It was just the other night, and it was pouring rain in Laurens.
Peering out from what passes as a dugout were a dozen or so morose softball players whose amateur careers possess far more yesterdays than tomorrows.
As the field began to resemble Lake Michigan, their spirits dropped as the gentle rain from heaven.
They wanted to play.
Well, all but one of them did.
That would be me.
It didn't seem to matter to my teammates that anyone venturing out to the pitcher's mound without a snorkel would be putting his life in danger.
They wanted to play.
The scene reminded me of Garrison Keillor's fictional Lake Wobegon, an old Indian word, he says, that means "the place where we waited all day in the rain."
The folks with whom I shared the dugout seemed perfectly content to wait all day in the rain, and all night, for that matter.
As for me, I decided to go home when I saw a bunch of different species of animals getting into a line, two-by-two.
It's a fascinating and quite admirable phenomenon, this willingness to suspend logic and squeeze each molecule of athletic experience out of bodies that deserve a nice rest.
My teammates come from many different walks of life, the only thing they really have in common being their sense of how wonderful it is when a ball somehow sticks in your glove or flies off your bat.
Some of my teammates in the age 35-and-older league are in excellent shape, but not many. One outfielder's back hurts so much that sometimes he winces even when he just walks.
Another gentleman almost got killed in a terrible motorcycle accident last year and had his neck in a brace for months and months. He still tries to finagle his way into games.
One of our best players had his aortic valve replaced a few years ago and has the huge scar on his chest to prove it.
Our third baseman customarily has a lighted cigarette between his lips when fielding practice grounders between innings.
During a recent playoff game, our first base coach was waving runners around with only one arm so as not to spill the beer he had in his other hand.
That was me, and that's the kind of league it is for all of us who play _ an informal but quite precious last stop on a bumpy road that began with Little League ambitions of baseball stardom.
Week after week each summer, they show up. They play the games with more grit than ability, knowing that the day will soon come when they won't be able to do it at all, and how sad that day and all those to follow will be.
It's a chance to feel alive, to razz a teammate and yell at an umpire, to be part of a group with the same goal.
Older major leaguers commenting on their bodies breaking down say, "the legs are the first to go." That may be true, but I'm certain about the last thing to go.
One of our guys got a bit carried away last week when he thought he heard a player on the other team say something nasty. Amid various ensuing threats and gestures, violence was only narrowly avoided.
The ump kicked our guy out of the game and suspended him from the next one.
The last thing to go? That's easy. It's the competitive fire in your brain telling you that you can, even as your body is telling you that you really can't, or at least, shouldn't.
As for me, I'm the oldest guy on the team, and each year before the season starts I tell myself I won't be playing, that it's time to hang up my Chuck Taylor Converse All-Stars.
But _ against my better judgment _ I play.
It's like that scene from "The Godfather, Part 3" when Michael Corleone bitterly mourns his inability to escape a life of organized crime:
"Just when I thought I was out," he cries, "they pull me back in!"
Something keeps pulling me back in, and I think I know what it is.
First of all, my teammates are a splendid group, inordinately kind and patient with my waning abilities. I've evolved into sort of a combination of Yoda, giving sage strategic advice, and the team mascot.
I am definitely not one of the better players. My role is to be kind of a utility infielder, playing first, second or third when a superior player can't make it to the game.
I'm always pulling this muscle or that one, and during the summer, you're likely as not to find me limping around. If you do, please don't tell me I should stretch more. I stretch plenty. Then I pull another muscle.
But for a couple of hours once or twice a week, I'm able to escape to the same mental field of dreams I discovered when my father gave me my first baseball glove.
I don't worry about family or work or even if it's raining a little bit. As far as I'm concerned, only one thing is really important.
That the batter hits the ball to someone other than me.
Sam Pollak is the editor of The Daily Star. He can be reached at email@example.com or at (607) 432-1000, ext. 208.
It was just the other night, and it was pouring rain in Laurens.
- Sam Pollak
THIS WEEK'S POLL
Using time off in the worst way possible
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Terror lives on, and there's no end in sight
The horrific scenes out of Boston on Monday will be hard, if not impossible, to forget, unless, of course, it happens again ... and again ... and again.
Remembering the glory of their times
So, last Sunday, instead of writing The Great American Novel like I ought to be, I'm idly looking in my usual dumb fashion at a television screen.
Column on guns led to a barrage of (mostly) jeers
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- Saturday, February 16, 2013
No one is coming to take your guns
I have some disappointing news for some of the more-virulent foes of sane gun-control legislation.
- Saturday, January 26, 2013
I'm fit to be tied because I can't find anything that fits
"Did you ever get the feeling," once asked sad-faced comedian George Gobel, "that the world was a tuxedo … and you were a pair of brown shoes?"
- Saturday, January 5, 2013
Seeing errors of our ways is important
It has become an annual custom to devote my first column of the year to informing our readers about how badly we screwed up over the previous 12 months.
- Saturday, December 15, 2012
Celebrate 2012 with the annual 'Sammy Awards'
Before you criticize someone -- goes this oft-quoted advice -- you should walk a mile in his shoes. That way, you'll be a mile away from him when you say it … and you'll have his shoes.
- Saturday, November 24, 2012
Gazan children and Israel suffer for Hamas folly
On Nov. 21, 1977, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat was on his historic and courageous visit to Israel that led to a peace agreement that still exists.
- Saturday, November 3, 2012
I'm worrying about what's to become of me after Nov. 6
There’s just no getting around it.
- Saturday, October 13, 2012
No Southern comfort from some in GOP
Most politicians make a gaffe now and again, with Vice President Joe Biden providing more than his share, but what I find fascinating are the increasingly frequent, intellect-defying, science-ignoring statements from politicians with one thing in common.
- Saturday, September 22, 2012
Critics prefer leaving media in pieces, not peace
Given the current epidemic of citizens great and small smacking the news media about the head and shoulders repeatedly and with great vigor, it can’t help but hurt the feelings of a sensitive and fragile soul … such as yours truly.
- Saturday, September 1, 2012
What’s in a name? The difference between a hero and a fraud
- Saturday, August 11, 2012
Rumors of papers' death have been greatly exaggerated
On the bulletin board in my office is this cartoon drawn in 2009 by the talented Lisa Benson of the Washington Post Writers Group.
- Saturday, July 21, 2012
I wonder how it would feel to have all that money
- Saturday, June 30, 2012
Why do women stand by such awful men?
Most men _ and you know who you are _ are not to be trusted.
- Saturday, June 9, 2012
For fatalistic job-seekers, I hear al-Qaida is hiring
NEWS ITEM: Abu Yahya al-Libi, second-in-command of al-Qaida's terror network, was killed last month in Pakistan by a CIA Predator drone attack, U.S. intelligence officials confirmed Tuesday.
- Saturday, May 19, 2012
I'm happy with our kids to a certain degree
It was several years ago, and I was in the kitchen, telling my eldest daughter and my then-teenaged son about the person who was taking over as publisher at The Daily Star.
- Saturday, April 28, 2012
I get by with a little help from my 'friends'
They are my precious friends, although I've met only a couple of them. They are always there -- unlike most of my other friends -- whenever I want them ... or need them. I just have to open a book, and there they are.
- THIS WEEK'S POLL