by Paul Semendinger
This time it’s for real!
…or so I tell myself.
Yes. For goodness sake, this time it is for real.
This coming season, the 2021 season, will be mine. This will be my chance to shine. To pitch well. To win. Often.
And I have a plan to make sure it happens.
A quick recap: In the late winter of 2019, I was approached by two fathers of students in my school. They asked if I wanted to play baseball on a team they were establishing.
While I have been in shape for most of my adult life (I run marathons) and I play softball (pretty well), I hadn’t played baseball, real baseball, in 34 years.
I was 50-years old at the time.
I hadn’t played real baseball, since I played JV ball when I was a junior in high school.
And, truth be told, back then I wasn’t all that good.
After some soul searching (it didn’t take that much to convince me), I took the men up on their offer. I told them that I didn’t think I had the ability to hit a baseball any longer nor the quickness to react to line drives hit at me. While I play shortstop on my softball team, that ball comes at you a bit slower than a baseball. I didn’t think I could offer much as a batter or a fielder…
But I knew I could do one thing – throw strikes. I offered, “I bet I can pitch. If you DH me, I’ll try pitching for you.”
Why they said “YES!” to this, I’ll never know, but they said yes.
My dormant baseball career, the one that I once thought would take me to the Yankees, was revived.
In that first season, the 2019, season, I made six starts. I went 0-5. The team didn’t win any games, no matter who pitched.
Even though I was not very successful, I did learn a few things:
I can still pitch. And I can throw as much as necessary. My proudest moment came in my last game. I went the distance. I threw a full nine innings.
I can still throw strikes. In the 32 innings I pitched, I walked only six batters. (I also struck out 19.)
This was a 35+ league so I was one of the older guys, probably the oldest pitcher in the games we played. I realized that I could hold my own out there, if just barely.
Oh, there was one other thing… I pitched that season while suffering from interstitial tears in my right Achilles.
The big highlight of it all, in addition to actually playing baseball again, was the fact that my youngest son Ethan was also on the team. He played with us once he returned from college. On a few occasions (and these are priceless memories) he was my catcher. (There is a rule in the league that allows each team to have three players in each game who are under 35-years-old. Ethan qualified under that rule.)
Pitching to my son was one of the most amazing experiences ever.
On January 8, 2020, I had surgery to repair the tears in my Achilles.
Physical Therapy followed. I pushed, as I always do. I followed all the instructions. I wanted to heal so I could run marathons again.
And play ball.
By March, I was throwing again, with a rubber ball, against the wall in my garage.
With Covid-19 came the closing of Ethan’s college and the delay of the season. Ethan and I then spent the entire spring throwing in the front yard, and, when we could find one that wasn’t closed due to the pandemic, on empty baseball fields as we awaited the delayed start of the next season.
It took until July, but we finally did get under way.
I made nine starts last year. I again threw a complete game. I logged 53 innings and walked only 8 batters. The highlight was on a bright Sunday morning in Ridgewood, New Jersey when we won our first game. Ever. Ethan scored the winning run. I was the winning pitcher.
It was amazing. I was 52-years-old (my birthday is in July) and I won a baseball game for the first time since I had been 16. My 21 year-old son scored the game winning run.
I learned one other thing last season…
In desperation, the team needed me to bat. So I did… and I had a few hits. One was a booming double. Boy did that feel good!
Like life itself, the season ended too quickly. Autumn came. Fields were harder to come by. Soon winter set in.
And that’s where we are today – in the throes of winter waiting eagerly and anxiously for the new baseball season to arrive.
But I am not sitting idly by…
For Christmas, Ethan and his brothers gave me a baseball net. A big baseball net. A big league baseball net. It is set-up in our downstairs room.
We set it up on Christmas Day. I started preparing for the 2021 season the very next afternoon.
My winter training had begun:
December 26 – 30 pitches
December 29 – 50 pitches
December 31 – 70 pitches
(Quick aside – Do you know awesome it is to be able to throw a baseball indoors in the cold of winter? I am actually throwing, hard, inside my house. My goodness I love it!)
January 2 – 75 pitches
January 4 – 100 pitches
January 6 – 100 pitches
January 9 – 100 pitches
January 13 – 125 pitches
January 18 – 125 pitches…
Yeah, I’m all-in. I was always all-in, but this year is going to be different because for the first time in years (many, many years), I am 100% physically. I am running good and hard and strong again. I’m losing weight (finally). I’m physically stronger than I have been in a long, long time. I had those tears in my Achilles for years.
And I am throwing free and easy and well.
When the season comes, I’ll be ready.
This time it’s for real. I now know I can pitch. I now know I can win.
This time, I’m physically ready too.
Now, I just have to wait for spring!
Oh, I have one more trick up my sleeve.
But I’ll share that in the next post…