• Confessions of a Community College Dean

    In which a veteran of cultural studies seminars in the 1990s moves into academic administration and finds himself a married suburban father of two. Foucault, plus lawn care.

Title

Life Lessons from the Bleachers of 8th Grade Softball

Umpires aren’t always right. And more.

June 25, 2018
 
 

The Girl’s softball season just ended. I enjoy the games, mostly, but I have to admit some paternal guilt that she inherited my skill at hitting. And truth be told, I’m not above rooting for the occasional rainout.

Still, I can see some life lessons from softball, even for those who may not be particularly good at it.

Umpires aren’t always right.  

This applies particularly to strike zones, which seem to move from game to game. After taking a series of called third strikes on pitches that sort of resembled strikes, from a distance, with sun glare, if you never read the rule book, I started advising TG to swing at almost anything that didn’t bounce first.  The called strike zone extended from the eyes to the ankles, and several inches off the plate in either direction. The umpires were wrong, but they were the umpires. Some adjustment of strategy was clearly in order.

Merit and results are only loosely connected.

Some piddling little ground balls result in getting on base.  Some mighty blasts land in gloves for outs. So it goes.

“Routine” plays are in the eye of the beholder.

At this level, pop flies to the outfield are rolls of the dice. So are throws to first base. In a couple of cases, I saw catchers try to throw out base stealers at second, only to have the ball roll contentedly into the outfield because nobody thought to cover second base.  

Parking too close to the field puts your windshield in jeopardy.

Self-explanatory.

If you make contact, maybe something good will happen.

As true in life as it is in hitting. 

You don’t always know whose parent you’re sitting next to.

A little diplomacy goes a long way.  

Other people get self-conscious, too.

Self-consciousness is tricky. When it’s your own, it can feel as obvious as wearing antlers.  But other people’s is often invisible, until it abruptly isn’t. That always comes as a bit of a shock. 

In a couple of weeks, you won’t remember any of the outcomes, but you’ll remember whether it was fun or not.

Honestly, my favorite part of every game was the drive home. Something about the postgame ride served as a sort of confessional.  I’ll happily trade a couple of hours of metal bleacher time for a few minutes of real conversation with my daughter. And if it leads to ice cream, too, even better.

 

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