Safety First…Almost Always!
Life has been moving at 1000 miles an hour in the last few weeks for my family. Normally, things go quickly but lately they have amped up into overdrive. Fortunately, nothing is wrong and everything is right. It is just a lot of right things. Adding to the daily activity has been the addition of middle school softball for daughter and kid pitch baseball for my son. With the requirements of my job, I am forced to miss so many things when I am in town I want to be involved in practice and games. Last week was the first week that I have had off since the new sports started. I told my daughter’s softball coach that I would be sitting in the stands watching practice and if she wanted any help with the girls, to please ask me.
She took me up on the offer and 30 minutes later, I was working with the outfielders. Showing them how to throw, catch and run. The next day, to my surprise the coach asked me to help out again. That day I was working with the infielders, the hitters, and again the outfield. My thing when working with the players, it to try to teach proper fundamentals including good arm/body position when throwing. When I played little league things were much different. The coach didn’t really instruct anything. He just rolled the ball out and we just did whatever we wanted. Years later, my mind and body had ingrained so many bad body positions and habits that I literally hurt all over after playing a softball game. My shoulder hurt, my muscles hurt and my elbow hurt. Last year, my son started playing baseball for the first time.
I really didn’t want him to follow my path to bad habits so I went to a local baseball instructor to teach him the right fundamentals right off the bat. After watching one lesson, I learned so many things about what I did wrong and how to play without abusing your arm. With that knowledge, I took my daughter to him this year and she got a lesson. Neither kid likes him because he is very precise in his instruction and he uses the word “No” just about every time they performed a throw for him. But I love him, I think he is worth his weight in gold and they don’t know it yet but they are going to have the pleasure of working with him for a long time.
Armed with the knowledge that he imparted on myself and my kids, I went out onto the softball field and taught like an expert. My mantra was to encourage the ladies to learn to throw the right way and they would never have a problem. It was all about safety, using your proper techniques and being smart with your body.
On Thursday, we practiced indoor because of inclement weather. The coach was once again going to work with the pitchers and she asked if I would work with the hitters. She brought out the Jugs pitching machine. I love the pitching machines and always loved going to the batting cages as a youth. I always thought it was crazy cool to have a hard rubber baseball whip past your head at 90 miles an hour without being afraid that it was going to actually hit you. The first five girls hit the ball well and seemed to improve as the machine threw to them. I had the other girls retrieving the hit balls and returning them to the machine while someone fed them back into the mechanism.
After talking a little to one of the girls about the art of hitting, she took the first pitch. It was way off target from where the home plate was placed. The base had been moved about a foot off from where the jugs machine was throwing. I moved the plate and stood behind it to watch a ball come out. I told the girl feeding the ball into the machine to fire one at me and she hesitated. She remembered the rules about the machine that I had preached about before we started it up. I was very clear that no one ever stood in front of the machine when a ball was pitched. I was also very strict when I said that the person pitching the ball had to make sure that no one would accidently walk in front of a pitch. I told them about dangerous the machine could be and to remember that we would always practice safety first and hitting second.
I reassured her that it was okay to fire a ball at me. She reluctantly did and it came at me moving at the speed of heat. I fully intended to step aside at the last minute but the ball seemed to hang in the air and taunted me to catch in barehanded. I reached out and snagged the ball from midair, easily, effortlessly, and quite impressively if I can be honest. I rolled it back to the pitcher, reached down and moved the plate to where I thought the ball was and called for another pitch. Once again, the girl hesitated but I encouraged her to send it to me. She did and once again, I caught it barehanded and rolled it back. I told the hitter not to try this because we wanted to be safe.
I readjusted the plate and called for a third ball. Once again, the pitcher hesitated but sent it. I knew the instant before the ball touched my hand that it was rising and that my hand was slightly too low. I couldn’t readjust my right hand before the ball impacted my ring finger. It hit with a resounding thud and I immediately thought that my finger was broken. I grabbed it with my left hand and started pulling hoping to release the pressure on the knuckle. I could feel it throbbing in my left. I knew this was going to hurt and it needed ice. Being the calm, cool collected dad I am not, I walked off and told the new hitter to start hitting. I found the coach and asked if she had the key to the kitchen to get some ice. Her keys were in her car and when she asked why, I just said that I jammed my finger but didn’t tell her why or how bad. I didn’t want to be fired for being stupid.
I finished practice and went to my son’s baseball practice. When my wife picked up my daughter from practice; she looked at it and I told her how it happened, she called me a dummy, it was her professional opinion since she is a nurse. They stopped at the local pharmacy and picked up a finger splint for me. Three hours later, I finally got some ice on the finger and my wife said that I needed some Advil to help with the swelling. She gave me one and I took it. After it was down, she laughed when she told me it was an Advil PM. She knew what I needed to help me sleep and an hour later, I was out like a pumpkin.
Until next time, be safe and keep on rockin.