(Almost) Back From a Break

Well, I certainly didn’t anticipate being out this long. I mean, I know I start out with ambitious posting goals every year, but this one was a fairly lengthy hiatus, that stretched on a bit thanks to some happenings.

If you, for some strange reason, swung through here about a two months ago, you may have hit the site when it was down for a few days. You see, I had gotten a hankering to come kick the tires again, and slapped together a dozen more drafts to eventually polish into posts. Then I started some site upgrades – mainly updating to the newest version of WordPress and a handful of plug-ins. Well, the WP upgrade hung and timed out, and I inadvertently borked the site by refreshing the page and starting it over. Big shoutout to Chris for checking under the hood and getting me back online.

That wasn’t the reason for the latest delay, though. I’ve been busy – I was laid off in April, then job hunting and interviewing, and then landing a new job and starting that. Oh, and the general hectic nature of parenting small children in the summer. But that wasn’t quite the reason either.

If you follow me elsewhere, you might know that I run a sandlot team here in Houston, the Space City Screwballs. I owe you some sandlot posts, for sure, but you can get a nice little rundown and see our sweet digs over on our Instagram. Well, we had us a delightful time welcoming some of our fellow sandlot ballplayers from San Antonio into our neck of the woods on July 15th, as we squared off in a home game against the Texas Dingers. We’d been out to play them in San Antonio in May, and we became fast friends. We played an absolutely gorgeous game, starting a bit before sunset.

This here is a crucial play from the second inning of the game. Our starter was a bit wild, and walked the first batter, and the next guy got on as well. It should have been a strikeout, but the ump called a ball. So we’ve got two on, none out. This pitch sails the catcher’s head, and Jordon guns it to me just outside the line, where I catch it on a hop. I knew the guy on second wasn’t a speedster, but I was surprised when I swiped low and no one was there, so I reached up to make a tag. His thigh crashed into my glove and a weird angle, and I heard a crack. “I hope that’s knuckles.”

This fella on the right, by the way, is Ian – aka Hawkdog. He’s your overly excited videographer for that clip. You can sorta see me begrudgingly acknowledging the compliments afterward. “Damn, that’s sore.”

I fielded a grounder at third on the next play and threw the batter out at first base. Cody settled in and worked a strikeout to get us out of the inning, and I threw my hand in the bottom of the cooler.

It was not knuckles cracking. These are my x-rays from two days later. You can’t see it in the overhead view on the left, but in the oblique view on the right, you can see it pretty clearly.

Here’s a closer look. That’s a spiral fracture (not a full break, thankfully!) of the fifth metacarpal in my left hand. I’m certain that my glove saved me from having surgery – when I went to see a specialist at the end of the week, he was very happy with the alignment. So that’s the reason for the latest posting delay.

So Marc, did you get pulled from the game?

Hell no! I’m a baseball-loving idiot, after all! I popped on my first base mitt and trotted out for the third inning, where I made two more fielding plays for putouts – including a killer almost-double play. Runner was on first, lefty up, scorching grounder that hugged the earth maybe 6 inches inside the line. I snared it, touched the bag and wheeled around to second. It was bang-bang, and while I got it there in time, I’d pulled the second baseman to the back of the bag, marring his chance at a tag play.

Because I’m a stubborn and vain dummy, I went out to pitch as well. Here’s a little clip from warmups. It wasn’t speedy, but my slider was working pretty well.

Here’s a clip of me tossing that in the game, getting a lovely swing and miss. Sure, it helps to throw fast, but the key in sandlot is to be able to change speeds – even if that means offsetting your 55 mph fastball with a goofy 45 mph changeup.

Like this pitch. I love getting a chase on something so profoundly silly. I did not have my best stuff, but it was enough to push me through an inning and a third.

I mentioned it was a gorgeous sunset ballgame, which turned into a great back-and-forth night game – our first one under lights! When I booked the field, I figured the sun would come down over shortstop. I misjudged the orientation of the field, as it came down directly behind second base. For a solid two innings, hitting and catching were both pretty tough jobs.

