Field of Daydreams – Tales of Athens Rec Softball

While most people around Athens know the name Avalanche for its outstanding pizza, Avalanche is also known for its spunky softball team that is often out standing in the outfield on defense while the other teams get hit after hit.

Avalanche Pizza is the lucky sponsor of the plucky co-ed rec softball team that I play on in Athens this year, and the team is one of the most fun squads I have ever been a part of. We are extremely thankful to Avalanche for the sponsorship and guarantee that the prices of their always-tasty pizzas are much lower than my ERA (Earned Run Average).softball Kell

My teams have always focused on the “rec” part of softball, as they have been great fun but not always super successful. Here are a few examples from over the years, and I promise these are all true:

  • One year the restaurant that sponsored our team immediately went out of business after we had rather rough season. I thought the advertising we gave the bar/restaurant would have helped them tremendously, but it may have just made people avoid them.
  • Last year, a team quit the entire league after losing to our team in a somewhat controversial ending.
  • Two players have been forced to leave the country while playing on my teams over the years. At least that’s what they told me…
  • We once had a first baseman who was great at catching the ball at first, but he absolutely could not throw the ball on target to anyone (He could softly toss it back to the pitcher from first). He was a classic Knoblauch, in baseball terms.
  • Athens NEWS Editor Terry Smith was also a first baseman on our teams for many years. He was known for batting from the right or left side, sometimes switching sides a few times during the same at-bat.
  • I once dropped a pop fly that would have won my team our first game of the season, and then of course we lost the game. I was a classic Blockhead, in Charlie Brown terms.
  • A week later, I caught a pop fly to win a game, and my buddy Dave immediately walked by me and just said “redemption,” which was one of my favorite lines ever.
  • One successful business owner moved out of the state after sponsoring our team for several years. We assumed it was to cut off contact with our team.
  • While other teams often have $300 bats and some teams used to freeze their softballs and then keep them in a cooler until they were needed in the games so that they could hit them further (Terry even wrote an editorial about it in The Athens NEWS), we have often had just one bat and scrambled to borrow softballs from other teams.softball t
  • I can’t tell you how many times we have also often had to find people at the ball fields and talk them into playing on our team because we were short of players. At least twice, the person who was just down there hanging out and then got talked into joining our team ended up being the best player we had.
  • This year we only had one bat for a bunch of the games early in the season, so our players who were on deck never warmed up with a bat, they would just move their arms in a bat swinging motion in order to get ready.
  • I have played on teams where we often turned singles into extra bases, but it was usually for the other team because we were constantly overthrowing the cut-off person or throwing to the wrong base, or sometimes even throwing to the wrong field.
  • The first time I ever pitched in softball, the first batter hit a homerun against me and our leftfielder yelled, “Welcome to the big leagues Claussen!”
  • The first time, and I think only time I ever hit a homerun (which was probably in reality a double and a two-base throwing error by the other team), as I was basking in the glory of my awesomeness, another batter hit a grand slam over the fence and won the game. How could he do that to me?

This year, our team has been playing pretty well and we are getting ready for a big playoff run. We have done a good job of setting the other teams up into thinking they can beat us, but all this time we have just been preparing for the playoffs.

Sure, I dropped two easy ground balls while I was playing pitcher the other night, but now teams will hopefully underestimate our defense. It’s all part of my plan.

And sure we have players striking out in slow pitch softball, but we are again just setting the other teams up. I should point out that I have also have swung and missed a few times in slow pitch softball, and let me tell you, it can be an awful feeling. The ball is just sitting there and I have no idea how I miss. It’s kind of like if you go to put the keys into your car ignition to start it, but instead you miss and accidentally throw your keys out the window, and then fall out of the car.

But this year, our team has been great about not throwing the ball around to let runners advance, our batters have nailed some solid hits and we have played some really good softball. Team Avalanche has made some great plays on defense, we play hard and we’ve done pretty well.softball fist

Also, we haven’t had too many of our patented fall-from-ahead losses and we even have a few wins.

Best of all, we have some funny players who are always smiling, high-fiving each other and making me laugh. My stepdaughter was kind of enough to point out that we have a wide age range on the team (meaning that I am the old guy playing on a team with plenty of younger players), but the team gets along well and we have a lot of fun. I wouldn’t want to be on any other team.

The Athens league is filled with teams of nice people who are there to have fun, and I have made a lot of friends there over the years on my teams and on other teams. The city does a nice job running the league, and it’s a fun community activity. Some teams are really, really good, while other teams are more on the level of my teams. The good thing is, we all know that no matter our differences, we can all come together to complain to the umpires.

I have been lucky enough to play with some great friends over the years, and it’s been fun making friends on the team again this year.

Our players know that Avalanche Pizza expects only the best out of its pizzas, and that they only expect the best out of their softball players, too. I can’t promise Avalanche that we will win World’s Best Pizza Sponsored Softball Team, but I can promise that we will play hard in the upcoming playoffs and we’ll eat plenty of pizza. And even if we lose, we’ll go down swinging (and hopefully not missing)!

softball York
Photos by Sophia Mohr. This is not me, but our batter is getting ready to crush a hit here.  I was too fast to be photographed by any normal camera, so I am only in the team photo at the top.


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