Orange and playing softball for the first time

Since returning home for the summer, I haven’t thought much about the spring semester. During the spring semester, I thought about writing about the spring semester… a lot. There were days when I didn’t quite comprehend what I was doing or whether I was okay.

While watching Orange – the new summer anime – yesterday, there was a scene where the main character plays softball. A memory flashed across my mind. Softball. Wait, I played my first softball game in the spring semester.

Having never been athletic in my entire life (think hiding in the gym storeroom to avoid being called out to play ball and always being the last one to cross the finish line for track races) – Okay, that’s not entirely true. I took swimming lessons and was good at it, and I also took golf lessons and didn’t completely suck at it. It was my dad’s secret dream that we become the next Michelle Wee (I’m sorry, I’m out of the golf loop so I don’t know who the top female golf player is right now).

Softball is something that I never saw myself doing… at all… in this lifetime. My mom talked about playing it during her school days – back when PE was actually taught in a useful way – but me, a hard bat, and a hard ball? And on top of that, running an entire diamond? Um, no.

But then came the day when my professor declared one day a sports day where we were required to play softball to earn participation points. A teensy weensy part of me was curious about trying the sport. The other part of me balked and wanted to skip class that day. I remember asking my sister if I should go. She didn’t force me to go neither did she tell me not to go.

I went, for the stupid 10 points and because I didn’t want to seem like a spoiled sport to my friend who was also taking the class.

Maybe I should explain why I didn’t want to go and why I avoid participating in most sports. I was once traumatized by a flying ball sent by my kindergarten teacher, I wear glasses, my hand-eye coordination can be compared to a scarecrow trying to be a soccer goalie (I don’t even know what that means), and my poor self-esteem makes me shudder at the thought of people laughing at my lack of athleticism. Valid reasons, I would say.

Here’s the other reason why I went. I wanted to get out of my comfort zone. I wanted to be able to say at the end of the day, yeah, I’ve played softball, wasn’t very good at it but at least I tried. I’ve been pushing myself a lot this year to get out of my comfort zone and this was one of those things.

I’m glad I went because I actually enjoyed myself. I managed to hit the ball two times out of three! Pretty good for someone who lets tennis balls sail past because I swung the racket five miles too far from the ball. “You’re swinging too early,” my professor, the self-appointed pitcher of the day, told me after I swung the bat milliseconds wayyy before the ball came within reach. “Keep an eye on the ball. Pace yourself. Focus on the ball. You got this.” His words didn’t help but I can’t say his patience and unwavering faith in his students (there were others like me, okay?) didn’t.

Focus on the ball, I scoffed inside my head as he readied himself for the second pitch. Right, very helpful, sir. I can’t even tell how far the ball is from me.

My shaking arms positioned the bat against my shoulder, wondering whether my form was even right. I ignored the watchful gazes of the people around me and assured myself that making a fool out of myself in a sporting event is nothing new. The bat felt heavy but the pressure to bat was heavier.

The pitch was gentle. I could see it approaching but I told myself to wait just a fraction of a second longer. I swung blindly, getting ready to be met with disappointed groans or smirks from the sidelines. Instead, there was a clink as the bat connected with the ball. Uh, what?

“Run!” I vaguely heard in my dazed and confused state.

There was also a satisfied “There you go,” uttered by my professor.

I started running. I reached the first base, breathless and still in a good amount of shock. You mean, I hit the ball and it actually went some distance? I was as pleased as punch. I didn’t know when to run to the next base the next round – and the girl in front of me gave me a withering look when I asked her to repeat the basic rules of softball because I was nervous and had already forgotten what my professor said – so I just let my teammates shout and cheer for me to run.

I didn’t mind the sand in my shoes or the sand clouds billowing when people slid to bases and kicked up a bunch of sand. In my excitement, I even threw down the bat which my professor reminded us several times not to for fear of bats spinning into someone else’s gut (true story he told) to run. If I had to describe my softball experience in one word, it would be exhilarating. It’s different from swimming and golf, neither of which requires running as fast as you can to the cheers of your teammates.

What made the game even better was that nobody jeered or booed at me, nobody gave me judging looks (except that one girl and even then it wasn’t too bad), and nobody kicked me out of the game. I just might say yes the next time someone invites me to play a sport.

Oh, my professor made us use his daughter’s old lighter bats and softer balls so in the end I was worried about hard balls flying into my gut for no reason. And because my self-esteem hadn’t seen the boost it deserved, I went to the another class session instead of my usual session because I didn’t want the people, who have seen me in class for 3 months, to watch as I flailed about helplessly on the field. Which I didn’t.

And in case you’re wondering why I can play golf (when is this post going to end?!) which is played with hard clubs and a hard ball but I kind of liked – or didn’t hate, if you will – golf because you know where the ball is, nobody but trimmed grass (or in unluckier cases, sand bars) is on the receiving end of the ball, and all you have to do is swing (or putt… or drive… or chip… never mind).

It has been said that college years are the best time to break free and venture into new and exciting things. Pretty sure I did that when I showed up for that softball game. 🙂

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