Jun 24, 2016

How To Get To Third Base

Last night at MCU Park, in my hometown of Brooklyn, just a few short miles from the house I grew up in, I finally got to third base.

For most of Little League, I was a solid fielder and baserunner, but I was a terrible hitter.  I was a super shy, sensitive kid, and the constant defeat of every strikeout took its toll on me.  It wasn't long before I was banished to the bottom of the lineup and out to Right Field (aka 'Little League Purgatory').

At some point, to relieve the pressure of (not) hitting the ball, my father suggested I learn how to pitch.  Soon, being out there on the mound became a badge of honor for the kid who couldn't hit.  I didn't throw hard, but I had great control and a fundamental understanding of pitching that led to my election to my league's All-Star Game and the big confidence boost that accompanied it.  I still couldn't hit for shit, tho - so when I wasn't pitching, it was back to Purgatory.

In Little League, I hit a few singles, maybe a couple of doubles, but I never got to third base.

Last night at MCU Park, in my hometown of Brooklyn, just a few short miles from where I played Little League, in front of my Elvis Duran Show co-workers and a crowd of dozens, I finally got to third base.

I didn't play ball in high school - not big enough, not strong enough.  Not dedicated enough.  I got into music and girls and Stephen King.  I played drums in my parents' basement and listened to Def Leppard albums in my broom closet-sized room.  I nerded out on Calvin and Hobbes and horror movies and left the sports to the jocks.

I started playing softball in a league with my co-workers at Waldbaum's, a Brooklyn supermarket where I spent my after-school weeknights, making money so I could buy more Stephen King books and Def Leppard albums.  I worked in the frozen food aisle with my sister's boyfriend.  He was the captain of our team and treated me with respect, batting me high in the lineup and letting me play the infield.

In the Waldbaum's league, I was a pretty solid player.  I hustled and made some nice plays in the field, even pitched a little.  I got plenty of singles, more than a few doubles, but I never got to third base.

Last night at MCU Park in my hometown of Brooklyn, just a few short miles from where I played softball in the Waldbaum's league, in a concrete lot across the street from the high school both my parents went to, I finally got to third base.

I barely play softball anymore.  Whenever the folks at iHeartMedia decide to put on a company softball game, I play.  If there's something going on for charity, I play.  The Brooklyn Cyclones are good friends of the morning show, and I've been psyched to participate in a handful of charity events they've hosted, last night's included.  Both my gloves drowned in a hurricane, so now I borrow my Dad's whenever I make a softball cameo.

In all of those games, I've performed admirably, especially for a guy who plays once or twice a year.  I've hit a few singles, maybe a hustle double or two, but I never got to third base.

Last night at MCU Park in my hometown of Brooklyn, just a mile or so from where I stacked frozen broccoli florets in a Waldbaum's freezer, at The Biggest Gay Softball Tournament Ever, in front of four teams comprised of gays and lesbians, I finally got to third base.

This is how I did it - and this is how you can do it too - in just 5 simple steps.

Step 1: Carry A Big Stick

The bigger your stick, the more the balls are likely to carry and the better chance you have to round the bases.  If you don't know how to handle your stick, you're more likely to strike out than you are to bang one out.  Don't believe me?  Ask Skeery Jones.

Step 2: Find A Hole

In slow pitch softball, it's all about placement.  You've gotta position your stick and your body to find a hole.  I'm a dead pull hitter, and so I poked one right down the line in No Man's Land between third base and left field.  From there, it was off to the races.

Step 3: Be Aggressive

As illustrated in the photo above, the ball is being received by the second baseman and I'm already like "Peace out, mofo."  I had no business heading to third base but I went for it anyway.  Ask yourself how bad you want to get to third base, then find an opening and go get what you came for.

Step 4: Dive In Hard

Since the ball was thrown in behind me, and unaware of what was happening in my rear, I decided to dive for the bag, kicking up some grass on the field in the process.  It was pretty thrilling, diving headfirst into third without hesitation.  Also, if this looks like the slide of someone who is sliding headfirst for the first time, that's because it is the first time.  Looks like I got hit by a rhinoceros.

Step 5: If You Make It, Get Pumped

After cradling the base, I popped up and immediately high-fived the biggest guy on my team, showing everyone that I meant business.  In the moment, I thought about pulling third base out of the dirt and taking it home, Rickey Henderson style.  Sure, my left hand was bruised and I had cut up my left leg pretty good, but I had a triple.  I had gotten to third base.

To prove how this whole situation had injected me with confidence, during my next at-bat, I hit another triple, and this time I got there standing up.  Getting to third base is always easier the second time around.

Our ragtag Elvis Duran Show team lost the game 12-10, which was pretty impressive considering we had a one-armed, one-legged pitcher, a catcher who had never worn a glove or swung a bat before, the immortal, aforementioned Skeery Jones batting third, and about 25 less players than the opposing team.

As for me, as always, I did my best to contribute, to add a little excitement to the game.  To enjoy the moment.  When I got home, I texted Dad to thank him for letting me use his glove.  To tell him I hit two triples.  To tell him I finally got to third base.  Twice.  But I still needed someone to drive me home.

Guess I'll have to hit a dinger next time.

Softball photos courtesy of Teri Brennan Photography.
For more on the Big Apple Softball League, click here.
Not that there's anything wrong with that.