What do tight short-shorts, cut-off jerseys and big balls remind you of? Well, for me, only one thing comes to mind: a game in an old man softball league.
Prior to this school year, that would not have been the case. But since I joined my competitive softball team in August, Thursday nights have been filled with semi-intense soft-pitch games that feature incredibly athletic moments, incredibly un-athletic, “only in an old man league,” moments and most recently, an incredible championship moment.
But before we get to the championship, some history of how this team evolved needs explaining.
Over this last summer, I spent my day-to-day living in a Huntington Beach family-sized house with six other college dudes: all friends, all smart-asses and all avid competitors. Whether it was pick-up games at the park, quarters, or who could produce the most trash and not take it out, we all possessed an affinity for competition.
After a few months in the house, the notion to join the local softball league was starting to take action. As we started to realize we actually had some ball players in the house and in our general circle of friends, the wheels started turning.
The name of the team, The Keystone Warriors, was established and in our eyes, there was no stopping how dominant we were going to be. We were hyped. The team name combined the house’s beer of choice and our inherent desire to destroy all competitors (a.k.a being a Warrior). We felt it was our chance to relive the glory days of high school ball. A jersey design surfaced and a softball bat was purchased. We brought out our old gloves and got our long toss on. We were ready to represent all of the Keystone drinkers in the nation.
Sadly, (long story short) we lost all of our regular season games and in a handful of those we got mercy ruled. Needless to say, we identified with the “Keystone” part of our name more than the “Warrior” part in that first go-around.
But in the loser bracket of that season’s three-game playoff, something incredible happened: we figured out how to play. Like a flashbulb lights up over the head of a troll, we, after two months of playing, realized that we should put the guys that can actually catch the ball in the outfield. Genius, right?
We won those last three games of the first season and knew that The Keystone Warriors had reached its potential.
Now fast-forward to April 16, 2009. After our epiphany at the end of last season, The Keystone Warriors came into the new season and steamrolled all opponents. Losing only once throughout the regular season and winning in the first two rounds of the playoffs, it was time for the Warriors to do what we had originally set out to do: Go into the championship game and absolutely ruin a team of old men to take home the Huntington Beach softball league championship. And yes, it comes with a sweet plastic trophy.
The Keystone Warrior lineup ran as follows: 1. Jack (UCI Sailing team) 2. Eduardo (CSUF) 3. Chris (UCI Grad Student) 4. Big Drew (CSUF) 5. Yosh (Previous 43rd round MLB draftee) 6. Fryer (Seasoned Bartender) 7. Bobbo (Gambling Problem) 8. Jimbo (CSUF) 9. Timbo (OCC) 10. Victor (LBSU) 11. Seth (Company CEO) 12. The Freshness (I was late, therefore put at the end).
The opposing line-up ran as follows: Old.
The game ran as follows: Every inning both teams came up and poked in a few runs to keep a running tally of lead changes throughout with us up one in the seventh. The lead did not last. The opposing team popped two runs in during the seventh that tied it up. And now it was go-time for The Keystone Warriors in the eighth and final inning.
Go-time turned into three outs quickly and we now had to defend. We did and it went into an almost identical ninth inning that ended with both teams tied going into the 10th inning.
I was up first and it was up to me to get it started. Base hit to left, no outs. Jack followed with a hard-hit grounder to short, who was able to get me at second but unable to convert the double play. Next was Eduardo. Base hit, men on first and second, one out.
At this point, our crowd of Keystone injected fans started to get to the pitcher (which does not really mean anything considering it is softball, but still, the atmosphere was there). Next up was one of our home-run guys, Chris. Pop-out to deep center but the runners advanced on the sacrifice, first and second, two out. Now Big Drew strolled to the plate and in all of his 6-feet-6-inch glory, got the pitcher nervous and after a brief discussion with his colleagues, they decided to automatically put him on base.
Bases loaded, two out, top of the 10th and the vets just put a guy on to face our number one home-run hitter on the team. Idiots. In his first three at bats he hit three pop-outs. So the logic was there, but the decision was stupid. He was our ringer.
As the 45-year-old pitcher rocked back on his hind heel, setting his balance for the underhand pitch, he slipped out a smirk, knowing he just made the right move.
The pitch floated to the plate and in a flash of softball glory, the big man Yosh launched a grand slam. We went up by four in one fail swoop and closed it out in the bottom half of the inning, officially winning our first championship.
At this point, watching that oversized ball sail over the outfielder’s head is one of the best moments in my athletic career; and I don’t care if it was in a softball league. The thing that makes it memorable is not the sport it happened with, but who I did it with. If it were not for The Keystone Warriors, my Thursday nights would be for studying. Nice.