As I got older, I was moved to first base. I think I would have been a great second baseman or shortstop but I throw left-handed so that wasn't an option. I loved playing first, scooping balls out of the dirt, trying to pick players off, making over the shoulder catches in foul territory. My shining moments as a first baseman were in my tenth grade year. I played on a team with a constant parade of inept right fielders. So my job was to play first and to get to whatever I could get to in right field as well. Richard Judy can attest to how many balls I dug out of the dirt thus saving him from any undue third base throwing woes.
I also grew to love playing the outfield by this point at pickup games up the street as well as at the nearby field we used to play at once we could drive. The narrow field up the street was tricky because if a ball was pulled or if it went too far, the ball would disappear in the woods. I loved making diving catches to save the ball from getting lost. I might not have been the best at judging a ball right off the bat but I was great at closing the gap and making the catch. I was good. Really fucking good. I also have great memories during that magical Orioles season of 1989 practicing diving catch after diving catch a la Brady Anderson and Steve Finley all summer long in backyards all across the greater White Oak area.
As a twentysomething softball player, I continued the brilliant run of defensive play. I wanted the ball hit to me. I loved playing left or center and catching every damn thing in sight. Softball was so damn easy compared to baseball. One famous punk rock teammate even likened me to Ted Williams as he marveled at one of my many stellar catches during one of those pickup games in the glory days of Punk Rock Softball'95. I didn't have the heart to let him know that Williams wasn't really known for his glove.
During my first summer in New York (1998), I was working at a camp on the Upper West Side. Occasionally after work, I wandered from field to field in Central Park trying to get in games. I made it into a few and I did well but I grew tired of trying to get some game action with a bunch of strangers.
The past few years, I've gotten into a few games here and there. But not many. My skills definitely have not stayed terribly sharp.
Over the past few weeks, I've been playing again. And I've been absolutely terrible. I can't field. I can't hit. It is frustrating. My attitude of "hit the ball to me" hasn't translated well to 2007. But I refuse to give up. I have seen some improvements over the few games I've played. My defense has gotten a little better but I'm still having a difficult time tracking the ball. I thought that after I got my prescription goggles that I'd be able to see the ball better from the outfield. And I do see it better but apparently my vision isn't why I'm having such a tough time telling where the ball is heading.
In one of the recent games, I was playing in the outfield and a flyball was hit to me. I called for it but then didn't quite make it to the ball. Right as it landed, I dove for it and landed a couple feet short. It was pretty embarrassing. I've fallen a long way from my "Ted Williams" days.
My hitting has improved after Jamie gave me a bit of advice. I am hitting the ball harder after my first few at-bats resulted in weak popups to the shorstop. I refuse to give up. I'm going to keep playing and I'm going to get better, damnit!
On Sundays (when I don't have a Mets game) I hope to play in the pickup games that Jamie and Mooney play in. The guys who play are a tough crowd. If you don't show anything, you don't really get too much respect. Completely understandable. One day as part of a doubleheader, I had to play 11 innnings at catcher. Catcher is where you put the worst player in softball. Ouch. But I deserve it until I show better.
Last week, I played on a Wednesday evening with a team run by the Athletic Director at my school. Coincidentally, we were playing a team consisting of players that I play with on Sundays. I wanted to prove to them that I could play. While I didn't make one play that I should have made, I did make one really nice running catch on a scorched drive that was heading for homerun territory if I had missed it. I hope the Sunday crew took note.
Jamie has been very supportive, both emotionally and with sound advice. The day after I misjudged the ball that I had called for, he sent me this e-mail.
"I came in on the ball when it came off his bat. It didn't sound right. I saw the barrel break off, so I broke in about three steps. I had to turn around and go back again. So it was quite impressive." -- Indians left fielder David Dellucci, on a broken-bat homer by the Tigers' Marcus Thames.Jamie will undoubtedly make a superb Little League coach one day.
just thought this was interesting in relation to what you were talking about with your fielding. notice that he's using audio as well as visual cues to try to catch a ball. as i said, it's all about repitition and the more you play, the easier it will get, especially once you get to know each individual hitter batter, how they like to hit and how the ball reacts (e.g. the new balls tend to jump off the bat more early in the game).
One of the guys on Sunday referred to me as former Orioles catcher Andy Etchebarren. With the goggles, I think I have more of a Daniel Cabrera thing going on. Maybe a cross between the two? Check out those eyebrows on Etchebarren.