Sunday, March 8, 2009

*F7*

On Friday evening my daughter lost her fancy, text messaging machine of a cell phone. Her world went suddenly mute. We searched for it, me several times and once by desperate flashlight. She was already upset with herself when I decided she was getting a little sloppy mentally. Last year she lost her digital camera. We get nice equipment. She might be a bit spoiled. But, I don’t like financially paying $300 every few months just because she can't keep up with her shit.

So, I made some rules and forbid her from using Jennifer’s laptop, which she uses all the time, more than Jennifer. She asked: “Why?”

In explaining this to her I expressed a dissatisfaction on her level of maturity. She was a lazy ass. She almost teared up.

The next morning she was to sign up for high school, apply for special classes she wanted to take. Electives. She got to meet some of her would-be teachers and look at textbooks, talk about examples of classes.

Her travel fastpitch softball team was opening the season the same day. My daughter missed the first game of the tournament applying for high school but we all made it in time for the start of the second game. Driving separately, I got some Saturday morning chores done and met them at the tournament.

She played leftfield in the tournament and generally batted 8th in a 10-player line-up. At the plate she has basic, sound batting skills but has yet to learn to consistently drive the ball, although she does it more now than she did last year. When she does drive the ball she tends hit it out of reach over second base, she bunts well, she is slow but she makes consistent contact. She did not strikeout the whole tournament. She puts the ball in play.

For the tournament, she missed one game and sat out one game. The team played 6 games that day, 3 back to back to back. She had 1 RBI, 2 sacrifice bunts, and she was safe on a fielders’ choice that yielded no out, all runners safe. She hit the ball hard a couple of times and once she hit a fly out to leftfield.

You score that an F7 when scoring a fastpitch game. Which is what I was doing while she played.

The first person I saw when I walked up to the second game was our top pitcher’s father. He’s a really nice, laidback genuine guy. He’s the team’s pitching coach and he signals pitches out to our catcher and pitcher during the game.

He was also keeping score during the first game and “insisted” that I keep score the next game. I refused. He insisted in a good-natured way. Hell, I like keeping score. I’m nerdy enough to be that kind of guy. I have my own system for some things, but I adhere to the basic scoring of position numbers on given at bat. You can keep decent stats off my scoring.


The problem for me is that I get so into the game as a fan that I sometimes forget that I’m keeping score. I’m a sloppy score keeper because I yell so much at games that I’m hoarse for a couple of days afterwards. So my scoring suffers. I miss recording a couple of pitches. I get into big plays and then have to set down and try to remember what all happened on the play because instead of watching everything I was watching the ball and screaming.

I am a vocal fan. Many of the parents are. It’s part of the fun of the game, to be so into it as if it were a professional level of play because it is quality play most of the time and these are our children. They want to win. The parents want to win. This is about fun but its about playing the game well too. No sloppy play.

Mostly I yell for good plays and for encouragement. Sometimes I yell because blue has made of very bad call. I have learned when I yell at the umpires I turn my back to the field and scream out away from them. They never get on to me for that. But, we had some critical bad calls go against us.

When my daughter hit the ball that was scored F7 it was a bright cloudless Saturday in early spring. The sun was gentle though. There was a light breeze. It was almost dreamy being in this fastpitch space. All around were other games. The place was a vast, open flurry of athletic activity and fan activity too. I had a couple of hot dogs with a Coke. That’s required for me to validate my existence, watch ball being played and eating a hot dog. People were everywhere talking about everything. Some into the games.

When she hit that F7, mechanically, she lowered her shoulder. She didn’t stand tall and drive the ball. It’s something she needs to learn to do as a hitter. When she does it line drives are the result. But, she lowered her should and got under the pitch slightly, it may have fooled her a bit. Pitchers are of a great quality at this level, many of them knowing a wide variety of pitches. Rising fast balls, drop balls, curves, change-ups, lots of different locations, and wicked screwball pitchers.

My daughter wouldn’t speak to me at the beginning of the tournament. Earlier that morning, before she registered for school Jennifer and I requested that she get there about 10 minutes early. My daughter, still cell-phoneless, screamed that “we didn’t understand” that they would not let us in a moment before our appointed schedule. She slammed the door and started walking in her softball uniform and socks – nothing else was on her feet – down our 300 foot driveway toward the rural road that runs against our land in front of our house.

I yelled at her first, prompting the explosion. It was a low moment for good parenting, a failure of it. But it happened. I was pissed at her and she was pissed at me. I was dressing when I yelled. It was a quiet Saturday morning. The leafless trees were plentiful with birds and their unabashed callings in our open, rural space.

I hear Jennifer asking her not to walk down the driveway, she will ruin her socks. Suddenly, I am outside running at her down our driveway, shirtless, in the morning dew, growling. She runs down the driveway, away from me. I chase her about 75 feet when Charlie, our puppy, comes storming past us down the driveway, toward the road.

I realize this is very bad situation here and I stop. My daughter stops about 50 feet in front of me. I tell her to stop running. She says she is going to get Charlie. She retrieves Charlie and returns. I talk forcefully to her about whether she’s going to act mature about things or as a baby. I had taken away her laptop privileges, which made her muteness assured and road her ass back up to the house.

