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One Last Shot – Season 4, Post 1: What A Difference A Year Makes!

by Paul Semendinger

December 29, 2021

***

How do you top being on top of the world?

I don’t know, but I intend to try to find out.

***

One year ago, for Christmas, my sons gave me a net to pitch into and some weighted balls to throw as tools to help me prepare for what was going to be my third season as a pitcher in a wood bat adult baseball league.

I was determined, after three mediocre seasons as a pitcher, to get better at that task. I didn’t know if I could, but I was determined to become the best pitcher and baseball player I could be.

I began working out the day after Christmas. It was the start of a very good year. In regard to exercise, health, and baseball, 2021 was a huge success for me.

In 2021, I worked out every single day (I know this is being published a few days before the end of the year, but barring some unforeseen circumstances, I plan to exercise the last few days as well). On many days, I exercised twice. I was motivated to get back to the body of my younger self. I think I succeeded. Over the course of 2021, I lost about 30 pounds. By lifting weights and doing other various exercises, I also gained new found strength, I was also fully healed from the surgery I had on my right Achilles tendon (in 2020) so I was able to run consistently (and pain free) again. For the first time since 2016, I logged over 1,000 running miles. I also ran the New York City Marathon.

Yeah, 2021 was successful in many regards regarding my health and fitness.

It was a very good year.

In regard to baseball, well, 2021 saw me attain a height I never imagined. I didn’t reach the big leagues or the minor leagues, or anything like that, but I did take a huge step forward and I pitched the game of my life on one of the country’s most iconic fields.

Yeah, that was magical!

***

For those new to my baseball story, I need to take a quick step backwards and fill in the gaps.

Growing up I always played baseball, but I wasn’t particularly good. I pitched JV in high school, but never made the varsity squad… not even for a game. Not even to sit on the bench in a game.

For all intents and purposes, my baseball playing ended in 1985 when I was 16-years-old. I won two games against 5 loses as a Junior pitching mostly against kids younger than me and when that season was over, though I loved the game, it turned out that my baseball playing days were over.

During my senior year I needed to have a job to pay for the car I drove and to save money for college. There was also this cute girl I was dating. I loved baseball, but I loved her too. After high school and college, she became my wife. We’re still happily married 31 years later. I made the right choice to focus on the cute girl. She’s still my best friend. Life is good. Very good.

As I became an adult, I played in various softball leagues, meeting some success and always having a lot of fun. As each of my boys grew up, I served as their baseball coach. I coached them for 15 years in various sports including baseball. I was never far from the game, and I never gave up my crazy dream of playing professionally, but I knew, or thought I knew that my baseball playing days were long over. LONG OVER.

People just don’t start playing baseball again as they reach the age of 50.

Except, I did.

***

I am an elementary school principal of the most wonderful school anywhere. We have great students, great teachers, and great parents.

Four years ago, two of the dads told me that they were forming a baseball team and wanted to know if I wanted to play on their team. I laughed it off. I told them that I was way past my prime.

Except they asked again.

And again. And always with an encouraging smile.

I didn’t think I could hit a baseball. I also thought that playing a position would be too challenging. I figured that fielding a baseball was different in many ways from playing softball, even if I had been a shortstop for decades…

But I offered that if they wanted (or needed) a pitcher that I could probably throw strikes. I told them that I didn’t have any trick pitches and that I couldn’t throw hard, but that I was pretty confident that I could still throw the ball over the plate.

“I don’t think I’ll walk too many guys,” I offered.

The next thing I knew, I was on the team and was the starting pitcher on Opening Day.

***

We didn’t win any games that first season. But it was a blast. Oh my, how I found that I still loved pitching.

The second year, we won a game. I was the winning pitcher. I didn’t think things could get much better. But still I wanted to try.

This brings us to the pitching net that I set up in my basement last Christmas and a year of working on becoming a “real” pitcher.

In addition to my home workouts, I went to a baseball training facility and took pitching lessons. That was a lot of fun. It was me, the old guy, working with a pitching instructor while being surrounded by young teens. My teacher taught me a few things, like how to actually throw a curve ball. It was a great experience. I’ll never forget the one kid who saw me pitching telling me that I reminded him of Nolan Ryan. What could be better?

But things were to get better!

***

One of the instructors at the school saw my determination, if nothing else, and asked me if I wanted to join his team. I immediately signed up and last summer I found my self pitching for two baseball teams and also playing softball for a third team.

It all worked out great. I won a few games. I think I pitched better than I have in my entire life.

And, on one wonderful afternoon, I pitched for my new team in a tournament on Doubleday Field in Cooperstown, New York. I went five innings, allowed only two unearned runs, and pitched my team into the champions bracket for the finals the next day (we ended up as co-champions of the tournament). My wife and parents were in attendance for that game.

It was the highlight of my season. It was the greatest baseball moment of my life. I pitched the game of my life as a 53-year-old on the iconic field in Cooperstown.

Imagine that!

***

How do you top being on top of the world?

I don’t know, but I intend to try to find out.

***

And this brings us to today.

Just two days ago, the time came for me to begin again.It was time to prepare for my fourth season which will start this spring.

I set-up the net. I got out the weighted balls. And the baseballs. And I started throwing again.

I didn’t throw hard. I just reintroduced my arm to some baseball exercises and throwing. I threw 50 “pitches” (if they can even be called that) – 25 from the wind-up, 25 from the stretch. I’ll throw again tomorrow. It’ll again be an easy workout.

I’ll start to ramp up the effort over the coming days and weeks.

Both of my teams plan to have winter training sessions coming soon.

I’ll be ready.

***

2021 was a magical year for me in regard to my baseball playing.

I’m going to work my hardest to make 2022, my fourth season as a pitcher, even better.

Stay tuned.

It might be cold outside, but spring and summer are coming…

My dream of pitching for the Yankees remains, but in the meantime, I plan to continue having the time of my life.

***

Season Three Posts:

One Last Shot – Season 3, Post 1: This Time It’s For Real

One Last Shot – Season 3, Post 2: My Spring Training

One Last Shot – Season 3, Post 3: Back To Earth

One Last Shot – Season 3, Post 4: Finally, I Hope…

One Last Shot – Season 3, Post 5: Game 1 Results And A Surprise Draft Pick!

One Last Shot – Season 3, Post 6: The Ups and Downs of Baseball

One Last Shot – Season 3, Post 7: We Don’t Always Win the Games We Win

One Last Shot – Season 3, Post 8: The Dogged Days of Summer

One Last Shot – Season 3, Post 9: My Field of Dreams: Cooperstown, New York!

***

Previous Season Posts:

Season One – The Complete First Season

Season Two – The Complete Second Season

Season Three – The Complete Third Season

#Cooperstown #DoubledayField

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