Sunday , 22 April 2018

Outlaw Outlook: My First Men’s Softball Game Experience

By Mike Bruu, TSB Sports Writer

I am a big believer in second chances. I’ve always thought that a person deserves to have at least one moment in their lives to revisit a former hobby or passion and see if they can alter the way they remember it, even if it is just in the smallest way.

Growing up, baseball was my life. At least five days a week I had either a game or a practice to attend, which meant that the other two days were spent counting down until I got to take the field again. There were moments where I didn’t like the game very much. There were moments that I even contemplated quitting the game. I’ll be honest and say that I have even hated the game of baseball at some moments. But like every athlete, regardless of what level of competition, the pure love for the game that makes you feel the most in control of anything in your life keeps you around for good.

It never really lets you go.

As many of you don’t know, I played baseball at McKinney Boyd High School from 2006-2010. During the last scrimmage of my junior year, I threw a ball from second base over to first when I felt my throwing shoulder come out of socket. I remember the pure agony like it was yesterday, but instead of saying anything to the coaches for fear of losing some playing time, I attempted to throw it back into place and keep playing. This was not the first time this had happened to me in my playing days, as I was particularly lanky and threw the ball at a very awkward angle. However, I could feel my whole arm going numb and couldn’t get my shoulder to slide back into socket. And as the baseball gods tend to do, whenever you don’t want the ball to find you it always comes your way, so I remember throwing someone out with an arm that was totally numb and not even in socket. Not something I advise you to try at home.

For the last two years of my high school baseball experience, I went through two shoulder surgeries and two lengthy rehabs. Towards the end of my second rehab, I remember telling my doctor that the only thing I wanted out of this was just to make my arm strong enough to keep playing catch with my dad and brother, and perhaps one day a kid of my own. And while I really went through some emotional challenges getting over not playing ball anymore, the experience led me to get into the world of coaching and eventually into the role of sports writing. So while I still watch a game and get that itch to pick up a glove and go play, I can’t really complain about the opportunities I have been given over the past two or three years.

But as I got to see my brother play some incredible baseball at Paris Junior College this past year, that itch had never been so difficult not to scratch. The more and more I got to see him play or heard about how well he did on the mound, the more I wish I could just get one more at bat in that batters box against some real live pitching. So when my brother told me that some buddies and former teammates were getting together a men’s softball team in the summer to play, I could finally take the gloves off and scratch that little irritating itch. I was going to be able to play again.

Now this wasn’t select baseball facing future major leaguers again, but it was some form of baseball. Yes, the ball was bigger and the color yellow. Yes, the bases were about 30 feet closer than normal. Yes, the intensity wasn’t half of what I remembered it being. But as I took the field Tuesday night for the first competitive game in three years, I found myself taking a step back and soaking everything in. I was finally on a field again. I was finally home.

As for the game, a difficult first inning defensively proved costly for the McKinney Outlaws as we lost 8-6 versus Swag. Yes, they were called Swag. And although that was our first actual game as a full team, we unfortunately had to forfeit due to low attendance last week so our overall record sits at 0-2. However, I don’t know if the City of Coppell softball league has ever seen a team that has more fun than we do out there. While we all definitely got competitive towards the final two innings, I couldn’t think of a better group of guys to play some ball with than what we have out there. That even includes our newest second basemen, my dad, who graciously offered to play last night so we could have 10 guys in the lineup. With my brother at shortstop and my dad at second base, it was pretty incredible to catch throws at first from both of them. That’s definitely an experience I thought I would never have.

Even after a 1-for-4 day at the plate and a loss to a team called Swag, I felt pretty incredible walking off the field. In fact, I knew I was back in my element when all I could think about on the ride home was the plays we could have made to change the loss into a win. I feel back in my comfort zone. While these weekly stories I will share for the rest of the summer regarding my softball experience may not change the world or help our sinking economy, I ask that you take away just one thing from this piece. Think back to something you were really passionate about at some point in your life that maybe you left open ended or without proper closure, and see if you can recapture the magic of that moment or that thing.

Even if it is just for one day, I can tell you right now that I haven’t been this happy in a very long time and I know it is all because I got to recapture a tiny piece of my old life and mix it with my new one. I will always be a part of the game of baseball in some shape or form, so find your baseball and see if you can get one more at bat at the plate.

Look for weekly updates on the McKinney Outlaws season every Wednesday as we take on the City of Coppell Men’s Softball League!

Follow me @TSBSportsBruu.

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