So she wasn’t speaking to me at the start of the tournament. But, as the day worn on, out of necessity of asking for money if for no other reason, we started to talk in short, sharp sentences.

Jennifer watched a couple of games, enjoying the day and then headed back home to check on Charlie and our other dogs and do some gardening on the beautiful afternoon. We communicated by cell phones, so my daughter and my wife stayed in touch.

While gardening Jennifer found my daughter’s cell phone outside in our back yard. I must have combed that area at least twice and didn’t see it the night before.

This brightened my daughter’s outlook tremendously and diffused the situation. She could forgive me enough to smile with me again. And we cut up a bit in the sometimes long waits between play.

We were in the semi-finals. We played a team from a small town about 40 miles away. They had a very good pitcher. But, we had our best pitcher starting and she struck out the first three batters she faced. Ordinarily, she isn’t a strikeout pitcher. She’s a “junk” ball pitcher. She doesn’t walk many, stays around the plate, and has picked up decent speed on her fastball since last year.

She was pitching a shutout and we had managed to score one skinny run off the opposing pitcher. But, one’s all you need and we were up 1-0 late in the game. The opposing batter drove the ball fairly deep into left-center field. My daughter moved quickly to her left to make the catch, our centerfielder also attacked the ball without either girl calling for it.

My daughter timed it perfectly and made a nice running catch. It was the defensive play of the game. But, then the jaw of our centerfielder crashed into my daughter’s left shoulder. The side she catches with. My daughter went abruptly down, our centerfielder staggering to the outfield wall and holding her face in her hands, crying.

My daughter rolled to the ground, her knee having collided with our centerfielder’s knee. She rolled three times. She did not let go of the ball. She kept it in her glove when they collided, all the way to the ground and during two out of three rolls on the ground. As my daughter rolled the third time, she loosened the grip on her glove out of pain and the glove came off her hand. Maybe since her glove came off it wasn't a strictly legal catch, but the ball was in the glove and she was able to take it out of the glove and give it to an umpire.
The ball never touched the ground.

We were silent. The coaches and umpires ran to the outfield. Our third baseman started yelling “she’s got the ball, the ball’s in her glove” repeatedly. I stood, ink pen in my right hand, score book in my left. They checked my daughter, a few more running to our centerfielder. Time moved slowly.

There, laying in deep in the outfield, was her glove with the ball sitting in it, not touching the ground. The glove was perfectly flat, the ball snagged in it. The batter was out.

What made that so important was that if my daughter had not caught the ball that batter would have been on second base at least. The next batter came up and got a hit off our pitcher. That hit would have gotten the run home and at least tied the game. But as things happened it was a victory taking us to the championship round.

I yelled “way to hold on to that ball out there” and I hollered her name and cheered. Some of the other parents laughed at me. Some applauded both our girls. It was a great catch. Neither girl was hurt. Both could play on though they did take the centerfielder out. My daughter stayed in the game.

I scored her F7 in my own method. In the batter’s box of the score card, after I calmed down enough to actually write, I place an asterisk on both sides of the F7, to denote a big play. I do this with all big plays I score. The asterisks don’t interfere with the interpretation of what the scoring is but they do say there is something special about it. So…*F7*.

After her great catch I walked into the dug out to check on the centerfielder, one of our most athletic players. She was fine and would be able to play the next game. I then walked up to my daughter, high-fived her, locked fingers in the high five, and she slightly squeezed my hand. I very forcefully said, “Awesome friggin' play!"

We lost the championship game but finishing runner-up in a tournament of good teams is not a bad start to the season. Our team looked very solid overall. It should be a fun year.

At any rate, the time changed this weekend and we found ourselves playing the championship game at 11:00 in the evening (which was really midnight, but not just yet). Everyone was tired. My daughter was happy and talkative knowing she’d played pretty well and that her mother was taking care of her cell phone. A clear half-moon was overhead. Few people stuck around for the championship game. They leave when they’re beaten.

My daughter and I drove back alone. We had normal chit-chat conversation about this play or that play during the tournament, what she heard someone say on the field, mundane things like that. At some point, I realized that the cell phone had ramped the karma of everything up and now finding it had ratcheted things down again. Maybe we were just tired. We talked about how the day started, chasing each other pissed down our quiet driveway, yelling, myself half dressed and both of us with just socks on our feet. There was a heavy dew, the grass was wet. (Unfortunately, the cell phone took on moisture being out all night. But it seems to be evaporating and the phone seems to work.)

We laughed. Two extremes. Neither of us pissed at anything right then at all.

She slept. We got home about 1:15 which was really 2:15. I was very tired, having kept myself going by my intense interest in the game and chocolate to augment the hot dogs. I sent my daughter off to her bedroom. By 2:40 I was in bed but it took awhile to fall asleep.

Jennifer woke up beside me. I whispered in my already hoarse voice a recital of the day’s events since she had left. We thought about that glove just laying so perfectly out there with the ball clearly in it. We laughed and settled down and went off to sleep.

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