back to the Black Table

 This Saturday morning, at 10 a.m., on 112th Street and First Avenue, Manhattan, Iím going to make a complete ass out of myself. This is hardly an unusual occurrence, but typically it isnít scheduled.

I had it all planned out. Toward the end of last year, a friend forwarded me this website: The New York City Adult Baseball League. Some sainted soul in Brooklyn, frustrated with haphazard softball rec leagues where people drink beer in the outfield, started a baseball league. I mean, a real baseball league. Real bats, real baseballs, catcherís equipment, stealing signs, the whole deal. For 65 bucks, you play all summer, revisiting youth, just being outside, playing ball.

I, of course, have been waiting for this for quite some time. The last time I played baseball was eight years ago, and I havenít really quite felt alive since then. Occasionally Iíll play catch in the park, and it all comes back to me, and how much I missed it. And here was an actual league, where you could play real ball. It had been so long. It was a godsend.

I corralled my friend. ďWe gotta do this. You, like, work out and stuff. Letís get in shape for this.Ē A complete makeover would be needed. I havenít lifted anything heavier than an industrial bag of cat food for years. If I was going to play the way I was supposed to play, I would have to get fit. We set up a whole schedule. Weíd join a gym, head to the batting cages once a week, play catch and hit each other grounders, basically prepare each other for the grueling summer season. If I was going to be playing baseball again, I was going to do it right.

I told my then-girlfriend about my plans. She laughed openly. ďWill, youíre never going to a gym. Youíre just not the workout type.Ē Her scoffing strengthened my resolve. Iíd show her.

And, boy, have I ever. Here we are, three months later, a week before the tryouts Ö and I havenít done a lick of work. I havenít joined a gym, I havenít done any pushups, I havenít even jogged, not once. Not only that, I havenít played catch and Iím still not sure where the closest batting cage is. Fine. Iíve been busy. Much going on. Magazine issue to finish. Readings to plan. Girls to woo. But still. Not one lick of work? Not even one 10-minute stint in the cage? It is inexcusable. I have no justification for my actions. I am lazy and weak. Hell, Iím getting winded just typing. Lemme grab a cigarette.

But I still want this, and I am not going to let a total lack of training, commitment, or talent stand in the way of my dream. Itís probably too late to buff up in the next six days. So Iím doing what I can. My baseball tryout workshop regimen:

Buy The Sporting News 2002 Baseball Preview Yearbook.

Flip through Baseball Prospectus 2002 at Barnes & Noble.

Participate in Yahoo fantasy baseball league draft.

Wear Cardinals hat to work.

Post signs around desk that say ďNo Pepper.Ē

Signing all interoffice memos ďOzzie.Ē

Swing cat by tail while looking menacing in mirror. If need be, make him eat a donut to add weight resistance.

So hereís how itís going to work, from what I can gleam for the Adult League — seems like a strange title; thereís not porn involved, is there? — website. Everyone who shows up Saturday morning gives the league commissioner a check, and then they split up. Certain teams in the league are office teams, like the FDNY team an associate plays for. Others are freelance, just looking for the best guys. Those teamsí managers will sit and watch us newbies play an intrasquad game. Theyíll be watching our tendencies, seeing if we run in the opposite direction of a pop-up, so on. Then theyíll choose which players they want on their team. The season runs all summer, teams playing in Central Park or Inwood or wherever they can grab a field, every weekend. The website even tracks statistics and standings.

The question begs, however: What if, um, some players, say, havenít picked up a bat in a year and have biceps that resemble malnourished kittens? What if, in the intrasquad game, theyíre a foot off every swing and take most ground balls off their ankles? If theyíre not picked by anyone, what happens? Do they still get to play?

Ah, this is the genius of the Adult League. All players who are not picked are plopped together on one team, and they just join the league themselves. The Rejects. Thatís right. If youíre so horrible that no one from any other team wants you, youíre placed on a team made up exclusively of other players that nobody wanted. This is a kind thing for the league founders to do; it makes sure that the competitive nature of the league stays constant while still assuring everyone a chance to play. But it, um, makes for a pretty bad team, a motley crew of whiffers.

Is there any doubt I will be on this team? Is there any doubt thatís where I would belong? I mean, imagine. A whole team of out-of-shape, would-be dreamers trying to recapture their youth without a lick of talent, dedication, or discipline. I was born to be the manager of this team. Hell, weíre an inspirational Keanu Reeves movie waiting to happen.

I suppose I should be more worried about the tryouts Saturday, since thatís when my lack of preparation or awareness will be painfully exposed. But Iíve pretty much accepted no one is going to draft me. Iím already ready to lead our group of rag-tag miscreants to glory. Or at least to the avoidance of any serious injuries.

This Saturday morning. Live pitching. Hard line drives. No baseball in eight years. Not a lick of preparation. Bring it on. Anybody know if they make a protective cup that covers the whole body?



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