Keating and Schneider tell San Francisco to shove it

The night was scowling over us like a wet cat teasing a three-legged mouse to dare to run away.  Coming straight over the backstop was a mist storm that penetrated the soul with wind chill and caused the eyes to blur over with glaze that made vision more like that of a one eyed pirate on the stormy seas.  Really at 10pm on June 24th 2010 at Gough and Turk, not the city of San Francisco’s best, conditions at the fast pitch championship game were pretty ideal for winter polar bear diving.  Don’t you love the summer in the city and how it tricks all the stupid tourists who wear shorts and sandals?

When it was all said and done we spent four and a half hours in a stormy summer night where Noe’s fast pitch team had to win two in a row to win the championship.  These nights are especially hard because the team has more men in their forties and fifties and even sixties than a C league bowling division.  Their one brash, speedy, all powerful man in his twenties was of less help than usual as he was nursing a hamstring and had to play with his keen intellect instead of his cunning athletic ability.  It’s all physics my friends, all physics.  Good thing my father basically did most of my homework in high school physics so I could really earn that “C” and be in such a good position on the fast pitch field today.  What benefits I now have in my life.

After winning the first game, we ventured into the third inning of the second game with a four to nothing lead.  Things were looking good, the other team was smashing the ball but every outlandish smack of the rubber and aluminum was finding its appropriate mitt and then with two outs in the bottom of the third horror struck in such a way as it does only in the nightmares of infants.  Our sixty two year old pitcher let out a death yell as he released the ball, and with that yell came the collapse of a grown man.  Ah mortality is such a bittersweet part of life.  Aging catches up to all of us and kills us internally when we really can’t do what we used to do and have to be content with finding new pleasures in the different views of life.  In the wink of an eye participation can replaced by observing as the only thing left to do and from there on out that is the only option.  Get used to it, that’s life and what else can you do?  Don’t worry pretty soon you’ll be dead and onto bigger and better things anywayJ  In this particular situation what brought this experienced man to his knees was in his groin.  Yes, not uncommon for most men but I’m not talking about that particular kind of groin area.  I’m speaking of the groin muscle that connects the thigh to the abdomen that, yes, also plays a very important part in the act of human reproduction but an ever more important part in the push off of a pitcher.  “I’m okay, I’m okay” said the man who claims he has a groin of steal “let me try again.”  The next pitch produces the same result but with an even louder yell from our pitcher and it is very clear that we have no one who can throw.

Now, fast pitch softball is no joke.  It’s not like regular baseball where many other players on the team can pick up the ball and at least throw a somewhat curve ball and at least semi-consistent strikes.  Everyone on a baseball diamond can throw overhand and somewhat accurate, however, most people on a fast pitch softball field can not even come close to pitching well to save their first born.  The motion of a fast pitch pitcher is underhand and it is extremely difficult to even come anywhere near the plate, let alone to have more velocity on it than a slow pitch softball pitcher.  The only man on the field that I’ve ever seen throw in a game, or even the only one I’ve ever seen throw before the game joking around, was Kevin Schneider and this was really the only man for the job.

I walk up to Kevin and give my good realistic Keating advice, which is “God, what a position you’re in now, haha, don’t blow it”  Maybe I’ll make him a little pissed or something.  Never underestimate the benefits that can come from a mocked man.  From his stroll into right field every other teammate was offering their words of wisdom which ranged from “Just keep the ball low, just throw strikes, just don’t think, just be calm, you’re really screwed Kevin, how did this happen to us?” and on and on.  We take the field with Kevin on the mound with a four to nothing lead with two outs in the bottom of the third and before George Bush can even wink at ya, it is four to two with another muscular looking gorilla with a hard on for slow, mediocre pitching coming up to the plate with two on.  With his passionate, jungle strength the hitter smashes it into the left field gap, which will be at least a triple.  The ball is relayed to me at short in the middle of the outfield and I turn around and make a quick outrageous throw to Sid our catcher who runs to his right, scoops it up on a quick hop and somehow manages to tag out the brute charging down on him.  In an instant we went from being down five to four and still in the field to cheering and happy to still be tied and running with enthusiasm into the dugout at our luck.  Kevin and his teammates somehow felt the warmth of the night on their faces again.

As a team, we didn’t know what we were going to do.  With having a pitcher in the game, which was halfway over, that couldn’t throw strikes and was barely able to get one out we knew the only way we could win was if we all hit homers.  This is not really possible and this is not really what happened in the ensuing innings but something not too different came about.  It being wet and as nasty as kiss from your aging great aunt’s sloppy, mustache growing upper lip type of night, the other pitcher imploded!  He couldn’t throw strikes, he suddenly hit batters, and eventually couldn’t do much else than just lay the ball where we could smash the pulp out of it.  It was like a laser tag arena with all the missile type balls that were flying off our bats.  People were hitting home runs, stealing bases, running around with the enthusiasm of headless chickens, etc.  It was one of the most majestic moments I’ve been apart of within the confines of sports in a long time, and when it was all said and done we batted around three times and scored fifteen runs!  Haha, and other than the initial bunch of walks and hit batters here and there it wasn’t a cheap fifteen runs.  There was honor on the line and we made a statement that we were ready to be here until 1:30am if need be scoring fifteen runs every inning.  You gotta love extreme male competitiveness rationality.

