Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Take Me Out to the Ball Game

The family went to a minor league baseball game in Missoula tonight. Watching the Osprey play is a fun family event for us. It is not MLB by any stretch of the imagination, but it is fun in a folksy, Americana sort of a way, with t-shirts flung into the crowds, corny antics between innings, and a crazed feathered mascot dancing to the YMCA. The field is small enough that there isn't a bad seat in the house, and for less than the price of taking the family to see a movie in the theater, we can sit right behind home plate, a few rows up from the field. We like going to the ball park in the summer time, and tonight they were giving away free logo baseballs. Bonus.

So tonight, Elli and I were getting some of her wiggles out, walking around to see all the various extraneous attractions, when we came upon the Speed Pitch booth. I remembered it from last year. Basically, you pay a dollar to throw three pitches at a target while a bored teenage kid times your throws with a radar gun. After gauging your abilities on your first two pitches, you are asked to guess the speed of your third pitch. A correct guess wins a cheap plastic toy.

The prize, however, was not what attracted my attention. Next to the booth, there was a white board divided into two columns--ladies and gents--and several rows of various age categories, 0-6, 7-10, 11-14, 15-18, 19+, and 50+. A name and a number denoted the top speed achieved in each category for the night. The winners in each category at the end of the night would be awarded two free tickets to an upcoming game. The Ladies 19+ category had a posted top speed of 48 MPH. I used to be able to throw much faster than that, but that was twenty years ago. Could I throw anywhere close to that now? I had no idea. My daughter's age category was blank; no girls her age had thrown at all.

While I studied the board, a woman and her son approached and we struck up a casual conversation while they waited their turns in line.

"I don't care about setting any records;" she declared, "I just want to throw harder than my son! He's starting to get a big head on his shoulders and needs to be taken down a notch!" The boy, who appeared to be about nine years old, grinned up at me.

I cheered for the mom as she stepped up to throw. Her first pitch surprised me; she was very overweight and didn't appear very athletic at all, but she had good form. Clearly, she had played ball before. Her best throw was clocked at 45 MPH.

I don't know what her son threw. I forgot to pay attention. My competitive nature had taken over, and over the course of the mom's three pitches, I had gone from casually curious about this contest, to set on winning a pair of tickets. Watching her, I was certain I could throw significantly harder. But was it hard enough to beat the 48? There was only one way to find out.

We went back to find the guys and informed them of the situation. We decided to return at the seventh inning, just before closing time, to see if the numbers were still within reach. By the seventh inning, there was no change in the standings in our categories.

Elli threw a 24 MPH pitch that wasn't pretty, but it was enough to fill in a name for her still blank category space. I was up next.

I was a little nervous about throwing so hard without any warming up at all. I'm not exactly young and limber and in-shape anymore. Would I tear something? My mature and responsible considerations were overruled, however, by my desire to win and I hurled the basebal with all my might.

52 MPH.

I was on the board. And I seemed to be basically intact, although I'm sure I will have some sore muscles to show for my efforts.

We returned to our seats for the rest of the inning and waited for the results to be called out over the sound system.

OK, I'll be honest. I actually didn't wait for the results to be called. I snuck over to the booth as the still bored teenager was filling out his final winners sheet and took a peek, then waited patiently for the announcer.

My daughter and I had each won a pair of tickets. We will be returning to the ball park next Wednesday to enjoy a free game that we earned with our mad skillz. What fun! Our guys were very proud and gushed over us for quite some time.

The girl and I are both determined to practice all week long to improve our speed so we can win more tickets again next week. We could have quite a racket going here, spending two dollars on the Speed Booth at each game to win four tickets toward the next game. After all, it is a good thing to be able to support your own habit, and our family can be baseball junkies with very little effort.

Andy thinks I can throw a 56 MPH pitch in the booth next week. He knows just how to challenge me. I will shoot for 57.

Here is a photo from our trip to Glacier National Park with the H's a couple of weeks ago. We were all throwing rocks into the lake and Alison snapped this pic in mid-throw. Time to get that old arm warmed up again. It's silly, I know, but it's fun.


Jeannie said...

That's my girl...once a competitor, always a competitor; once a winner, always a winner! Congratulations, dear daughter! You've still got it!!!

Mister Ed T said...

Take me out to the ball game! Good form there, but if you are throwing a baseball, that cap just has to go. Is it a baseball or a softball you are throwing? Keep us posted on you anticipated victories.

Sherry C said...

Thanks, Mom and Uncle Ed, for being my fan club.

Uncle Ed, it is a baseball. I guess I have to switch hats, huh?