Our Championship Season
When the second season of NUMB3RS began, I learned that the show was deficient one of the most important elements a local LA television production must have. A softball team. This was quickly addressed by assembling a Numb3rs team to compete in the Prime Time Softball League. That’s right. The Prime Time Softball League. A league of softball teams made up of producers, cast and crew from various television shows: Sons of Anarchy, Grey’s Anatomy, CSI, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, etc. http://www.ptsl.net/Root.cfm
Most teams are made up of a mix of people from the various production departments, with electricians and teamsters probably being the most represented. But it is also possible to spot an actor or two competing on the hot, sunny fields of the Hjelte Recreation area. Clark Gregg of The New Adventures of Old Christine regularly subjected himself to the dangers of playing defense on the left side of the infield. Natasha Henstridge swung a bat for Eli Stone. And our own David Krumholtz ranged right field for Numb3rs.
Depsite being a long time rock climber and hiker, I quickly fell in love with softball. The team dynamic, the casualness, whacking a ball, sliding in the dirt, ice cold beer cans to apply to tendon strains and muscle bruises. It’s America. If softball hadn’t been named softball, it would have been named, “Fuck yeah, America!” Or something similar.
For five years Numb3rs fielded a strong team and we made the playoffs every year. But every year we were bounced in the first round. Usually by our arch nemisis, The Tonight Show. While the league is considered to be a co-ed, casual recreation league, The Tonight Show team took it very seriously and loaded their team with talent … and the manager of our team knew the manager of their team from another softball league and they hated each other. Whenever we met, The Tonight Show beat us into the ground. Spanked us. Owned us. And trash talked us the whole time. And we usually met them in the playoffs. Until, that is, the final sixth season of Numb3rs. Our last regular season game was against The Tonight Show. If we could beat them, we could secure a place in the standings that would give us the ability not to face them in the first round of the playoffs.
The Numb3rs softball team (wearing “CalSci Softball” unforms) had it’s finest outing. It was a game of deep redemption and hitting the ball squarely and hard. It included a clutch grand slam from the assistant caterer.
And then … like every year … we got our asses handed to us in the first playoff game.
Spring 2011. I hadn’t played softball since the last Numb3rs playoff game. And incidently, in our five playoff losses, I made the last out in four of them. And when I say “out,” I really mean “pathetic plate appearance that ended well for the other team.”
Looking for something akin to a Tosh 2.0 web redemption, I signed up with a local Pasadena MLB league. I really just wanted to get out on the field, get a little better, avoid injuries. And yeah, I wanted another shot at more of those situations in meaningful, tight games. I wanted a chance to perform in a way where I might actually not completely choke.
When you sign up with MLB Pasadena softball, you email in your name and info and wait to see if the manager of a team is looking for a “free agent” player. I had no idea how long it would take before a team called, but I was prepared for it to take a few months, maybe longer. Most teams are a collection of friends or co-workers and it’s not that easy to just find a softball team to join. However, six days later a woman named Estella calls me. Do I want to play? Sure. Come to the next game and bring a check for the league fee. I’ll be there.
I get there and hunt down the manager of the Blackhawks. Talk to some of the players. Find out the team I’ve signed up on is specifically Blackhawks 3. There are six, maybe seven, maybe eight softballs teams all run and organized by Estella. All named the Blackhawks. She doesn’t play (at least now), but she loves softball and she obviously loves putting together teams. Which, when you think about it, is a wonderful social service. Providing so many teams provides the ability for anyone who wants to play to have the chance.
I joined Blackhawks 3 halfway through the spring season. I didn’t know that the serious softball leagues have several different divisions for level of ability. Blackhawks was a men’s Division E team. They had just come off the winter season winning their division championship. Now they were 0-5 in the spring. We went on to finish 1-9.
This summer season, however, Blackhawks 3 finished in first place with an 8-2 record. The division had 10 teams. At least six of those teams were high-caliber and capable of beating each other on any given day. Many of our games were close. A couple walk off hits. Game-saving defensive plays. For being a team assembled just by guys who wanted to play, signing up and getting a call from Estella, this was a group of players who were fun, but very smart and passionate about the game, and while some knew each other from previous teams, the newbies were made to feel right at home. The success of the team came from guys with skills and brains and terrific team-first mentality. I had never seen a team fight so hard defensively to hold other teams to as few runs as possible.
At the end of the MLS season, the two top teams in the division have a single championship game. The summer season championship was Blackhawks 3 vs Los Pistoleros. Blackhawks prevail 22-20 in a very well played game by both teams.
Did I find myself in key situations at the plate? Kinda. The entire team was hitting and having smart at-bats, so I never found myself in that game-winning or game-losing plate appearance. But as the score indicates, the game was extremely close and every RBI was important. My goal was to get on base anyway that I could and I’m happy to report I accomplished that goal every time I came to the plate. I did not choke.
What do you get when you win a championship in Pasadena MLS? Your team gets bumped up to the next highest league. That meant Blackhawks 3 would play their Fall season in D division … the toughest division in Pasadena MLS.
The first two games of the Fall season Blackhawks 3 was thumped 14-24 and 5-28.
Awwww … softball.