Thursday, February 16, 2012

271. Ball Games

Just as it did with all of Cayden's visits, time flew way too fast. It felt like just yesterday we were opening Christmas presents at my parents' house, but somehow a week and a half had already passed and he'd be on a plane back to London the next day. 

My mom lured us out to Keller for the day with the promise of Texas Roadhouse for dinner. Warm, doughy bread rolls and honey cinnamon butter called my name. It's sad how easily I can be persuaded by food.

"I can't get over this weather," Cayden said as we stepped out of my car in my parents' circular driveway. I squinted up at the sun and felt a cool breeze blow across my face. Enjoying the winter weather made me dread the summer. If it was 65 degrees in the middle of winter, what would it be like in the dead of summer? 

"Enjoy it while you can," I said. "By the time you move here, your flip flops will melt on the pavement and you'll get third-degree burns on your ass from my leather seats."

"That doesn't scare me," he said. "I love the sun. I'd just stay in the pool all day."

I tucked my arm through his while we walked toward the door. 

"Once it gets above 100 degrees outside, the pool feels like a warm bath and the plastic rafts melt to your skin."

"You're being dramatic," he said, shaking his head. "And it's called a 'lilo.' A raft... we call them lilos.'"

Wait, he was calling me dramatic? This from a guy who says "I'm absolutely shattered" instead of "I'm exhausted."

"To you, lilo is a raft. To me, Lilo is little Hawaiian girl with abandonment issues and a genetically mutated, psychotic pet named Stitch."

My own psychotic pets greeted us at the door, jumping up on us with their tails wagging. That's when I realized I was a Lilo. I wasn't Hawaiian, but I loved my puppies and our long-distance relationship had definitely caused some abandonment issues. 

It was too nice outside to spend the day indoors, so Cayden, Dad and I headed out to the batting cages and driving range for the afternoon. I had no interest in swinging a golf club, but put a bat in my hands and I'm happy. Cayden had never played baseball or softball, so I went first in the cage while Dad explained some batting basics. 

"OK, now see how the ball arches up and then drops right at the plate?" Dad said to Cayden. "You have to wait on it. Wait until it starts dropping. It will feel like you're waiting forever, but don't lunge for it." 

I lunged for it. 

"Like that," I heard dad say. 

It always took me a few pitches to warm up to slowpitch softball, especially with my boyfriend watching me. I'd grown up playing fastpitch softball all my life, and I was a terrible batter, but I was an awesome pitcher. As it turns out, I'm a fastpitch pitcher and a slow pitch batter.  I connected with the next pitch and sent it sailing over the pitching machines and into the white netting drooping from the mesh tent. 

"There, see? See how she followed through?" 

I tried to ignore the fact that they were critiquing my every move and just enjoy the sound of the ball on the bat. There's nothing quite like hearing that soft "thud" sound when you hit the sweet spot. There's also nothing quite like the stinging feeling when you hit the ball too close to your grip. It sends a shock through your hands to your wrists to your elbows. I shook it off.

"Not bad, not bad," Dad said, patting my helmet when I came out of the cage. 

"Yeah, you know, I was just trying to show him what to do and what not to do," I lied. 

Cayden pulled his helmet over his head and fished a token out of his pocket. 

"Go smash some balls!" I said, swatting him on the ass and gesturing toward the cage. 

I was eager to see how he'd do. Would he whiff every pitch? Get hit by a ball? Pull a muscle? All three of those things happened during my first batting cage experience.

But of course, I should have known, Cayden was a natural. Three pitches into it, he'd already gotten the hang of it. His follow-through could use some work, but he made contact with almost every single pitch, sending the balls over what would have been the third baseman's head. 

"Seriously?" I said to Dad without taking my eyes off Cayden.

"I wish it would have been that easy to teach you guys!"

Dad had had coached our softball teams all through elementary, middle and high school. Unfortunately for him, he didn't have many naturals to work with. 

After a few rounds each in the batting cages, Dad bought a bucket of balls and we headed to the driving range. I didn't know how to hold a golf club, much less swing it. Dad went first while Cayden explained the techniques to me. 

"Watch the ball the entire time. Don't bend your left elbow. Keep it straight like this," Cayden demonstrated with his club. 

Wait, I was supposed to swing at something with a stiff elbow? I was going to look ridiculous. 

"Take a few practice swings, and when you're ready, step up and aim for the ball."

It sounded easy enough. I watched Dad and Cayden hit half the bucket before I decided to give it a go. 

I gripped the club, stiffened my elbow and took a few practice swings. It felt awkward and rigid. My club took a chunk out of the grass. That was as good as it was going to get. 

I stepped up to the ball, aimed, swung, and watched my club completely miss the ball. I swung and missed. Swung. Missed. Swung. Didn't even come close. Swung. Broke the tee and watched the ball touch ground for the first time. Missed. Missed. Missed. 

I wanted to throw the hurl the golf club into the parking lot. I hated doing anything I wasn't good at. Dad and Cayden tried to offer tips and suggestions and keep their laughing to a minimum. 

"This game is NOT for me," I said, taking one last swing. Then I heard a solid "whack" and watched the ball sail through the air straight in front of me. 

"Oh, my god," Cayden said. I almost lost sight of the ball until it finally dropped and bounced. "That was better than any of my hits."

"That was a lucky shot," I said. "I should quit while I'm ahead, right?"

I had to try it again just to make sure it was all luck. Again, I heard the same whack and almost lost sight of another ball while it flew through the air. 

"Wow," Dad said. "Those really are better than our hits!"

Again. Whack. Sail. Bounce. 

"Uh-oh," I head Dad say, "I think we've created a monster." 

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