WEIRD WORLD OF SPORTS

23 Jan

I am going to Orlando tomorrow.  I’m playing for the United States Maccabi Team in the annual AAU Mens Fastpitch Softball Tournament.  The tournament is taking place at the ESPN/Disney Wide World of Sports Complex that doubles as the Atlanta Braves Spring Training Facility.  Check it out…

The world of mens fastpitch softball is a Weird World indeed.  Normally, a team of all Jews– all anythings, would be unusual.  But in Mens Fastpitch, teams, especially in this tournament, for some reason, often have a cultural identity.  A team of Native Americans, for example, or a team of Kiwis (the game is big in New Zealand), a straight-edge team, a team of Jamaicans, or, in our case, a Jewish team.

Once you stop playing mainstream sports, whenever you’re out of the system, which inevitably happens for all of us, at some point, you have two options, you can stop playing altogether, or you can join in the Weird World of Sports, that level of sports just beneath the Major Leagues or the NBA or NFL, where people train like pros, but there is no money, and even less glory – this is the world of pro kayaking and triathlons, low-level boxing, ping-pong, trampolining, cup stacking, speed walking, roller derby, and, of course, mens softball.  It is a world millions of people participate in, and still, somehow, no one cares about, no one writes about, no one knows about.

I was introduced to Fastpitch softball in 2005 when I played for the USA in the Maccabi Games.  The next summer, in 2006, I played a full season of pro mens fastpitch for the 6th ranked team in the world.  We traveled for 12 weeks starting in the Dominican Republic where we played a 7 game series against the Dominican National Team, and headed generally northward, finishing the season in Canada at the “World Tournament” where the top 40 teams in the world go each year to compete for the title of best in the world, the Major Leagues of softball.

a young KOJB with the short stop on the Dominican National Team

a young KOJB with the short stop from the Dominican National Team

Fastpitch softball is challenging.  The pitchers are only 46 feet away, and they hop forward closing the gap even farther before throwing the pitch.  The hardest throwers in the world throw the ball in the low 80s.  Taking into consideration the velocity and the distance, it is the equivalent in baseball to what would be a 125 mile per hour fastball.  This video gives you a pretty good perspective…

So, Orlando.  There are a total of 36 teams in the tournament.  We have 1 game tomorrow, 2 games Friday, and 1 more Saturday.  Then the playoffs begin, if we can make it that far.  Championship Game is Sunday.  Stay tuned.  Florida, I’m coming back, already.  Team Maccabi, live, in action, this weekend.  Will let you know what happens…

One Response to “WEIRD WORLD OF SPORTS”

  1. Hertz, Stephen January 23, 2013 at 7:24 pm #

    Nate; look up Al Schlazer. He runs the complex and was my AD. At Miami Dade College. Good luck! Enjoy! Steve ps. Can you hit a RISE ball? Different animal.

    Sent from my iPad

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