One afternoon, when I was in my early 30s, I stood at the urinal at The Harbour Inn, in Owen Sound.
I was wearing my slowpitch uniform which, if I recall, sported the logo of our sponsor, the local Ford dealer.
As often happens, even if you really don’t want it to, I was focused on the business at/in hand, and the guy shaking the dew off his lily next to me struck up a conversation.
What league do I play in? Umm, Owen Sound co-ed slowpitch.
“No offence, man,” said my fellow urinal puck target shooter…hey, gotta do something to pass the time and aiming at that sanitary cake does the trick…”but that’s….”
The next word he said was a mix of ball preceded by a word that suggested slowpitch was less than manly.
FASTBALL IS REAL BALL
Real men played real baseball (not available in Owen Sound unless you were a kid or over 45) or what was and still is very popular in that city, fastball. Or fast pitch softball, with underhand, windmill pitching.
I’d never been interested in fastball because it was and still is a pitcher’s game. The pitcher is like 10 feet from the plate…okay, I think it’s 45 feet…and when the Owen Sound Tiremen senior fastball team played, it was pretty common for the pitcher to throw a shutout, strike out 15 batters and toss a no-hitter several times a year, even in the world championships.
Okay, Mister ____ball, last night I played my first game of fastball at the age of 56. Against guys who were mostly in their 20s and 30s. Hit two singles while guys half my age struck out.
The fact is, hitting a ball in any form of baseball is not easy. It’s all a matter of timing. I’m 5’9″ and about 160 pounds and didn’t hit a ball over the fence until I reached the age of 40.
When I was the same age as my Harbour Inn urinal neighbour I could never figure out how guys smaller than me could hit the ball 260 or even 300 feet.
It’s not size or muscles. If you can connect at precisely the right second or half second, extend your arms and have the ball hit the sweet spot on your high-tech bat, the ball is going a long way.
OH, THOSE SHORT FENCES
Having said that, I really miss the Balmy Beach diamond, just north of Owen Sound. The fence was maybe 240 feet and my first homer landed just over centrefield at that cozy little park.
I wonder if Mister _____ball even played ball in any form, or is still playing. He’ll be in his 50s so the only form of ball available to. him will be…
In addition to my fastpitch nights with real baseball elements like stealing bases, sliding and still being at bat after hitting a second strike foul ball, I’m also playing in a Sunday night co-ed three-pitch league.
That has…no stealing, third pitch foul ball means an out, no sliding and a long list of non-competitive, just for fun rules.
And it is fun.
So, at the age of 56…honestly I don’t feel any different than I did at 36 or 26…I’m getting the best of both worlds playing semi-serious fastball and Sunday social three-pitch softball.
Cheers to that fellow I stood next to in the Harb’s bathroom. Your next Labatt Crystal (popular in the Owen Sound area and seemingly nowhere else) is on me.