Aint Nothin Soft – By Tiffany J. Brooks - Staying Sane in the Mini-Ice Age - Take a Lesson, Hit the Cages, and Dream!
By Tiffany Brooks
BRRrrrrrrr! Holy cats it's ugly outside! As I write this we're having freezing fog here in lovely Spokane, Alaksa...err...I mean Washington. Yes, freezing fog... as in... if you leave a softball outside for 10 minutes it will be coated in a thin layer of rime (cool word... look it up!) and look like a freaky little ice sculpture. You know, this is my third year writing this column, and it's getting to be a bit of a usual occurrence when my publisher e-mails me in January, and I go into shell-shock of sorts when he says, "Can you get a column ready? It's that time again." I look out the window, which is dark by 4:00 here in December, but is a little better now, and think, Is this guy NUTS? Softball? The only sport I should be writing about is Wooly-freaking-Mammoth hunting!" We just had 73" of snow in December, and hardly any of it has melted... it just compacted under its own weight like some nasty little mini-ice age glacier trying to form. The snow was up to the windows, and when I had to get up and shovel my roof, at the end I was too tired to climb down the ladder so I just allowed myself to slide off the roof. I fell all of about 2 1/2 feet before hitting the woman-made ski slope of snow piled below the eaves. Needless to say, if we want to see the dirt of an infield or (oh rapture!) real live grass, we have to fly South...like LA and San Diego south...like Phoenix and Tucson South. Okay..I can feel my publisher looking over my shoulder and reading... hmmm...he says, tapping a pencil, "I'm not paying her to write copy for the Weather Channel or Travelocity." Okay, fair enough...I just wanted to set the stage for the coming season.
So – welcome back faithful readers! It's my pleasure to write for Softball West again this season, and I'm looking forward to a great and exciting year...once the glaciers melt! I drove by several fields in the last week, and they're all blanketed and icy, but by gosh...I KNOW Spring is coming! Like Mulder in the X-Files, "I want to believe!"
So... for those of us who don't live in really cool, nifty year-round softball places like LA, San Diego, Phoenix and Tucson, how do we stay sane and focused on the game we love? One word: Lessons. Sure, some players opt to just go to the gym, or others just take the off-season for re-hab and play video games, but for me? I like to give lessons (and take some as well from time-to- time). If you haven't been taking lessons, you might want to consider it. No, I'm not trying to drum up business and load my schedule with readers of Softball West. And yes, I know all the really serious college-scholarship bound take lessons already, but I'm talking about all the folks out there who may not be THAT serious, but love the game, and still play either Fastpitch or Slowpitch. Yes, believe it or not, you CAN take lessons for Slowpitch – there's a whole different art there to hitting the ball, and fielding and throwing are pretty much the same. And here's the key point: Going to take a hitting, throwing or fielding lesson will get you JACKED for the season, re-ignite that softball furnace pilot-light and may drive you to remember the passion you have for the game. If you don't want lessons, then get thee to a cagery (sorry, Mr. Shakespeare) and take some whacks at the ball. One caution...do make sure to stretch first...especially your back, hammies and achilles. If you haven't been into the gym for awhile, and regardless of age, they can all be a bit stiff, and swinging a "lead pipe" around in the cage might not be the best choice without warming up a little first! All I can say is that the excitement I try to give to my students (and in turn, the excitement I receive back from them) makes the long, cold northern nights MUCH more enjoyable, as we both are reminded of what is to come: Those first muddy practices (with the swamp at SS), hydroplaning in the outfield, the crisp pop of the ball into the catcher's glove when the temperature is still brisk, and then later, that smell of freshly mowed grass, the dust rising in your nostrils from the infield being dragged, the white-white chalk, and the smell of new uniforms. Yes, it's coming... I promise! If you're in the warm states and reading this, mail all of us up north here a warm box of air. If you're in the Northern states with me, then get off your tail, hit the cages, take a lesson or two, and get ready! The season cometh!
Until the spring thaw, just remember, "there ain't nothin soft" about a frrrrrrrozen softball!
As always, I'd love to hear from you with comments and story ideas (and boxes of warm air) at email@example.com.