not when FogieKnight’s radio is quiet, but I heard about this suspension while looking for a traffic report on the radio this morning and it caught my ear. It caught my ear because I used to play catcher. Catchers live in fear of thrown bats.

I played softball in college. I did not play varsity—or anything close to it. I know my limitations. I’m no great athlete. But I could catch and I could hit. I could not throw under pressure very well and I ran so poorly that I ha to hit a double to get to first base—but I usually hit that double. I also could squat for a long time. In other words, I was a natural to play catcher and I did.

The team was an intramural team from my dorm. We played against other dorms, not other colleges. Ours was a co-ed team but we did not like the rules in the co-ed competition so we played in the men’s league. Apparently, unlike in the women’s league or the co-ed league, no one contemplating the men’s league had thought to designate the gender of the actual players. More apparently, at times, many of the men did not like playing a team with women on it. Most apparently, they did not like being beating by a team with women on it—and, to our shock and joy, we managed to get into the finals for the league.

But I played catcher and I had the ordinary problems of a catcher. One of those problems creates a real fear of thrown bats. Most thrown bats are accidentally thrown. A batter bats and, in his or her exuberance at actually connecting with the ball and the thrill of running to first, the batter’s adrenaline sometimes causes the placing of the bat to be, well, over-enthusiastic. But a few bats are more malicious.

In the game before the finals, we played one of those teams that really resented the women on our team. Mainly, they seemed to resent the men—the traitors---who would play with the women but easy targets are easy targets. They threw balls at players’ heads—and one of them hit a player in the face and, although we did not know it until after the game for sure, broke his cheekbone. Brush-backs, for the men, came with real force. I spent a lot of time trying not to show fear and looking out for the bats.

But even that group did not throw bats at the umpire and worked very hard to look as though they were just careless with the bats. Unlike Delmon Young, they only threw the bats when they got a hit. Mr. Young, who claims he has no anger management problems, threw his bat after his third strike.

If I were ruler of baseball, Mr. Young would not be out for 50 games. After his three strikes, he threw the bat. He’d be out—permanently.

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