We had been playing since 6:30pm and by now it was around 10:30pm and since it was a championship game there was no time limit.  We all really thought it was going to be another two hours at least before this game was over as there was no pitching in a game with great hitting.  Then we came to realize that even though there is no time limit in a championship game there is in fact a slaughter rule.  Oh sweet nectar of the gods, say it ain’t so!  The rule was if you were ahead by twelve runs after four innings then the game is over and we were ahead by fifteen, thus having three runs to spare.  With this new sense of urgency and really not wanting to be out at Gough and Turk at 1am Kevin took the mound with the intensity of a bottom of the ninth situation.  After the first hitter or two it was becoming apparent that Kevin was doing much better finding the strike zone.  He was even throwing in a knuckleball here and there.  Don’t bother that it wasn’t knuckling, at least it was going over the plate.  As if he came straight down from the cosmos, Kevin suddenly was turning into a crafty left handed pitcher that floated balls over the plate whom the other team had never seen before and could not time.  We get one out but one run crosses the plate.  The next hitter Kevin battles throwing strike after strike as foul after foul goes behind the plate and finally the hitter hits a pop up that looks like it’s going to be caught, but alas it isn’t as it drops right between the second baseman and right fielder.  Damn, we can’t afford to lose opportunities like that; stupid bloops ruining everything yet again.  I try to get Kevin’s attention and let him know that if he gets the ball throw it to me at second to turn two.  I am totally ignored and subtly realize that Kevin is in the Schneider zone.  For all of us, especially the males, that are related with the Schneider gene we can relate that when people complain towards us about our selective hearing, our inability to be flexible, and our desire to focus on trial and error type reactionary learning we aren’t being rude but merely just getting down to business!  I remember the first few times in my life when I experienced this look.  My Grandpa Schneider chose to totally dismiss me in order to really focus usually on whatever else was going on in the room and after it happened a few times I realized to turn my head and allow him to perform the duty at hand and it always got accomplished.  Kevin turned his head at this point and gave me the get out of my kitchen look because I got something organic from trader joes hot on the stove and proceeded to jump ahead throwing strikes to the next two hitters.  The other team was shocked that now if they were going to get on base they had to hit their way on.  You could see the anxiety come over them.  Kevin delivered a 1-2 pitch to the first hitter whom hit a ground ball to the second baseman and a double play was just missed by half a step.  The next hitter was the part of their lineup that was the beefiest.  A superb lefty who had gotten many hard hits before in the game came up but he quickly realized he was overmatched by a lefty pitcher who floated the ball over the plate.  On another two strike pitch he popped the ball up right over my head and after initially thinking it was going to land in as yet another blooper I jumped back and caught the ball with two hands in mid-air and came crashing down on my butt as if I was scoring a winning touchdown.  We had won the slugfest and done the impossible and now could go celebrate at the bar two hours earlier than planned!

The rest of the night went exactly as you might imagine it.  Victory shots of toxicity were handed out to all at leisure and many stories were told about how people just missed the majors but are ultimately glad they’ve dedicated their athletic careers to being on the most dominant fast pitch team in the history of the city.  These guys and this team are crazy as they’ve won the championship like 15 of the last 20 times and twelve times in a row or something ridiculous like that.  I’ve only been part of it for four of those times but I will contend that although there are your beater up teams there are also a few teams that really can play and these are no easy, walk in the park championships.  These guys may be a bit old but they really play as smart and as good as any other team I’ve ever been on and in the end ALWAYS win.  It’s really a great thing and a true dynasty.

As things came to a close it was agreed upon that everyone apparently knew on the team that Kevin would pull through.  “We really had it in the bag” and somebody even suggested that Kevin should have come in anyway regardless of our other pitcher’s injury.  I think that was Kevin who said that.  He also claimed that he should be able to take our three-foot tall trophy we won home to sit on his mantle because he won us the game by getting us four outs.  I was down because there really wouldn’t have been any other person who would have accomplished anything near what Kevin did.  However, the plan was basically unanimously vetoed.  Now our trophy sits up in near the ceiling in the old classic, but newly remodeled swank, sports bar at Noe’s at Noe and 24th streets.  Those four outs probably weren’t the biggest outs that Kevin had gotten in his life but they certainly were some of the most memorable few I have ever had.  Way to go Godfather!

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