Joel Reichenberger: There are no walks in D League

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— I take D League softball too seriously.

Not today, not yesterday and not tomorrow. Six days a week, I’m perfectly fine with my team’s place in the D League world. Our place is dead last, now four years running.

But Wednesday nights, when we play, I take it too seriously. I’ll admit that right now.

Nevertheless, there are D League rules that need to be abided by, and it's time that be acknowledged.

There’s no walking in D League softball.

It’s technically possible to walk, of course. You start with a strike and a ball, and three bad pitches give a batter a walk. And, hey, if three pitches come in that couldn’t be reached with a 10-foot bat, by all means take that walk.

There should be no taking of strikes, however, and no taking of anything close to a strike.

We have a horrible softball team, and we have since we started it in 2010.

We’ve won approximately five games. Ever.

This year, we’ve won once, which is pretty standard.

We’ve never been exactly sure why we’re so rotten. We have a lot of players, and that’s in some weird way a problem. When everyone shows up — usually for about the first two weeks of the season — we each only get to bat about once a game and play in the field every other inning. That inconsistency throws off any kind of rhythm we may develop individually or as a team on any given night.

But, we don’t take it seriously — at least most of us don’t for six days a week — and we like having all of our friends there, so we invite everyone we know.

Then, we stumble into errors on a regular basis. Dropped fly balls, bad decisions in trying to throw out runners and grounders through the legs have doomed us.

And the base-running mistakes, oh, the base-running mistakes! We’ve forgotten to run on ground balls and forgotten to tag up on fly balls. I once was tagged out after turning the wrong way when I ran through first base.

Whenever anyone makes the mistake of letting me be a base coach, I urge at least one runner into an easy out.

A teammate commented last week, “We’re like the Indians from Major League, except we never reach the second half of the movie.”

I’m by no means an all star. Thick-fingered infielders have helped me get on base as often as well-hit balls this season. I had a few golden glove moments in the field last week — I’ll be talking about them until October — but I also have a paralyzing fear of flyballs.

But, I’ve never walked, and I will never walk. I take about four balls a season because: Walking is not allowed in D League softball.

Walking is, of course, good strategy. Lineups must be set for a guy-girl rotation, and if a guy walks, he gets second base and the girl behind him gets on first. That keeps you from walking the best hitters and makes perfect sense for a league and a team, which is instantly just one big hit away from two runs.

But you’re not Billy Beane and this isn’t Moneyball. We’re frequently losing 20-2 by the third inning, and at that point, the opponent’s strategy can safely be folded away. What good does taking a walk do anyone at that point? Who shows up to D League softball to pad their on-base percentage, anyway?

We’ve always kept playing because despite the occasional frustration and frequent embarrassment it’s a good time. Tennis shoes in the outfield, borrowed bat at the plate and beer in the dugout, that is D League.

People literally dancing their way to first base to celebrate a walk with a 25-run lead?

I can’t understand that.

Then again, I take D League softball too seriously.

Comments

Jenny Prendergast 1 year, 4 months ago

I’m a terrible one for “waiting for my pitch.” That old “good eye!” chant from the dugout? I never get it because I swing for butterflies and golf for grounders when I’m at the plate. I have no ability to just hold off for the one that I can actually send flying into the outfield. And yes, I usually make contact. Sometimes I get on base. Sometimes I don’t. But the fact is, I don’t think this incredible lack of discernment on my part makes me a better player. In fact, I think it is a weakness. And I think sometimes holding your bat back takes more skill and willpower than swinging. And yes – I play in D league. Does that mean I can’t care how I perform? I play not only because I like the team and the camaraderie, but also because I like the sport and I like getting better.

It sounds like a person celebrating a walk can create a situational misunderstanding and come off as a poor sport. But if you think about it, some people never get on base. Some people want, more than anything, to run the bases and maybe, just maybe, make it to home plate. But they don’t get to. Because they always strike out. I think for these people a walk is something to be celebrated – no matter the league – no matter the numbers on the scoreboard – because they’re not thinking about the league or the scoreboard. They’re thinking about the fact that they get to be an active member of their team. They’re thinking about the possibility of finally cruising around the bases. And they’re celebrating that they had the willpower to finally not swing for the wild ones. After all – judgment and participation are part of the challenges and joys of softball.

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