Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Wall

Here's a fact about me that not everyone knows. I love baseball.

I remember the Atlanta Braves in the 80's. My earliest baseball memory is a hazy image in my head of the Braves playing the Cardinals in the 1982 NLCS. Without the aid of Wikipedia I can name so many of the major Braves players of the mid-eighties. They had players like Dale Murphy, Bruce Benedict, Chris Chambliss, Glen Hubbard, Rafael Ramirez, Bob Horner, Albert Hall, Claudell Washington, Phil Neikro, Gene Garber, Steve Bedrosian, and so on and so on. I could name more. Seriously, I could.

The eighties were a rough time to be a Braves fan, because the were always so bad, but they were all still superheroes to me. I wanted to be a baseball player. I still do.

So I jumped at the chance to join the office softball team. I'm trying to get my body back into shape. I started running again (ok, fine, I alternate between walking and jogging) a couple of weeks ago. And now, not only do I get to stand on a baseball field, swing a bat, run the bases, and play a position, but it's also some badly-needed exercise. Am I taking a casual public park softball league a little too seriously? Probably. But I love the diamond.

We had our first of two practices before the season starts last night, and playing softball is not as easy as I remember. I used to think softball and baseball were relatively low-effort activities. Maybe when I was more physically acive they were, but with somewhere in the neighborhood of 17 years of nearly complete inactivity behind me, I found myself wondering:

How do you tell the difference between a mental wall and a physical wall? You hear about "the wall", that moment you reach mentally where you want to quit, think you can't go on any longer, but you push through and succeed. But you also hear about people passing out from physical exertion. Not pretty. But those people probably thought they were just pushing through "the wall". How does a couch potato who hasn't exercised seriously since high school tell the difference?

As I stood in the outfield (baseball fans: I deliberately chose to cover right field when I realized how winded and tired I was getting) desperately sucking as much air as I could, sweat pouring down my face, legs aching from the running, arm turning to jelly from all the throwing, I considered whether I would look back in two hours with relief or with regret.

I wanted to stop and tell everyone that I needed to sit and rest, but did I want that because I was about to faint or because I'm essentially weak-willed and give up too easily when faced with physical difficulty. There is some precedent for the latter.

Two things happened. First, my pride and my desire to impress my new coworkers and teammates made all of my questioning irrelevant. I've been at my job for less than two months, and beyond my desire to get out on the diamond and do something I love, I also want to build camraderie and relationships, especially since my boss and my boss's boss are both playing with me. I refused to show weakness.

Second, I stayed upright and even managed to get in a few more at-bats before the practice was over. I hung in there. I may have learned something more valuable if I had passed out, something about not being driven by pride and fear, but I lucked out and saved that lesson for another day.

I also had a stupid grin on my face all night. This is going to be fun.