I don’t know what I felt worse about the other morning at JetBlue Park – fouling a rock-hard softball off the face of the wife of an old friend long ago or forgetting that I did it.
I do remember another long-ago incident when I smashed a screaming line drive off the shin of a woman. I’ll get to that later.
It was Tuesday when Keith sent me a Facebook message that he was at JetBlue watching his teenage son Garrett play baseball. I probably haven’t seen Keith in more than 30 years, back when we were young and playing on rec softball teams.
He was a strapping left-handed power hitter and I was a lean and swift outfielder and middle infielder, a guy who slapped sharp singles up the middle and to right field. Now, in my portly dotage that is hard to believe. Trust me on this – I was once lean.
Anyhow, I drove over to JetBlue where Keith and I reminisced about the old days and guys we played ball with in St. Pete.
Then he mentioned the time I hit a foul ball into the bleachers that struck his wife, Mary Anne, in the face. She received a black eye.
I feel terrible but I had no memory of the incident. It was, of course, an accident. I didn’t mean to hit Mary Anne.
I’m sure I know how it happened. I often slapped singles to the right side, trying either to send a scorcher between the first baseman and the second baseman or smoking a screamer right down the line.
Sometimes, of course, I didn’t hit the ball squarely and it was sliced off to the right, sometimes into the bleachers. Those foul balls weren’t hit hard but they could still smart and leave bruises if they hit a young woman in the face.
I’m sure I apologized 38 years ago or whenever that happened but here is another apology to Mary Anne.
Sorry, Mary Anne.
Keith assured me his wife wasn’t angry with me then or in the intervening four decades or so. She understood and still understands these things sometime happen.
But I still feel bad.
I also feel bad about the time I crushed a line drive off an ankle of a woman Nancy. Again, I didn’t mean to.
We were playing in a coed rec league at Egan Park on St. Pete Beach. It was, as I recall, the championship game.
It may sound chauvinistic but all through the course of playing games in the coed league I made it a policy not to hit toward where women were stationed in the infield. Most of the women playing in the league didn’t have much experience playing baseball or softball.
So if an inexperienced female player was playing either of the infield corner positions or pitching I made it a point not to hit toward them. This was slow-pitch softball so hitting the ball or not hitting the ball in certain directions wasn’t difficult.
Then came the championship game. My team was Suncoast Surf Shop. I don’t recall the name of the opposing team.
But both teams had loaded up on ringers, recruiting the best male and female players we could find.
My policy of not hitting toward the women was out the window. This was, by gum, the championship game!
Plus the other team had experienced female players. These were women who knew the game and could handle anything hit their way.
Or so I thought.
Nancy, a middle school physical education coach as I recall, was the other team’s pitcher. She had played lots of softball and was very good.
Did I mention this was the championship game?
Back in those days I often slammed screaming liners up the middle, right pass the shins and knees and heads of pitchers.
On this evening my screaming liner I thought was headed to centerfield didn’t make it. It struck Nancy squarely on one of her shins.
I don’t remember which shin but I still recall the look of shock on her face. That I remember. It had to hurt.
I apologized then and there.
I knew the school where Nancy worked and called the next morning to see how she was doing. I was told Nancy had called in sick.
I found her home phone number and called her there. She said her ankle was sore and a bit swollen and she had it elevated.
Nothing was broken and she returned to work the following day.
But I’ve felt bad about hitting Nancy in the ankle for nearly four decades.
Now I feel bad about hitting Mary Anne in the face around the same time. I might feel even worse that I have no memory of the incident.
Good thing I no longer play softball. If I went out again I might injure another woman.