We are down three runs in the last inning. There is one out and a man on second. I step into the box. I’ve already hit two solid line drives for base hits, but have not been able to get past first base. In comes the pitch, a little on the inside, not too much arc. A perfect pitch. As it comes in, I dip down a little lower, crank my bat back and turn on it.
I barely even feel the ball hit the sweet spot of the bat. I see the left fielder turn around, which is a very good sign. Problem: I have to run. A lot. As I approach second, I can see the left fielder still hasn’t reached the ball. I head to third, looking for the coach to stop me or wave me around. He’s still watching, so I say to myself, “what the hell,” and head for home. I figure at this point, stopping is going to take more effort than just allowing my momentum to run its course.
As I head to the plate, I see the catcher is getting ready to catch a ball. I remember days when I would head home after hits like this, and the catcher would still be watching his fielders try to collect the ball, and I would pull up twenty feet from the plate and coast in. The last time I did that was three years and forty pounds ago. As I head home, I make a tactical mistake.
It has been a few years since I’ve made the 240 foot trek around the bases, so I forget that in slowpitch softball there are safety rules to avoid dangerous plays at the plate. I don’t have to touch home, just run past it. If they have the ball on the plate before I pass it, I’m out. It’s like a force play at first, but I don’t even have to touch home – just pass it. Unfortunately, I forget this.
I’m chugging toward the plate, where a catcher is prepared to catch a ball being thrown in from the outfield. My head and the ball get there at the same time. The rightfielder tells me later that he could hear it loud and clear as the ball ricocheted off my noggin. It’s not dodgeball. Home Run.
People surround me, half are patting me on the back and giving me high-fives, half are afraid I’m going to keel over. My head doesn’t hurt. My lungs, on the other hand… I get back to the bench, my daughter gives me a big hug, and I start to feel better instantly.
We end up losing by one. After the game, people ask me if my head is okay. I honestly answer that I barely felt it. The 19 year olds on the team laugh a little, tell me it was because I was moving so fast, it softened the blow. Then one of them looks at me and says with a little bit of awe, “You crushed that thing.” I smile. I may be a 31-year-old, 310 pound Fat Pastor, but I can still hit.