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Shhhh! Don’t tell anyone, but I’m the secret weapon. On my co-ed softball team. And I’ve never even played before. I take that back. I’ve played a little. I subbed as needed last summer, but I wasn’t any good. Failed most at bats. Never got anyone out. It wasn’t my fault though. No one would ever throw me the ball. Probably because I’m forty-something and have never touched a softball or bat. Silly kids! They think you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.
This season though, I’ve only struck out once. See, I use “The Think System.” You know, like Professor Hill in The Music Man. If you think you can play music, you can. It’s the same concept. If you believe you will hit the ball, you will.
This summer I’ve also found it helpful to suck up to the umpires. It’s been super-easy since I’m the catcher. Guy umps or gals, they’ve all been very nice. They try so hard to teach me the rules. And heck, they throw more balls back to the pitcher than I do. Plus, they give me grace when I fling the bat after I hit.
“I’ll have to call you out for that next time, sweetie,” they say almost every game.
I always blow them a kiss from first base. “Yes, sir or ma’am. Thank you, so much!”
My coach says I’m much better at defense this season. It might be because I talked my husband into giving me twenty bucks every time I get someone out. So far, I’ve caught a couple of pop-up fouls and tagged a girl who didn’t know her tiny hit was fair.
I’ll admit, I’ve always been super-good at psychological defense. No one had to teach me that.
“You’re talking smack,” my husband said.
“No, I’m not,” I said. “I’m killing ‘em with kindness, with sugar.”
First off, I am determined to learn everyone’s name on the other team. Then I use their names or nicknames as often as possible. When they’re up at bat, I give a running commentary of what I know about each hitter.
“This is Rebecca. She’s a math teacher at the high school. She hit a line drive to Corey last time she was up but that’s way better than striking out.” Or “This is Samantha. Isn’t she adorable? Not everyone can pull off a side ponytail.”
My chatter makes some people giggle. Others get mad. Usually the guys. Their shoulders squeeze their ears and if I step in front of them to get a ball, they tend to have furrowed brows and small eyes. Mad or glad, it throws them off. Bad for them. Good for us.
One of my favorite things about playing softball is breaking down the hardcore, rough, tough, cream-puff, winning-is-everything players. They’re not always guys either. I’d have to use a hammer to get some girls to crack a smile.
Once they get to know and like me though, some teams let me get on base, just because. One time, I even got hugged.
“Thank you so much,” I said when I touched third base. “For dawdling, just so I could get here.”
“Girl, you are the cutest thing ever,” the third basewoman said. “Give me a hug.”
I grinned and leaned into her arms. “Your lips look chapped,” I told her. “Want some lip gloss?”
Besides making sure everyone has a good time, I really enjoy the hand pat line after the game.
“This was fun.”
“Good luck the rest of the season.”
“You, Missy, are tonight’s MVP.” A big, tall guy with three white zeros on his blue jersey told me once.
I glanced behind me, then back at him. I pointed to my chest. “Are you talking to me?”
He huffed. “Uh, yeah.”
I pulled him aside. “I’m not a MVP, Triple Zip,” I said. “I’m a SW.”
He brushed his sweaty bangs to the side and squinted down at me. “A what?”
I balanced on my tiptoes, cupped my hands around my mouth, and whispered. “Secret weapon.”
He grinned and thumped me on the back. “That you are, Missy. That you are.”
“And guess what else, Zip?” I said. “I’m living proof that you can indeed teach an old dog new tricks.”