I normally use this allotted space to discuss recent happenings in the world of professional sports, and then insert bad jokes periodically. But this week weâ€™re going to try something different, because quite frankly, Iâ€™m getting sick of professional sports, with all of itsâ€™ ridiculous contracts, weed smoking, and non-televised games due to greedy cable companies. This week, weâ€™re going to talk about people who play for the love of the game. People who play for pride. People who play, mostly, for beer.
Last weekend was important for many reasons, not the least of which was the commencement of the 1st Annual Kenny Family Softball Game, which was held at Johnsonâ€™s Park in Piscataway, and commanded the usual celebrity crowd, including â€œPopâ€� (my grandfather), Frankie Muniz â€” who was mistakingly under the impression that this was Rock & Jock 2004, and subsequently left in disgust â€” and Park Ranger John, who assured me that, as long as he didnâ€™t see any labels, he would assume we were drinking apple juice. He was, by far, the finest Park Ranger I have ever come across, and Iâ€™ve met two in my lifetime, including John. I cannot recall the name of the other one, but I ran into him in a different park, at midnight, when I was sixteen, with a labeled beverage in my hand. He was not as pleasant.
We couldnâ€™t have picked a nicer day to have this much-anticipated game, unless that day was about 30 degrees cooler. And the field itself was perfect, other than the fact that it was covered with duck droppings instead of grass, and had no fences, indicating to every duck in Central New Jersey that they are welcome to come by and use the facilities. But once the teams took the field, and the apple juice was tapped, everybody was ready to have a great time, and everybody did, except the White Team, which lost the game.
As far as the game itself was concerned, the team spirit was apparent from the outset, when, after I placed my wife at second base, she informed me that she was not going to run, or move, unless the ball was actually hit towards her, in which case she would move ever so slightly out of the way, so as to let the ball pass by, like a matador. And she proved true to her word, for the most part. My wife was there less for the game than for the potato salad. Luckily for usâ€” the Blue Team â€”we had my brother-in-law Joe playing the all-important position of â€œbehind the girls.â€�
Ironically enough, the only time during the game that my wife did run was while she was on base, after a pop fly, with no outs, which resulted in the first converted triple play in family softball history, initiated by my cousin-in-law, and fan favorite, Steve. On his way back to the dugout, Steve aimed some taunts in my direction, which included, â€œWhy donâ€™t you go write about THAT, jerk!â€� Only he did not call me â€œjerk,â€� but much worse, although not as bad as what my wife called me for neglecting to tell her not to run after a pop fly with no outs.
The game featured many other highlights, including my father-in-lawâ€™s head-first slide into first base, which may or may not have been an accident, but proved to be a crowd pleaser, except in the case of my mother-in-law, who was busy dialing 911. Nevertheless, he was safe, and thatâ€™s all that mattered. My sister Jill, who pitched a gem, had a great no-look catch on a hard ground ball back to the mound, and was so excited, she forgot to throw the runner out. Also, Joe had a fantastic diving catch in the outfield on a fly ball most likely intended for my mom, although she was unable to focus after Joe pushed her out of the way. He was named the MVP.
But the highlight of the day occured when my cousin John hit a scorching line drive into the outfield gap, which appeared to be an easy home run. As I received the cut-off throw, I thought it pointless to even bother throwing home, being that John was already about five feet from home plate. But I did anyway, and as the ball was released from my hand, John apparently tripped over a duck dropping and was reduced to a cloud of dust. My Uncle Dave, the catcher/umpire, begrudgingly tagged him out, almost unable to add insult on top of injury to his beloved nephew. I, along with the rest of the apple-juice drinking guys, was less-sensitive to Johnâ€™s plight, and spent the rest of the day addressing him by his new name: Jack Cust.
Most importantly, our softball game was free of serious injury, although there were two very close calls. My dad, who had made it a point to stretch out before the game, even going for a three mile walk beforehand, pulled up lame at third base with a tight hamstring in the first inning. He spent the rest of the game guarding the keg, and critiquing my performance, which eerily reminded me of Little League. In a separate incident, after a ground ball was hit to me, I threw it to first, mistakingly assuming that my cousin Mark, who was playing first base, would be covering the bag. Also like Little League, Mark was somewhere in outer space, and the throw raced just past the head of my 10 month-old godson, who was the only one really drinking apple juice.
Overall the game was a huge success, except for some whines from the White Team about the teams being unfair, mostly because all of the members of the Blue Team were able to run the bases without falling down. After the game, we all congregated for a picnic, had a great barbeque, and my sister Kelly and her husband Ken led some others in a game of non-extreme frisbee. We, however â€” most of the guys and my cousin Cara â€” participated in the most difficult and dangerous game of all: horseshoes minus the sand. Try it. Itâ€™s impossible.
Iâ€™ve always wondered why baseball players get so much respect for playing everyday. I mean, it doesnâ€™t appear to be such a physically demanding sport. Then, I woke up on Sunday morning, after the 1st Annual Kenny Family Softball Game, and seriously wondered whether Iâ€™d be physically ready for the 2nd Annual Kenny Family Softball Game. So, I now have a new respect for baseball players. But Iâ€™d still like to see them play horseshoes, without sand, after downing 11 cups of apple juice. Thatâ€™s a real manâ€™s game.