Column: A slice of life on the softball diamond

Wedel Signs workers installing the Veterans Memorial Park last April in Calverton. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch photo)
Veterans Memorial Park in Calverton serves as host for Riverhead softball games.
(Credit: Barbaraellen Koch, file)

Bobby Jones, the famous amateur golfer and co-founder of Augusta National Golf Club, once said, “Golf is the closest game to the game we call life. You get bad breaks from good shots; you get good breaks from bad shots. But you have to play the ball where it lies.” 

For me, however, the Riverhead men’s league softball team I play on is more like life than my golf game, which can probably be summed up in one word: unpredictable.

I like the thought of getting bad breaks on good shots and good breaks on bad shots; think of the family member who died way before his or her time. Or on the flip side, that old clunker of a car that somehow kept on running.

Things just don’t work out the way they should sometimes – for better or for worse.

And so it goes in softball. You play the balls you’re pitched and you might hit a solid line drive, but there’s the left fielder or short stop standing right there waiting for it. And then, of course, there are the hits you don’t deserve that somehow sneak through, which leave you scratching your head while standing on first base.

But the biggest way I see softball mirroring the game of life is in the people who play it. Like life, we don’t go through a softball game alone. It’s a team game and it requires — granted, probably not as much as some other sports — a certain amount of teamwork to reach a common goal.

On my team, and on the other teams we play against, there are almost always certain kinds of people who stick out.

Here are just a few I’ve seen:

• The guy who’s always down for a couple of beers after the game: This team member’s responsibilities go way beyond having a couple cold ones after the last out is recorded. This the fun guy, always good for a laugh and for lightening the mood when things get tense.

• The guy who tries a little too hard: These players can be a blessing or a curse. The right guy has his heart in the game for the team, running way past the first base bag on a ground ball. The wrong one just has a serious problem with losing that can get awkward at times when he doesn’t do too well.

• The guy who stands at home plate and watches the ball after he hits it. This guy can hit and he knows it. And he will hit — though, he and the guy who tries too hard might not exactly see eye to eye when that fly ball stays in the park.

• The wily veteran: This guy has been playing since some team members were in diapers. But age is just a number to him — and if you think that bum knee is going to keep him from laying out for a ground ball, think again.

Of course, a lot of players don’t fall into any category. They go about the game pretty low-key, just like some people go about their jobs or anything else in real life. I guess a lot of people can’t be placed into one of four different categories. Then again, some people fall into more than one.

It should probably be noted at some point that my team’s record is pretty bad. Like, worse than the Houston Astros bad. Not counting Wednesday night’s games, we’ve won four out of 21 games this year. Three of those wins have come through forfeits.

But our record honestly doesn’t really bother me. We get out there and have fun as a group; sometimes we get good breaks and sometimes we get bad breaks.

Unlike my golf game, though, I can’t blame my unwieldy slice when we lose.

Joseph Pinciaro is the managing editor of the Riverhead News-Review and left fielder for North Fork Bacon & Smokehouse. He can be reached at 354-8024 or [email protected].