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. 🙂


Let’s talk about basketball

I always liked having something to look forward to.

In high school, I was a homework bug. When I wasn’t doing homework, I was doing other homework. Homework was my life. My motto was “Finish all your homework ASAP so that you can do whatever you want.” I was a workaholic without the job industry. When I wasn’t doing homework at school, I wished that I had something to look forward to.

Sometimes I found things to look forward to. Sometimes I didn’t. And those were long and wishful days of wistful daydreaming. I always believed that having something to look forward to would make the days pass quicker. High school was not glamorous for me, which was how I came to adopt this philosophy so strongly. Homework was an interlude when there was nothing to look forward to.

Then there came basketball. Of course I was already past those boring days of high school. I had long forgotten about my little old philosophy. College requires a different kind of focus (ie. cooking, thinking, money, life) so I wasn’t really bothered about having hobbies or having none.

We went to our first basketball game last year. Just one. It didn’t make me thirst for more. I was impressed, but I don’t know why I never thought about it after that. Maybe it wasn’t the right time. I forgot all about it. In fall, my sister suggested we go during the semester. I didn’t quite care. I had homework, the globe I evolved around. I had tests, my universe.

When the tests were done, we went. And guess what? We lost. But we agreed to go again for the next game. My sister likes basketball, we had some free time, why not? So we went. We won. We went again. Another win. And again. A loss. We kept going anyway.

At some point, — Actually, in one day (I was very aware of it at that moment), we learned all the players by heart. We knew their jersey numbers, knew their names, knew who was being swapped in and swapped out. Knowing all that, we just had to have favorites, right? Suddenly we were cheering for certain names when lineups were announced at the beginning of each game.

Soon, we were tripping down the aisles to high-five the players. My god, that was one of the wildest things ever. I remember holding my arm out, feeling nothing but the eagerness of a gambler waiting for lot numbers to be drawn. As people started shouting “great job, man” “great game” “congratulations”, I felt stupid because I forgot to smile or say anything and I was anxious to get a high-five. Who even feels anxious about stuff like that in college?!

I blabbered like an idiot all the way home. Until the season ended, we didn’t miss one high-five session. I even started joining in on the praises and stuff. I even started to wish that I could meet the players. I got excited when I saw them on campus. I read every news article on the very next day. I willingly pulled up articles about basketball to learn more about it. Soon enough, I was throwing around words like ‘turnover’ and ‘alley-oop’. I got to meet at least two of the players, thanks to my sister who has very admirable guts. I wanted to play, too, even though the single memory I have of playing sports is like dust in the ocean. As you can tell, my brain was no longer a brain but a basketball by the end of it.

But wait, that’s not the end. I started to get inspired by one of the players. I have lots to say about him. His sportsmanship was crazy. He helped opponent team players up to their feet, he refused any form of praise without crediting his team and coach first, he demonstrated great trust for his teammates on the court, and he had all kinds of tricks up his sleeve when the ball was in his hand. Watching him, I felt like I could become a great basketball player.

After basketball season ended, I didn’t really know what to do with my life. I wanted to be a basketball player and that was all I knew. Sports is not something that is easily accessible. You need teammates, you need equipment, you need a ton of practice. It also made me wish that I had participated in some sort of sport in high school. Maybe I would’ve been some star athlete?! In those moments, I felt a lot of regret and sadness but I realized that I can’t be everything. There are a lot of us who sit and work behind desks, wishing for the life of a superstar. Ultimately, we should be thankful for what we have… Somehow.. the mood has changed… so I’ll get back to my point.

Fast forward and my delusions have somewhat faded. I’m committed to a lot of hobbies so it’s unlikely that I’ll play ball any time soon. But!! One thing I can take away from this amazing experience I’ve been blessed with is my brand new love for working out. So all those crazy things that I said and did for basketball have not been wasted.

Most importantly, I saw a light, a universe beyond my world of homework. Homework is important, but there should also be fun and that is why we say: ‘Work hard and play hard’. I’m still going to cry when I get a B instead of an A in a class… but probably not as much as I used to.

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