Glory days! Softball, style
Columnist Steve Lange looks back at that glorious, sort of, final season playing D-League Rochester softball.
This will mark my fifteenth year since I—and the entire Post-Bulletin team, simultaneously—retired from softball.
Recently, I ran into a friend I hadn't seen in years. He played on that P-B softball team with me. To catch up, instead of talking about our wives or kids or jobs or lives, even, we spent the entire 45 or so minutes reminiscing about that last season of our softball team.
At one point he laughed and said "Hey! We should get the old gang back together for one more year!"
I laughed, too, but then we both looked at each other in a way that said "If you give me one indication you're serious I will go buy a new softball glove right now!"
Our team's final year marked the end of an era, especially if you define "era" as "the period of time characterized by the existence of the Post-Bulletin's men's D-League slow-pitch softball team."
I moved to Rochester in April of 2000, just before the start of the softball season. The captain of the P-B team, apparently desperate for players, asked me to join. I had never played softball in my life. I was only 30, and still in good enough shape to play baseball, for god's sake.
I wasn't ready to become Softball Guy. Nobody ever is. You start off by innocently signing a roster sheet, and the next thing you know you're on a team called Scared Hitless or Sons of Pitches, wearing Oakley sunglasses and wristbands on your forearms and acrylic pants so tight they'd only normally be seen on Baryshnikov or Motley Crue. You're wearing orange stirrups, and an orange and blue jersey with a nickname like "The Rammer" or "The Jammer" or "Kap'n Krunch" on the back.
It just sneaks up on you.
The P-B team, luckily, was not made up of Softball Guys. It was just a group of normal guys who approached the sport like it was meant to be approached—as an excuse to drink beer after the game.
We had our ups and downs in those 10 years. Seasons when we finished near the top of the league and seasons in which we were regularly mercied, which is a softball term for losing by 10 or more runs. We lost one game, 10-0, in 22 minutes. The teams playing after us hadn't even shown up yet to warm up.
And so it went. After a few years, I took over as manager, mostly by default.
As much as we pretended it didn't matter, deep down we wanted to win a league championship. We wanted that two-foot high plastic trophy, big time.
Then finally, in the glorious season of 2007, the P-B team won the coveted D-League playoff championship (Men's Cheyenne division). This was the team I had hand-picked, the team I had carefully crafted—or at least the people who had written their names on the company sign-up sheet—and they brought home the hardware.
I say "they" not out of modesty, but out of the fact that I wasn't there for the championship game. I was in Colorado with my 74-year-old dad on our annual motorcycle trip.
Before that championship, I would have said that the family moments are what's really important.
But after hearing those guys call me, whooping it up from McQuillan Field—I swear I could hear champagne corks popping in the background—I realized that those are the moments you'll never get back.
And I never did.
My dad and I have taken a dozen motorcycle trips since then.
But I never got another chance to win the softball championship.
Steve Lange is the editor of Rochester Magazine. His column appears every Tuesday.