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A less than spectacular comeback

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Along with the hundreds or, dare I say, thousands of recreational softball league players, I take to the field each week for a little fun in the sun along with the hopes of recapturing some part of our youth not long behind us.

My softball team, Maguires, so named for the pub on Bell Boulevard gracious enough to help carry the financial load, is — and I need to put this diplomatically — in need of some help. A lot of help. And without casting dispersions on my teammates directly, we as a collective mass pretty much stink to high Heaven.

A few years ago I had hung up my baseball cleats and my Reggie Jackson model glove for good, or so I thought. As the years of my life clicked by with increasing speed and my ability to hit a baseball apparently dwindled even quicker, it seemed like the right thing to do at the time, if not for me, then for the good of the sport.

About the same time I had decided to hang ’em up, my softball team disbanded, sort of. Like the ’60s rock band The Kinks did after their last album, we all went our separate ways with little hope of ever re-forming again.

While I busied myself by trying to consume the East Coast supply of devil’s food Snackwell cookies, my beloved teammates also went on with their lives, being firemen, lawyers, students, chefs and, of course, stock brokers.

But as fate would have it, after kicking the smoking habit and bulking up to an unprintable tonnage, I managed, through some hard work and little magic diet pills, to shed some 20-odd pounds and got myself back into a position of believing that once again I could consider myself an athlete.

Almost at the same time, my ex-manager Fran called to say he was thinking of re-forming the softball team. Like the aligning of the planets, everything seems to be coming together perfectly, marking the return of this motley crew of misfits from Queens to take to the field and reclaim their softball glory.

I am exaggerating, of course. While in our heyday we were a pretty decent softball team, making the playoffs in back-to-back seasons before folding up our tents, we were never world beaters.

And what success we did have in our previous incarnation had little to do with me. While I always thought I could hit a little, my defense, once stellar enough to be a starting third baseman in Little League, had diminished by such a degree only NASA physicists and Raymond Babbitt could calculate it.

Still, with my rediscovered waistline and a vat of yet tested confidence, I didn’t hesitate to come out of retirement for another season with my old team.

Most of the old crew was back, Franny, of course, Danny, BK, Billy, Greg, Glen, Heff, Seamus, Artie, Dave, Mark and all the guys I am forgetting — don’t forget, memory, like softball skills, dwindles with age.

There were also some new faces, including one fresh-faced kid I actually covered while he played soccer and baseball in high school. If arriving at a softball field to play and one of your teammates calls you Mr. Bosco, take the hint, you’re old.

This minor blow to my considerable ego aside, I was determined to set about having the best softball season of my not-so-distinguished career. No longer would I allow myself to be relegated to the catcher’s position — the spot usually given to the guy barely able to throw the ball back to the pitcher — I wanted to play in the outfield, Reggie Jackson’s old position, to be precise. Right field, that’s where I wanted to be.

(I should also note here that my bad back sort of prevents me from catching anyway.)

And I got my wish, sort of. Either because the team was woefully short of players or those in charge didn’t think I could do much damage out there, I got the opportunity, standing out in right field, glove on my left hand and ready to pounce on anything that came my way.

To make a long story a little less long, I play right field the way Reggie did, which is to say not very well. Still, it’s great fun.

My batting is just a wee bit better. While I did suffer the indignity of actually swinging and missing a lob pitch this season, I’m not alone in that.

The old sports cliché “It’s not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game” still holds true for me. It has to, because we sure aren’t winning.

But to be honest, I don’t really care about winning softball games anymore, nor am I interested in trying to be the best softball player in the world. I want to have fun with the guys I play with, which is really the only reason I decided to play again.

I see some of the guys on the team and on opposing teams wanting to pull their hair out whenever someone makes an error. I understand that, but it’s just a game and I’m there to enjoy myself.

Of course, a few more wins wouldn’t hurt and maybe a home run or two. Those are fun, too. Now if only I can get the Kinks back together...

Reach Sports Editor Anthony Bosco by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 130.

Posted 7:16 pm, October 10, 2011
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