The Casual Blog

Tag: baseball

A spring baseball game and a crazy yoga class

In early spring, it is most pleasant to go to a minor league baseball game. On Friday night, Sally and I went over to Durham to see our first Bulls game of the season, where they played Syracuse. Just as we got to the stadium parking, it began to rain, and just as we got to the gate to hand over our home-printed ticket, it started to pour — so much so that the scanner had trouble reading our tickets. So we got wet, and it continued to rain for most of the next hour. But the sky kept getting brighter, and we had pizza and beer, talked, and looked at the types in the crowd.

When the rain finally stopped, we watched the stadium crew roll up the giant tarps that covered the infield and sweep the baselines. We watched the Syracuse pitcher warm up, throwing gently at first, then harder and harder. We’d bought tickets four rows back from the field halfway down the third base line, but after some quick soul-searching decided to award ourselves a free upgrade to empty seats in the area immediately behind home plate. I used my jacket to dry the seats as best I could (i.e. not completely), which Sally supplemented with paper napkins, and we sat down.

Both pitchers were throwing fastballs around 91 MPH, which doesn’t look amazing on TV, but from behind home plate is fairly impressive. The batters on deck warmed up directly in front of us, and I studied their mechanics with the thought of improving my golf swing. These were strong young guys. And the game unfolded slowly but distinctly, as baseball games will. The first Bulls batter hit a home run on the first pitch, and there was no further scoring for several innings. Yet there were jabs of excitement here and there — a close play at first, a double, a stolen base, an out at home plate, a double play. Between innings there were mascot antics, T-shirt giveaways, and contests for little kids. We never quite got dry, though, and as it got cooler we felt chilly. We packed it in after six innings. The Bulls eventually won 3-1.

I was disdainful of baseball for part of my youth and generally indifferent to it for many years. I still don’t find it very engaging on television, but a live game is something else. It isn’t so much the drama, but something else. The combination of genes and training that makes a ball move quickly from pitcher to batter, from batter to shortstop, and shortstop to first is awesome. The green grass, the red clay, and the white baselines are beautiful.

The next morning I did a two-hour yoga class at Blue Lotus with Yvonne aptly named Juicy Flow yoga. Yvonne likes to push herself and her classes to their limits, and her normal Saturday classes of an hour and a half are not for sissies. Her longer Juicy Flow class is about moving with music, sometimes rapidly for several minutes, in unfamiliar ways. The music is an eclectic mix of east and west, soul, disco, rock, and other. It’s lively fun, at least at first. I sweated a ton, and my mat got so wet it was difficult to do a down dog. I pushed hard for an hour and a half, then suddenly hit the wall and felt like I might get sick. I noted with some alarm that my upper body strength, which is usually good, was gone; I couldn’t hold my arms over my head. Never was I more relieved to lie on my back in shavasana for a few minutes, just breathing.

Good sports

Last Friday I reached my latest swimming objective: 1500 meters of freestyle without a break. This was for me, a considerable achievement, which not so long ago I found almost impossible to imagine. I’ve been doing a 1500-meter workout for some months, but with 30 second breaks at various intervals. A few weeks back, I decided to work towards doing the distance non-stop. I began gradually reducing the breaks, from 10, to 5, to 3, to 2, and finally to 1. Then, finally, none.

On Saturday morning I did an hour and a half of Vinyasa yoga in an open level class at Blue Lotus with Yvonne. That’s a lot of yoga! I tried very hard not to look at my watch, but once I was well drenched with sweat, I checked to see if we were almost done — and we were only half way through. I still can’t figure out at all why this strange system works, but it does: I felt absolutely wonderful at the end.

That evening Sally and I went out to Zebulon to see the Carolina Mudcats play the Mobile Baybears. It was a warm but not sweltering night, and we had great seats — a few yards beyond first base on the first row, close to the visitor’s bull pen. From this close in view, we could see how fast they run, how hard they throw, and generally how amazing they are. This is AA-level baseball, where the players are serious contenders for the big leagues. The pitchers were throwing fastballs in the mid-90s, and I don’t think I saw any errors. There is something really pleasing about seeing a real life high-quality baseball game on an August evening. The competitive drama is involving, but the whole experience is also relaxing. It’s good to have a beer and slice of pizza, listen to the buzz of the crowd, the organ, the announcer, the crack of the bat. It was a good, close game, which Mobile won 2-1.

When I stop to think about it, it amazes me how much I’ve changed with regard to physical activity and sports in recent years. As a kid, I played the usual sports, and used to imagine that I would play well one day, but in competition I never managed a level much higher than average or worse. And gradually, I came to think of myself as a non-athlete and sports-phobe. Particularly during adolescence, it was annoying to see the social advantages (in particular, success with girls) that accrued to the gifted athletes. I looked forward to adulthood as a time in which sports and athletics would be no longer relevant, and my lack of any particular athletic giftedness would cease to be a liability.

In retrospect, I can see this was partly a problem of lack of time. Part of the problem with athletic skills and kids is the same as with academic skills, which is that kids learn at different rates. This is kind of obvious, but schools are not set up to address accommodate different rates of learning. Instead, a class is given a set time in which everyone must master a set of skills, and those who are slower are shamed and punished. And those slower kids eventually figure out how to avoid the painful activity, perhaps by dropping out. While I was generally one of the quicker kids at mastering schoolwork skills, I was not so in sports. Because of my July birthday, I was always one of the youngest in the class, which was part of the problem. But of course, I had no idea of that issue at the time. I just knew that my relative lack of success in sports was somewhat painful. Like other slow learners, I eventually opted out.

Fortunately, over the years, I’ve found that the level of mastery needed for enjoyment of many activities activity is not impossibly high and with no tight time deadlines I’ve reached that level in some things I really enjoy. This has been the trajectory with swimming, skiing and golf, and I’m starting to see the outlines of that level of accomplishment for yoga. Slow and steady wins the race.