All I had to do was put on a blue shirt, be at the ballfield at 9, stand next to the ump that looks like a super-high Santa, and throw the ball back to the pitcher.
"Anything beyond that is gravy," I told myself as I sped home from work.
I threw on my blue "Little Lebowski Urban Achiever" T-shirt, fished my regrettably mint-condition baseball mitt from the box — that was filled with pirated "Ren & Stimpy" episodes on VHS, a menorah and tiny, purple paper clips — and booked it out the door towards Stazio.
I'd been called up to The Big Show.
I am not a "Boulder Athlete." I own a treadmill that sits by my front door that I use only when it's time to knock the dust off. What I am is one of Boulder County's finest rec league softball spectators.
I know what beer to bring, when to yell, "GOODEYEWAYTOWATCH," and where to sit without getting goose poop, sunflower seeds and spittle on my bum. I've been watching rec league softball for well over a decade, it's one of my special skills. So when I was asked to be on the other side of the fence, I freaked out.
My actual softball playing experience?
All I remember from seventh grade P.E. softball is a vague hatred. Ten years later, I played one game with the newspaper's co-ed softball team. The fly ball that miraculously appeared in my glove in the last inning was some magical thing that didn't belong there. It could have been a wad of hundreds, the plans for nuclear fusion, or a solid-gold kitten statue. "What is THIS doing here?!"
As the realization came, I turned wide-eyed to the shortstop and held it up for him to see.
"JIM! JIM! LOOK!"
"THROW THE GODDAMNED BALL, FRITZ!" he shouted back.
Apparently, the game was still going on.
So when my buddy, JennJen asked me to sub in as catcher last week, my first response was a dry heave. But refusing was not an option; a spectator of my caliber cannot sit idly by when a forfeiture is on the line.
What does Marianne Williamson say? That quote misattributed to Nelson Mandela? That our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate, but that we're powerful beyond measure, blahblahblah?
And so I stood next to Santa the Ump, I chased unused pitches around the back of the fence, I threw five-feet shy of my mark on the regular, I caught a stray pitch with my knees.
And at-bat? I didn't have "Major League's" Pedro Cerrano's golf club koozies ("Hats for bats; keep bats warm") but my four at-bats produced a walk, a single and a RBI.
We lost. By a lot.
But I didn't barf on anyone and that felt like a win to me.