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Charlie Hatton
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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
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#59. I can ‘go the other way’ in softball.

No, ya chowdahead, that doesn’t mean that I play for the other team. And no, it doesn’t mean that I ‘play‘ for the ‘other team‘, either. None of that.

What it means is that I can hit the ball towards right field, even though I’m right-handed. I can push the ball the ‘other way’, instead of pulling it toward left field. (Or, all too often, the shortstop.)

Why is this important? Well, I play in a more or less recreational league. Not entirely recreational, mind you. We don’t pitch to our own team, or anything. All of us know in which direction to run the bases, and which end of the bat to hold, and even what the ‘infield fly rule’ is. (And no, you cradle-robbin’ pervs, it has nothing to do with whether there’s ‘grass on the infield‘. Man, you people just don’t stop, do you?)

But it is a slow-pitch, co-ed weekend league. We don’t hold practices, or team meetings, or anything like that. Some of the people show up mainly because we go out for drinks and food after every game. We’re weekend warriors, and frankly, a lot of us aren’t all that… um, warriory. If you know what I mean.

And most of the other teams are like that, too. Which means that they’re lucky to get seven or eight people every week who really want to play, and have the experience and hand-eye coordination to do so without the likelihood of a massive self-mutilating injury. Which further means that there are a couple of people out there in the field who are thinking of something else, or wishing they were at home, or wearing their glove on their head. And those are the people you want to hit the ball toward. Naturally.

So where do most of those people end up? At second base, or in right field, where most right-handed hitters don’t go. (Yes, the first baseman is also on that side of the field, but you need someone who’s at least focused and alert enough to catch balls thrown at them by the other infielders. And if they can do that, there’s at least a chance that they’ll also manage to snare your ground ball. So you generally want to avoid first basemen.)

The approach is simple. When you get to the plate to hit, you want to take a quick glance all around the field. Find the person whose eyes are screaming, ‘Please! Do not hit the ball here! Oh, for the love of Christmas cookies, please Lord, don’t let the ball come at me. I’ll never kick my dog again, but please keep the ball away from me!‘ There’s always at least one of these. (In our league, anyway. I imagine it’s probably different in the majors. Unless you’re playing the Tigers, of course, but that’s different.)

So, you find your target. They’ll usually be at second, or in right field. So, of course, the next item on the agenda is a little bit of subterfuge. Stare down the third baseman. Take a practice swing toward left field, and stand in the box as though you’re trying to pull the ball right down the third base line. This will accomplish a couple of things. First, it’ll get the players on that side of the field all tensed up. They may even start jabbering to each other. ‘He’s comin’ over this way.‘ ‘Look alive. Here it comes.‘ Maybe they’ll even pull the people you’re really aiming for towards them for extra defense. Poor, misguided fools.

Your little ruse will also cause your target to relax a bit. ‘Ah, good. He’s not gonna hit it to me. I can go back to watching the clouds, or daydreaming about Melissa Joan Hart. Dum de dum, de dum de dum…‘ You’ve got them exactly where you want them.

Now, when the ball’s pitched, you change your stance. Step back with your back foot, and in with your front foot, and you’re ready to shoulder the ball to the right side. Wait just an extra half-beat, and slap an inside-out swing on the ball, driving it toward your quarry. If they’re lucky, they may manage to get in the ball’s way. Maybe even flag it down and keep it in front of them. But barring a miracle of some kind, you’ll end up on first base. There’s also the chance that they’ll freak, and run screaming away from the ball. Or let it go through their legs, or trip over their shoelaces trying to get to it. Now it’s a footrace. You’re pretty much guaranteed second base at this point, unless of course you’re one of those shoelace-tripping-over types yourself. And if the ball gets past them in the outfield, well — you may just go all the way. Such is the beauty of going the other way.

See, that shit doesn’t happen in left field, or even center. You’ve got to launch a ball in our league to get it past most left-side outfielders, and put it in just the right spot, too. Usually the better fielders are over there, and they know what they’re doing. They get a lot of balls hit their way, and the practice makes them better every game. Meanwhile, the right fielder is typically over there, picking his nose or scooting around the outfield on his ass like a dog, and nobody makes him pay for it. That’s why I learned to hit the ball that way. Not only does it make it easier to get on base and score runs, but I’m teaching a valuable lesson while I’m at it. If you’re out there between the lines wearing a glove — even if it’s on your foot — then you’re fair game. Either play the game, or get off the field. ‘Cause I’m comin’ after you. You’d better be ready.

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