I played 3rd base each game and did ok not letting the 3 balls that came to me go past and threw out at least one force at second. Other than that and a couple of hits and runs in the game we did win, I didn't get much action.
Today was different. After tentatively volunteering to try out pitching in our last practice, they put me in to pitch our 4th game. I say tentatively because I know the pressure I'd been under being a pitcher and I have enough issues with anxiety playing infield when the ball comes to me only a couple times. I do well in practice, but the real thing is unfortunately different for me. But I was willing to go for the challenge and figured facing my fears could help with any anxiety issues. When I was 13, I did pitch hardball in a local little league team, but not at any high caliber and that was like 20+ years ago.
During practice the days before the game, and during warm up before the game, I felt like my aim was good and I had a good curve and spin to the ball. I just hoped my nerves would allow me to bring that into the game itself. I understood through some online forums that slow pitch softball was a hitters game, so I was prepared to give up lots of hits and depend more on my fellow fielders to get the outs. This other team was undefeated, making it an additional challenge.
My first duty of this game was batting first, different from the other games when I batted toward the middle or end of the lineup. I swung at the first pitch, probably too high, but contacting it, disappointed it barely went past the pitchers mound and I hustled to first base. I swear I felt and heard my foot hit the bag before I heard the ball hit the first baseman's glove and was dismayed as I heard an out call. I was already halfway into the outfield before I came to a stop and just had a smirk on my face as I walked back to the dugout. Later on after the game I had a couple of people tell me I was definitely safe (grrr!). The next 2 batters also got out, so we had a 1-2-3 inning.
First Inning Pitching
I was up to pitch. The other team had about 5 minutes to practice pitching and the umpire only let me have about 2 practice pitches in. I'm not sure what that was about. Otherwise, everything started out well. I think I got hit on a couple of times, maybe 1 or 2 runs scored, but I didn't walk anyone (I think).
A Long Second Inning
The second inning we didn't score again. I went up to pitch and I lost whatever aim I had in the first inning. Most of my pitches kept curving outside the plate. And when I did get them over the plate, they either hit the plate (automatic ball) or when I tried getting them over the plate, I over compensated and pitched too high. I ended up walking too many players, some scoring because the bases got loaded, and they scored some on hits.
I could here people cheering me on and even heard my name coming from the opponents dugout. I was confused by that and thought someone in the other team was mocking me, although it didn't sound like a mock. Later on I realized one of my teammate's wifes was around their area.
The umpire eventually stopped the inning when they scored 7 runs, which is a rule the league has. I did my best not to let the anxiety get to me and did feel a little bit more confident toward the end of the inning.
I think it was this inning or maybe one of the others that I caught a pop-up between me and second base. I called out loud that I had the ball, realizing it was a bit behind me afterwards, so I had to stumble back fast, but caught the ball ok, with a slight bobble.
We again couldn't score, but we had a few good hits. I got up to bat again, but popped out to shortstop. Compared to practice and the last game, where I could control where I hit the ball and most of them deep, I was hitting horribly today.
While in the dugout, everyone was very supportive. I was disappointed with my pitching performance and was determined to do better. I was advised to step on the pitcher's rubber with the back of my right foot (I throw right). Before I wasn't stepping on it at all and just before it. At first I was afraid to try something different and thought it would push me off balance, but someone said it would actually help that.
Going out to pitch again I felt a burning, focused intensity grow in me. I also knew the other team made comments that I didn't give them a chance to hit the ball and I was determined to change that....in a good way for me. I accepted the advice to stand on the pitchers rubber. I got in 2 practice pitches and it felt ok. The first batter got up and I threw most of them down the middle, plus with a bit of that curve and spin I had during practice.
I felt myself more determined and in control. Not only with pitching, but also when the catcher threw the ball back to me, I was catching the ball firmer and stepping up more to catch shortly thrown balls, that I might have let fall on the floor before. In the earlier innings my nerves were making me fidgety catching the balls from the catcher, but that was gone now. I think about 2 runners did get on base with hits, maybe they scored one...I'm not really sure. I wasn't walking people this time though. The fielders were doing a good job keeping the runners from advancing too much and they got a couple of outs. I was also pleased to strike out a batter (yeah!!). Compared to the last inning, everything was perfect for me. I even had some of the spin/curve from practice which I think helped with the strikeout.
We batted. We had to score here because it was 10-0 and they stop the game after the 4th if it's a shutout. I think at least 1 person got on base, but we couldn't drive them in. The game was over. I really felt in the zone and wanted to pitch again and felt robbed of a chance. I'll just have to wait till next time and hope my anxieties have disappeared.
I was happy overall. Everyone fielded well and helped me out all they could. I won't be pitching next Sunday because I'm doing the Gasparilla Half in Tampa instead, but hope I get another chance the week after.
BTW, I'm awake now because I had some espresso at about 3:30 today and any caffeine for me after lunch keeps me up late. The caffeine also makes my mind start racing, so I thought blogging about this would help slow it down. Luckily I have President's Day off tomorrow.