Ah, baseball. That most bucolic of sports.
Played on rich lustrous grass (mostly) in beautiful open-air cathedrals (largely), in front of packed stands of rabid, loyal traditionalist fans (intermittently).
The Grand Old Game.
Some Other Country’s National Pastime.
It’s a symbol of post-Civil War America that we currently aren’t calling to be removed from display in Southern cities (although would Tampa Bay be such a big loss?).
We even have representation here in Canada, where our Blue Jays valiantly attempt to do something, anything, to make us forget it’s been 22 years since they did . . . something . . . anything.
Although some modern thinkers argue that watching a baseball game is about as stimulating as watching a bridge rust, the Jays remain a popular draw, both live at the SkyRogersDomeCentre, and on the telly.
Playing the game recreationally however, is an entirely different matter.
Pitching means standing on a mound of dirt, 60.5 feet away from home, and going through a complex windup in order to deliver a small ball into an imaginary rectangle, in hopes that the batter doesn’t return it back at them at about twice the speed it got to him.
Success? Good, now repeat it another few dozen times.
Experience tells your humble narrator that, after about 40 or so pitches, your shoulder and elbow feel like they’ve taken small arms fire.
Batting means standing in and facing down said pitches, waving a solid piece of ash in hopes of making something passing for solid contact.
Comedy usually ensues.
Most times you end up flailing away like you’ve wandered into a hive of African bees.
Oh, did I mention the ball is solid?
And hurts when you get hit?
I mean REALLY hurts.
Like close-range paintball shots, only worse.
If you do manage to hit it, you get to run at full speed 90 feet to try and beat the play to the bag.
Your reward? Another 90 foot sprint, followed by two more, and a potential collision with a player wearing Joust-grade body armour in order to score a run.
Well, you need to get in the way of the aforementioned solid, angry projectile armed only with a piece of leather on your hand.
If you’re in the outfield you and two others get to cover ground hundreds of square feet wide and long, and are greeted rudely by a solid, unyielding wall should you be forced to chase down a blast headed toward it.
For fun. I’m tired and sore just typing this.
If this leisure activity isn’t exactly speaking to you, permit me to suggest an alternative: Slo-Pitch.
What is Slo-Pitch?
Well, picture a game of baseball in two-thirds scale, at half the pace, in a shorter time frame, with a bigger, less threatening ball lobbed lovingly towards the plate like a beer tossed to you at camp.
It features far fewer grievous injuries, far more laughs, and a far greater potential for sociable adult beverages before, and after (ahem…NEVER during) the game.
Yes there are still rules, uniforms (kinda), that weird piece of leather on your hand, the odd practice session, an umpire, scorekeeping, and lines and bases and stuff, but really it’s more about a bunch of mates getting together after work or on the weekend and engaging in a laid-back brand of ball; still competitive, but never annoyingly so.
Think of it as baseball for those of us saddled with that terminal affliction known as a life.
Did I mention it’s often co-ed?
Slo-Pitch in the Sault is a thriving, inclusive, and well-organized sport that appeals to players of all calibres of ability.
Heck there’s even an over-40 league for those of us whose competitive spirit is tempered only by the lack of tread remaining on our tires, so to speak.
It’s still fun, and certainly still exercise, just a titch more, let’s say deliberate.
It also provides many moments of unintentional hilarity.
Picture a bunch of, um, mature adults attempting to display long-since-expired ability and ill-considered exuberance, sprinting, lunging, stumbling, and crashing, ending up in a laughing, twisted heap, the ball landing gently and untouched, a few feet away.
Now THAT’S fun.
Although most Sault Slo-Pitch leagues are up and running by now, that doesn’t mean you can’t sign up next year.
Hey, that just gives you time to pick up a funky-coloured glove, some cleats, a good soft cooler (for your water and sports drink, obviously), cool shades, and a decent SPF sunscreen for next spring.
Plus it’ll give you a chance to work on your Home Run Trot. Everybody needs a good one of those, after all.