Here’s a quick clip to give you a sense of the atmosphere. You can hear one of our guys explaining the infield fly rule, but beyond that you’ll hear the speakers of the guys who had played before us. There’s a Hispanic/Latin league and a pair of the over-40 teams had faced off. One group had a full cookout rolling, and they stuck around to watch our game, hooting and hollering and having a grand old time. It was fantastic.

We’ve got a lovely beverage sponsor who fuels our ballgames, and while we can’t play inside the ‘Dome,* we do bring the ‘Dome with us.

*Yet, at least. One can dream.

I was set to lead off the ninth inning, with the Screwballs down to our final three outs and needing a large, but not inconceivable rally in order to win. This is sandlot, after all, and plenty of hijinks do ensue. On the left is me with Matty Ice of the Dingers – he’s a spry young fellow of 25, so he went the distance for them. I stepped into the batter’s box, holding my Louisville Slugger like I was at high tea – pinky up.

I guessed first pitch fastball and jumped on it when I saw it, lacing a ball into the RF power alley. That weird cavernous corner in dead center tops out at 450 feet – I did not hit it there, but somewhere closer to the corner angle where the trees stop, which is around 365 feet from the plate. It was not on the fly, but the outfield was playing too shallow and according to my teammates, it just kept rolling. After a full game of pain and the near certainty that I’d done my hand really sinking in, the crack of the bat sounded amazing. “Damn, I’ve got a double!” I thought as I raced out of the box. I glanced up between first and second, but it was really hard to tell where the ball was, the light was so low. I heard trustworthy teammates yelling me on, and figured “ok, well I hit a triple!”

Except that when I looked up coming into third, at least four Screwballs had jumped out of the third base dugout to wave me on. “You’re insane,” I thought, “I’m gonna get gunned down at the plate!” Spoiler alert, I did not. I hit a dang inside-the-park home run, watching the ball bounce into the catcher several strides too late, though I had already slid into the plate.

I let out a hearty “LET’S F***ING GOOOOOOOOO!” and high-fived my teammates (right handed, of course) before collapsing onto a cooler along the fence. The Screwballs weren’t able to mount a full comeback, but we had ourselves a damn fine time.

And this is my hand now – well, two days ago. I’ve been in this nifty splint for three weeks, with three weeks to go. My hand specialist says that my alignment looks great, and he gave me his blessing to take my brace off to type, so the blog is back, baybeeeee!

Holy crap, you’re still here after all of that? You must really like this place. That’s good, because there’s plenty more to come, if I can get these posts flowing once again.

8 Replies to “(Almost) Back From a Break”

  1. Congrats on the homer! And sorry about the hand. Hope it heals up ok for you.

    I’m impressed you still get out there and play. I think this was my last year of men’s softball. Just don’t enjoy it much anymore, and I’ve got some bad knees that make me look like Kirk Gibson when I run. I think I’m hangin’ ’em up!

    1. I’m 39 at this point and until my body just absolutely fails me, I’m planning to keep playing. We’re a hardball team – overhand pitching and wood bats only, and it’s such a blast. The team age ranges from 28-44, and everyone just wants to have a good time playing ball. There’s always a cooler or three of suds, but it’s more cookout vibe than beer league softball – the primary goal is pounding the pitcher on the mound, not in your hand.

      The hand looks like it’s right on track, and so far it’s not painful, just sore.

    1. It was pretty tender, but a mix of extra strength Tylenol, icing it down, a couple beers, and adrenaline went a long way. I kept a batting glove on in the field to add a little compression.

  2. You seem to have lucked out a bit with your hand. Judging by that X-Ray, it could’ve been much worse. Good on you for staying in the game though. Watching some of those clips makes me a bit envious of how much fun everyone seems to be having. Were I a bit younger, and not so injury prone, I would’ve loved to have participated in something like this.

    1. Thanks Jon! It definitely could have been worse – a full break or any twisting of the bone would have been cause for surgery, meaning a plate and screws. I’m happy to have avoided that.

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