This weekend I watched UCLA play the University of Arizona at softball. At one point, the announcer talked about the third base corner as the “white hot” or “inferno-like” corner. She referred to the fact that in softball the third basemen play really, really, really close to homeplate (to cover the bunt).
In one of my first games as a varsity high school player (which didn’t occur until senior year because I figured good grades and not softball would get me into college), I was playing the bunt. That meant I was about 10 feet in front of third base and five feet from the third base line. As is feared when you’re playing the bunt, only feet away from a woman holding a stick, the girl/woman at the plate hit a line drive. Luckily, it went foul, just beyond the third base line.
Without thinking, I swung my glove across my body and threw my full weight to the right. I stretched as I’d never stretched before, or since, and caught the ball.
“OUT THREE!!!” yelled the official.
My teammates congratulated me on a fabulous play and I walked to the dugout a few inches taller. My coach, a stereotypical high school P.E. teacher who had nicknamed me my GPA, since it was all I seemed to care about said, “Four-oh, nice job, but next time–you might want to open your eyes.”
I protested, “Of course my eyes were open! How could I have done it otherwise!” I was indignant at the suggestion that anything other than pure talent had determined the outcome of that particular play.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve wondered whether my eyes were, in fact, open. I’m not sure that I know anymore and I’ve decided that it doesn’t really matter.
Playing the sport, at its finest, is about practicing so many times that you know where the ball is and how to get there to find it, even with your eyes closed.
My favorite players are beloved because they always know where it is. From what I can tell, they are the ones that take practice seriously and are serious about their game.
I respect that.
Bring it on, baseball season’s here!!
© Laura Genao 2007