Infield

Whenever I kneel or squat or bend my right leg beyond what is required for normal perambulation, my knee sounds like Rice Krispies or the white noise pops of a vinyl record.

The sound effects are courtesy of an ACL-meniscus-cartilage surgery that took place two days after I turned 30. The doctors I’ve consulted about the sound effects say it’s perfectly normal.

“Crepitus. As long as it isn’t painful, you’re fine. Happens to a lot of people.”

I was taking infield practice with the baseball team in Clever. Coach Justin Snider invited me to field grounders and take some swings with his team.

“Just a light and relaxed day,” he said, looking sharp in his powder blue hat and windbreaker.

Coach Justin lied. It was a light and relaxed day only if you were under 20.

The first infield drill positioned us squarely on our knees. As I knelt down, I tried to hide my old-man grimaces and grunts that happen instinctively. I think my practice partner actually heard my knee and had the courteous grace to not say anything.

The purpose of the drill was simple: To focus on developing soft hands, working from down to up when fielding ground balls. Start with the fingertips of the glove on the ground, positioning eyes behind the glove and pressing through each fielded ball, then gathering the ball at the belt buckle in anticipation of taking hops and making a strong throw.

My back was to Coach Justin as he continued to talk and offer encouragement throughout the drill. I’m pretty sure his words were just for my sake; it seemed like all of the other infielders were fielding cleanly and quickly.

After the drill, we transitioned to a more traditional infield practice of ground balls and throws to first. Coach Justin had just mowed the infield grass and it was beautiful. It looks nothing like my wild-onion-and-wildflower filled backyard at home. I fielded some of my grounders cleanly and some off of my chest and made relatively accurate and strong throws to first. If the person running to first base was my age and had a crepitus knee or two, there’s a good chance I would’ve thrown them out.

The infielders then went to the batting cages to do tee work while the outfielders took their turn on the field. I got my swings in after everyone else was finished. Tee work is fun and therapeutic. It allowed me a little time to breathe and focus. Then back to the field for live batting practice.

Again, I hit last, and took my turn with an aggressive mindset. Kinda like Vlad Guerrero. “If you throw it, I can hit it.” Inside. Outside. Low. High. I swung at everything. I think this mindset comes from time in the Fun Acre cages. Only 5 pitches for a quarter, I don’t want to waste a pitch.

I’m pretty sure Coach Justin got a good laugh at my swings.

Using a cracked bat didn’t help my cause any, especially after watching the others hit hard line drives and blistering grounders I decided not to attempt to field.

No cup checks. No broken teeth. My first day of infield practice was a success.

Completely exhausted after two hours, I got a quick picture with Coach Justin and his beautiful field. Thank you Clever Baseball Team for the invitation and welcoming me on to your field!