Several years ago, I had the opportunity to play for a men's team in a charity softball game against the Chicago Bandits. It was a huge thrill to bat against pitcher Kirsten Verdun,even though she struck me out on 4 pitches. I knew I didn't really stand a chance against an elite pitcher who was trying to get me out.
Since then, when I watch the Bandits take batting practice, I always wondered what I could do in that situation. The pitcher isn't trying to get you out. In fact, the pitcher is serving pitches you should be able to hit. I have always wanted to take batting practice with the team and last weekend, I got that chance.
After the Bandits were done taking their turns at bat, I got the signal to step up to the plate. I was a bit nervous, but I also took my own advice and soaked in the experience, enjoying the fact that I was batting on the same field as legends have played.
I looked out from the batter's box and saw catcher Kristyn Sandberg ready to pitch. Her first pitch came in too low and I let it go. I swung mightily at the second pitch and saw it fly by me. I took a deep breath and steadied myself. I had to at least make contact.
As I saw Kristyn release the third pitch, I started my stride. As the pitch neared me, I connected thinking I was a bit early. in fact, I was a tad late, but still hit a hard shot towards right field. That was really all I needed, but I certainly wasn't going to stop until they made me.
Kristyn threw about 12 pitches and I connected on about 9 of them. I hit a couple right back at the screen (protecting her as she pitched). Those were really my best hits. I dribbled a couple more to right, but I also hit some hard ones to right.
I didn't come close to any home runs, but the setup was not conducive to that either. Kristyn was pitching from behind a screen in front of the usual mound. Most of the pitches came in a bit low. Kristyn threw at about 2/3 speed, maybe 40 miles per hour, which seems slow, but from that distance at that angle, it gets there quickly, especially with the reflexes of my 53 year old body.
Despite not hitting the long ball, I loved every minute of this experience. I didn't do as well as I really would have wanted, but I also did much better than I feared I would. I got to bat on the same field where I watched the Bandits have 2 championship seasons. I stepped into the same batter's box as NPF stars have batted and faced pitches as if thrown by NPF star pitchers. This is one I will always remember fondly.
I want to thank Director of Promotions and Operations Jourdan Skihra and the Bandits organization for making this happen. I thank Kristyn for serving pitches to the weakest batter she will ever face.
The Bandits are headed for the NPF championship series, which will be played in Rosemont starting on Thursday, August 16. I will not be playing in that series, but I will be there "On the Beat" and cheering. Check back here for recurring coverage. Also, check ChicagoBandits.com for all of the details and scheduling.