By Kristy Barry
Photo courtesy of Kristy Barry.
In my last piece about my summer softball team in Central Park, I noted that my mom recommended that I alter my criteria for a boyfriend beyond “being tall and good at softball.”
To some, this sounds superficial. But to me, it sounds so poetic… and not just because it rhymes.
Of course I want a mate to be STD-free, to use proper syntax, and to not have a weird peanut allergy, but I also want to share a bed with someone with superior hand-eye coordination and a studly physique. I want someone who knows how to use their sporting equipment and their power effectively, and someone who has the foot speed of a cheetah.
There’s no sex appeal in watching a man turn his body away from a hard, one hopper line drive at third base. It’s a show of his natural instincts and his bravery–in this little battle-game–if he can keep his glove down, snag the ball and fire it to first base.
He should be an emotionally intelligent mate, naturally, but you can also find that out during a casual pick-up game when both teams are squabbling about whether a runner safely slid into home plate and he walks over to mediate the fight.
As far as innuendos go, really, is there any better “field of play” than the softball diamond? A guy who had a crush on me asked if he could bat after me so he could bring me home.
He plays the field and knows exactly what to do when there are runners on first and third with no outs. And how that changes with one out in the inning. He knows the fake throw, what to do in a run-down, when to run the ball in and when to fire home.
He plays alongside my brother and sister, so that will tell me if he’s good to my family. He chases down balls in the outfield with the speed and agility of a squirrel, and that tells me he’ll chase down a mugger who steals my purse.
He digs for extra bases and slides into bases on close plays, even if it means sacrificing the skin on his knees. That tells me something about the kind of man he’ll be during a bear attack while we’re camping. He knows when to run.
A few years ago, I was seeing a guy who bragged about how good of a player he is and I invited him to play to prove the hype. He plays on my team in Central Park and watches me smack a home run down the right field line. As I cross home plate, I walk over to him and say some silly-taunting line like, “What now?!” or “Beat that…”
On his next at-bat, he smokes a ball over the trees in deep center field, casually jogs around the bases and despite being dressed in a white shirt and white athletic shorts, he slides head-first into the dirt at home plate. Pops up from the ground and high-fives me while a little dirt cloud poofs off his hands and into my eyes. It was as if he came to the game and brought me a big bouquet of fresh-cut roses.
The ball was never found.
He wows me with stories of crushing home-runs on every field in New York, like putting a ball in the water on the East River fields, ricocheting a ball off the Queensboro Bridge, and knocking out a light at the Clinton Dewitt fields. I wouldn’t be surprised if he told me he hit a beer out of the hand of a reveler on the deck of a party cruise floating along the East River.
In commercials, the Dos Equis Man is the Most Interesting Man in the World and allegedly “everyone hangs on his every word, including the prepositions” but in reality, I’m transfixed by this softball player’s stories of scars, scrapes, and big hits.
In one outing with him, he tries describing how far he hit his latest home run. He grabs his phone and shows me a Google Map of the diamond where he played. “This is the women’s field. This is the men’s field. Look, the trees are 350 feet from the diamond.”
He’s not the most interesting man in the world, of course, but when I think fondly of him, I imagine him pounding a ball over the Green Monster at Fenway Park. I don’t know much about his family history or his aspirations, but I’ve seen his turf burns, his bruises, and the way he saddles up to a hard ground ball.
He’s an erratic communicator but he’s emphatic about playing hard.
Now, I’m not so enamored by professional baseball players because they should be knocking out the scoreboard lights and scooping nasty line drives. There’s something mysteriously special about someone showing up to play on my dirt-league in Central Park, quietly unassuming in their abilities until they step up to the plate.
You can tell what kind of player they are by how they hold the bat, how they throw, how they round the bases. You look for small signs of finesse–a sexy self-assuredness that tells you they aren’t scared, they’re in charge and you should sit back and enjoy the show.
I’m dating someone now who’s tall, muscular and sports a mighty golf swing. He said he’d play softball with me. I showed him videos of me playing, abusing the big gaps in right field for cheap but gratifying home runs.
At the end of my softball spiel, I bet him that he can’t hit a home run–with a wager of a MacBook Pro computer. If he fails to do so by the end of the season, he owes me a trip to the Henry Ford Museum in Michigan–a place where you can learn the original rules of old-fashioned baseball, which includes hitting the ball in the opposite direction of the pitcher.
My guy has played baseball in his youth but with the way he can smack a golf ball now, I think he’ll do just fine, but one purpose of the betting was to ensure he’d show up to games and not lollygag–that he’d swing for the trees in deep center and field post-chatter props for what an amazing natural athletic ability he has, considering he hasn’t played baseball for over 20 years.
The kind of chatter that’s music to my ears…
The bet expires in August so he has a couple months. I’ll bat him at the bottom of the roster, just behind me, and make sure he knows what’s expected of him that night.
For more, check out Kristy in conversation on BTR Sports every Sunday on BTR.