I used to be able to play softball.
I learned a few things from my Dad (he’s in the Manitoba Softball Hall of Fame so he knew his stuff) and I like to remember myself as being a useful (ish) utility player. I was never a star or anything, of course but I could hit a bit (mostly singles), run a bit (not terribly fast), play most infield positions reasonably well (not a great arm but good enough — just) and wasn’t too much of a handicap in the outfield (not terribly mobile but a halfway decent glove).
Of course, that was thirty years ago. Things have changed.
This weekend there was a reunion, celebrating the anniversary of the local school of computing science. Ms. Rose and I both have a connection to it — her because she worked there for several years and also because she’s an alumnus one and a half times over and me because I hang around with her and because when I was a grad student several of the arrogant-bastards-in-training used to hang out with some of the computer science grad students. We ate lunch together, we closed grad club together, we partied together and, yes, we played softball together. Coincidentally, in later years Ms. Rose managed their softball team.
Because of all this, it’s no surprise that the final scheduled event of the anniversary — after the last of the receptions, speeches and dinners had taken place — was a softball game. So yesterday morning Ms. Rose and I dug our gloves out of the basement (“Didn’t this thing used to bend?”), found the pink bat, the brown bat and the used-to-be-blue bat and headed off to the courthouse. Just under a dozen other people showed up: No-longer-fuzzy-Steve. The woman that dressed up as Raggedy Ann and scared me half to death. The guy that installed a Symbolics 3600 without reading the manual. Several others that I don’t have sentence fragment descriptions for. That’s not enough people to split into two teams and have a game, so we… split into two teams and had a game. That’s when I learned exactly how much softball has changed in the last three decades.
For example, the bases are now much farther apart — I don’t remember being nearly that out of breath after running to first base. And the ball is now much smaller — it was never that hard to hit or catch. And they’ve done something to it to make it less accurate when you throw it. The game certainly has changed.
And once, when I was standing on first base, the first baseman’s pants rang. (“Best ringtone ever” he said.) He pulled a phone out and started talking to his wife. Phone calls? On first base?
Like I said, the game sure has changed.