Wednesday, March 24, 2004

A League of Their Own

The Highland Church spent parts of two Presidential administrations exploring ways in which the roles of women could and should be expanded within the congregation. Here's my question: did we decide if it's biblical for a woman to play third base? 'Cause we need one.

The Highland softball team (nickname: "Flings") fell to 0-2 Tuesday night with a 35-8 setback to our brethren from Hillcrest. No, not the church football team. Or basketball or bunko. No, it was softball. Sort of. In fact, to say that game was a setback is like saying Reagan edged Mondale. We had more torn muscles than runs.

A quick recap: The interim coach - okay, me - arrives seven minutes before game time and finds a total of eight martyrs, which happens to be the minimum number required to field a team. Game on! Our ninth stumbles in as the lineup card is being turned in. Another player - let's call him "Phil Schubert" to protect his identity - apparates five minutes, no outs, and four runs into the game as a substitute for regular outfielder Steve Shewmaker, who was serving a one-game suspension for violating team rules: specifically, hitting the occasional cut-off man and routinely advancing runners into scoring position.

The 'Crest Fallen (as someone - okay, me - names them) jump on our beleaguered pitcher - okay, me - early, plating six in the opening frame. We respond with two quick outs, an infield single, and a weak pop-up. Obviously staggered by our rope-a-dope style offense, they score but twice in the top of the second. Our third baseman answers in the bottom of the inning by pulling not one but two groins - both of which, thankfully, were his own - while legging out a routine grounder. We're scrappy, if not limber. We're also still scoreless.

In the top of the third, we see our last legitimate chance of winning go by the boards and, not coincidentally, we see our 270-pound shortstop's right hamstring for the last time. (Anyone finding it is encouraged to please return it to the league office.) If they ever do a remake of that cult classic "Seven Faces of Death," they've got to use the look that poor Hillcrest baserunner makes when he sees Joel airborne and heading right for him. It could be worse. The runner survives; Joel's hammy, however, does not. So he moves to pitcher where his batterymate is our bandy-legged third baseman-turned-catcher. More like an assault-and-battery.

Heading to the bottom of the third, it's now 15-nil and the only thing left to play for is the opportunity to fire off a couple of winning one-liners at the expense of our opponent. In the third, we stage what, by comparision, amounts to a rally - a couple of seeing-eye singles and three infield errors, leading to our first three tallies of the night. During this offensive explosion, the other team begins complaining to the lone umpire about one of our guys leading off second base - a no-no according to the rules, to be sure, but an understandable gaffe I think considering we'd never gotten that far before. That leads one of our players - okay, me - to shout, "Pharisees 15, Publicans 3." Everyone cracked up - okay, me.

Top 4, our new shortstop - okay, me - and second baseman graciously give way to the other on a sharp grounder up the middle. It goes through for a hit, upon which one of those two - okay, me - announces, "The top of the fourth is brought to you by Ephesians 5: 'Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.'" I believe Eugene Peterson's "The Message" translates that passage, "Let the other guy have his way, especially if you don't have the energy to move to your left and get a glove on it." Or something like that.

In the top of the fifth, the 'Crest - nervously nursing a 12-run lead - starts up again with the bellyaching over alleged "rules violations." Apparently it's not okay for our jailer-by-day/first-baseman-by-night Paul Mc Burney to handcuff opposing players while on the basepaths. Go figure. So this one guy on their team won't let it go, and it turns out he's still hot over the "Pharisee" remark. It probably doesn't help that one of our guys - okay, me - mutters, "Why would that bother you? You go to Hillcrest." Everyone understands it's meant in jest - okay, me.

After five innings, we've somehow crept to within a touchdown at 15-8, with one inning to go. Hillcrest - making the most of their three outs and several more that we generously supply them - ekes out an insurance run, then another, then another. They wind up with more insurance than an oral surgeon with Carpal-Tunnel. It's the first 20-run top of the sixth in Nelson Park Church League Softball history. All in attendance - okay, me - agree this moment in time is what Jesus prophesied in Matthew 24 when he warned, "Let no one in the field go back to get his cloak (which in Aramaic reads "groin")."

As they bat around for the eleventh time, one of their batters jokingly fires a verbal salvo. Paul, "The Flippant Jailer," suggests we charge the plate. Their guy says, "You better not. I've got the bat!" To which one of our smart alecks - okay, me - retorts, "We're not scared. We've seen you swing."

The inning mercifully ends when the umpire - after an unsuccessful attempt at committing harikari with his home plate mini-broom - calls a runner out who arrives at the bag roughly two revolutions of the moon prior to the tag. That prompts one of our players - okay, me - to yell, "Dr. Kevorkian, moonlighting as a church league umpire." That brings what's left of the house down - okay, me.

Down 35-8 and only three outs to play with, what we need is baserunners...and several tubes of analgesic cream. There may indeed be a balm in Gilead, but at the moment we're more interested in finding Ben-Gay in Abilene. Alas, the inning and game ends when our wobbly backstop is tagged after wandering off second base, perhaps having spotted one of the muscles he'd misplaced earlier. Final score: Hillcrest 35, Highland 8.

So as I was saying, it's time to expand women's roles at Highland. Tryouts start Sunday between services. I can assure you this has been approved by the elders - okay, me.

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