MLB Softball60: The captain's experience

When I was asked if I would like to be the Captain of the Limelight Ranger’s MLB Softball team, I was both excited and yet hesitant to say yes at the same time. Why the hesitation? Well, the last time I played anything closely associated with softball was rounders and that was back in school over 15 years ago. So, rusty would be an understatement and even back then I wasn’t great. But as I look around the office, I see a group of budding talent eager to get out and playball, and so with a rejuvenated confidence I said yes!
The first game week came round quickly, and before I knew it I was organising our team, handing out kit and planning our journey to Finsbury Park. I felt relaxed and yet the pressure was on, not only for my team playing on the pitch but also for the guys behind the scenes ensuring the games went smoothly with no glitches. Even though the games were team managed, our brand new app was to be put through its paces for the first time ever! But before I could lose myself in my thoughts, my team’s banter bought me back to reality and before I knew it I was standing on the pitch, clinging onto the bat ready to attempt to hit a homerun.
The first two swings I missed. They weren’t even close. ‘Great’ I thought to myself, this is going to be a long evening. I looked round at the opposition’s backstop, an American guy in his 40s who looked like he knew the sport better than me. “Any tips?” I asked, knowing full well I needed to hit this one. “Yes” he replied, “Focus on the ball, don’t take your eyes off it!”. I turned back to the pitcher, and indicated I was ready to go, fully aware I didn’t have a clue what I was doing at this stage. I took a deep breath, was the captaincy taking its toll? I took an even deeper breath, firmed my grip on the bat and got into what I thought was a batting posture, bum out, bat up and eyes forward. As he pitched the ball, I watched it speed towards me and then… it happened. Utter disbelief. I hit my first ever softball straight down the middle. With the hit still ringing in my ears, I threw the bat to the ground and gave it my all, sprinting to first base.  Whilst it was a good hit, the other team recovered quickly and so 1st base is where I stayed.
I managed to make it round for my first ever run, and what a rush it was. Running past the base, high fiving my team mates and getting a run on the board. Ok, that’s not exactly how it happened... not even close! But what came next was embarrassing to say the least, especially when I am captain! Instead of running from 1st base to 2nd base, a relatively straight forward proposition, I ran to where I thought 2nd base was, some 15 feet from it’s actual location. Frantically I looked for the white rubber mat, my eyes scouring the blades of grass trying to find the base. By the time I found it, I was out! My first ever game, caught out by running to the wrong base. Or no base at all. Great.
We lost our first game by a handful of runs, but softball had already won our hearts and the team was in high spirits.
As the season reached it’s midway stage, the team was growing in confidence and everybody from the office was getting involved meaning we had a different team each week. However, we were on a losing streak and needed a good result to keep us in the running for Finals Day. Gameweek 4 came round and we arrived at Finsbury Park, albeit after a quick chicken burger for an energy boost. The team huddled together, shoulder to shoulder and we began to discuss tactics. Instead of having a man on each base, we spread out and had the pitcher covering 3rd with only 1 player on a base. We would later realise this small tactical change would transform our season and propel us up the table. We smashed this game out the park, finishing strongly and recorded a big win.
With a big overtime win, we finished 3rd in our league and qualified for a 3rd place play-off on finals day.  Considering this was our first time competing in a softball league, we were pretty chuffed to have finished so well and this gave us added confidence going into finals day.
Finals day was upon us and our excitement levels were growing. As we entered the park on a fine Tuesday evening in North London, we could hear the music belting out and followed our ears to the main event. There was a full PA system with a DJ and a food truck that was a retro VW campervan serving a range of hot dogs. Since we had just left work, the team wasted no time in scoffing down some grub and easing the nerves with an ice cold bud. With hay bales around the outside and park benches in the middle to chill out and gossip or talk tactics, the evening was set for some awesome Softball60 games.
Our finals day experience was a winning one! We won our game comfortably with some noticeable catches from our team and some big hits scoring double points with home runs! The finals day experience was a really nice way to finish an exciting, fun and social season of softball. The season was a great success both on and off the pitch. And the team kit made the experience that much better! Proper MLB apparel, cool equipment and a great app for live scoring and tracking stats really propels this league above its competitors.
Taking part in MLB Softball60 gave me a great opportunity to chat and socialise with colleagues that I don't usually work with and we frequently found ourselves in the local beer garden after the games for some well-deserved team bonding. Plus it gave us something fun and different to do on a weekday night! I full enjoyed my experience of captaining and playing in the MLB Softball60 season and have found a love for a sport I knew very little about before. 

Jon Wood //