Given a better shortstop, he shouldn't have been on base at all in the top of the first inning of the third game of the wood bat league playoffs. He'd hit the ball well: a low line drive skipping hard off the dirt in front of the infielder. Never field the ball sideways when you can handle it straight on, I tell my spring league softball players. The shortstop sidestepped it though, bouncing the ball off the heel of his glove and into short left field. Our runner stood winded and safe on first.
A clean single to the gap moved our portly yet quick baserunner around second, teasing the outfielder to force a bad throw to third. Instead, the center fielder zipped the ball back to second behind our runner, allowing a nifty headfirst slide underneath the throw. Safe!, the umpire signals. Gotta love a dirty uniform.
Another clean hit up the middle and our runner sprints to third. The third base coach flails both arms wildly signaling a turn for home. The first run, as they say, is the most important, the jump start the team needs to move on in the tournament.
The catcher straddles the baseline, two hands raised high anticipating the throw. Our runner, in that split moment, recognizes that a slide between the catcher's legs leaves him far short of the base. His hips lean ever so slightly to the right. He pivots, carving an angle for a diving approach to the plate. He slices and accelerates to the left. His arm stretches behind the catcher reaching for the dish. The dust flies. The crowd and players all lean in for the call. And....
...and the walking boot comes off in 6 weeks. It's a simple thing, fortunately. A left ankle that dislocated and broke in a cloud of dust before popping itself back into place amid my cursing and grimacing in the dirt by the backstop. My teammates, their concern focused solely on their fallen comrade of course, drag me and my newly bum ankle across home before the catcher realizes I'd rolled completely past the plate, never coming anywhere close to scoring. The doc tells me I've broken the outer end of my fibula, the smaller of the lower leg bones, and the one, he says, they don't really care about since it doesn't support much weight. I don't even get to take that much time off work.
But the run counted. We went on to win that game and the next one before bowing out and taking home the faux marble plastic third place trophy. The ankle's more annoying than painful, but at least I've got a good story to tell.