I am paying today for last night's dinner. After softball, some of the team went to a nearby Thai place for dinner. I ordered Chicken Basil. The waiter asked me if I wanted it spicy. "Yes, extra spicy." "Are you sure?" "Yes, please, make it extra spicy." "You sure?" "I may look white, but I'm not from this country. I can handle it. Make it as spicy as you can." This went on for a couple of minutes, the waiter concerned that I wouldn't like my dish and I trying to convince him I could take it. "Look," I finally said, "if you make it spicy enough I'll come back." That seemed to do the trick.
I'll have to go back. I was able to handle it, but I had to eat slowly. (And I bore the full brunt of the heat, since I had no rice to tame the fire.) Sanjay said to me after the meal that he had newfound respect for me. Why, I wondered. "You finished it, man. I thought I could handle hot, but that's extreme." Yes, he had sampled a little of my dish, and is Indian, and he thought the dish was too spicy. Perhaps, and I am paying for it today.
Speaking of softball, we played last night, despite the rain. And we had perhaps our best turnout of the season, again despite the rain. Go figure!
There were some scary moments. In the bottom of the first, our starting pitcher, Sanjay, was practically run over by a baserunner on a close play at home. In the next half inning, BMac swung really hard and lost the grip on his bat, sending it speeding at Sanjay's head, who fortunately was seated and able to quickly roll to the ground to avoid contact.
And there were some tense moments. As captain/manager, trying to put everyone in the right position can be a tricky proposition. And it seemed at times that the opposing batters constantly hit to someone who was out of position. In the last inning I had my first baseman, Becca, in left field, just so I could make sure the reserve first baseman, Liz, got enough playing time. Becca is probably the team's best woman, but she is a first baseman and pitcher, and familiarity makes a huge difference. And wouldn't you know, someone hit a deep fly ball to left that got by her and turned into a 3-run homer. In the second inning I put Keya at second, since our regular second baseman was out. Keya's not used to playing second, and unfortunately it showed. If she had made 3 routine catches, we'd probably have gotten out of the second inning giving up only 3 runs; but she didn't and we gave up 9. I wanted to pull the mid-inning switch, but I decided not to. It's one thing to bench myself when I'm playing poorly, as I did a couple of times last year when I committed a bunch of errors. It's an entirely different thing to bench another, since it calls her out in front of her teammates. She knew she failed to make the play and felt bad enough about it. I have to be team psychologist, too! I usually put my worst fielders at catcher, since there is almost never a play at home. Yet even that backfired: in each of the first three innings we had bases-loaded situations. It seemed nothing I did managerially was working.
Fortunately, the opposing manager committed one big mistake, making a pitching change in the top of the fourth. The starting pitcher had been giving up hits and a few walks, but at least her pitches were in the vicinity of the strike zone. The new pitcher didn't pitch a strike until the third or fourth batter he faced, allowing us to go from 2 runs down to 5 runs up.
Those runs turned out to be key. With two outs in the bottom of the fourth (the umpire had decided, due to time constraints -- we were scoring too much -- that the game would end after the fourth unless there were a tie), we allowed two runners to get on base, bringing the winning run to the plate. I was nervous as hell, because I am way too competitive for my own good and I wanted the win, especially since my players try so hard to do the right thing. This next batter was a big, strong guy, exactly who I didn't want coming up to bat in that situation. He fouled back the first pitch, but he didn't miss the second time. He drove the ball deep, deep into centerfield. I held my breath. If that was a homerun, we'd lose. If a fielder was there and dropped the ball, it would probably be a 2-run triple -- a double for sure -- tying the game and putting the winning run in scoring position. But Geoff was there -- Geoff, our team MVP who had two homeruns in the game and would have had a third if he hadn't gotten tagged at home on his first attempt -- Geoff, the best glove on the team -- and he made the catch. Whew!
Our record right now is 3-4. It should be 4-3 and came darned close to being 5-2. Next week is our last game. I hope 4-4 is good enough to make the playoffs. It was good enough last year.