“Your bat is your life. It’s your weapon. You don’t want to go into battle with anything that feels less than perfect.” Lou Brock
Today something happened that to me that I have never had happen to me. I broke a bat while hitting in a slow pitch softball practice. We play old guy rules in the intramural league that I play in as a student and in about 9 weeks or so as faculty at the Joint Forces Staff College. Last week while pursuing a pop foul ball on the fist base line I pulled a butt muscle and today while throwing a ball tweaked a muscle in my elbow. We were playing in a light drizzle and the wet ball slipped out of my fingers as I threw it and I felt a slight tweak, which remained painful for the rest of the practice.
Both of those injuries are painful and because I am 53 years old are not helpful to my playing days. However, I will continue to play because I love the game and I am at times not very bright. But like Satchel Paige said “We don’t stop playing because we get old. We get old because we stop playing.”
Now as far as the bat goes I am a purist. I bat with a wooden bat, even in softball. Of course it is an approved “official softball” bat as opposed to a baseball bat, but it is still wood. I have tried aluminum or other metal or composite bats but they just don’t feel natural. In fact when I bat with them it is almost like my mind locks up and my batting average sinks like the Titanic. When Yogi Berra said “Baseball is ninety percent mental. he other half is physical” he was absolutely right, you do the math.
Now broken bats are part of life even if you don’t play ball. We all break break bats, be they real bats or metaphorical bats at some time in our life. Hell I’ve broken a lot of things, some by mistake and some intentionally. I have learned the hard way to make sure if I am wound up too tight to make sure whatever I throw is not breakable. Sometimes this is a challenge when the PTSD kicks in and I need to throw something.
About six months ago in my previous assignment I was having a very frustrating day and emotionally hit the wall. I needed to throw something. I looked around my office and realized that all the baseballs I had were autographed. Likewise anything that would have been nice to throw was somehow important to me.
Then I spied a banana on my desk. I looked at it and picked it up. Since I was the only one in the office I walked out, looked down the hallway which was empty and charged for the nearest exit which emptied into a patio on the back side of the hospital. I ran out onto the patio and threw the banana as far as I could. No one saw me, nothing was broken, except the banana which I assume was eaten by local wildlife, thus contributing to the circle of life, and my need to get my physical anger out was assuaged but I digress… That being said throwing something is not the same as breaking a bat.
I liked the bat that broke today. It was like a friend. I am not a power hitter but when I am in a groove everything feels right. In our first practice last week I felt good. I was making good contact and the ball was falling for hits. Ground balls and line drives. However today something didn’t feel quite right. Part I am sure was my arm which I had tweaked the muscle near my elbow, but the bat didn’t feel right. Whenever I hit the ball it didn’t seem right. Maybe I had already damaged it in the previous practice or maybe it had bounced around in the back of my Ford Escape. But whatever happened it just didn’t feel right.
Then it happened. I thought I had a good pitch, went for it and when the bat hit the ball I heard the crack. The ball was inside and I was jammed but the ball was hit sharply to the third baseman who threw me out but everyone was wondering about the bat. I knew it was broken. I went back and picked it up. A couple of us looked at it and sure enough just about the grip on the handle where I hit the ball there was a crack. It was like a hairline fracture, but the bat was now dead.
In my last at bat I had to use a composite bat, with which I did succeed in lining a solid single into left field. However, after practice I took my old Rawlings Adirondack “Big Stick” made of Ash to my car and went home. I then went out to have a couple of beers and a light dinner at Gordon Biersch after which I went out and bought me a new Louisville Slugger “125 SB” Powerized wooden softball bat made of White Ash. It too feels good. I cannot wait to use it at our next practice.
I have broken many things in life as I said, but this was the first time in years of playing baseball or softball that I have ever broken a bat. The fact that it happened in slow pitch makes it even more amazing. But I guess that is life. Maybe someday I will hit a home run. There is a sign in left field that says 230’, I have three years to put it over that wall. It may mean buying a few more bats, but one day I will get my home run.
After all if I can break a bat in slow pitch ball maybe I might have enough in me to put one over that fence.