[This is my column in the Oct. 2 issue of The Commercial Review.]
There comes a time every year when I have to ask myself a few questions.
Was the pain worth it? Can I keep playing? And did I have fun?
If the answer to any of those questions is “no,” then I know it’s time to hang up the cleats.
For the better part of six years now, I’ve had to ask myself those questions at the end of every softball season.
I’ve been battling numerous injuries since 2008.
First, it was a left ankle sprain during the last game of the season. To this day, I still don’t have the full range of motion, and I have had it braced since I rolled it while trying to avoid a tag.
My throwing shoulder and elbow have been sore for quite some time, and all it takes is an awkward toss to remind myself they still hurt.
And in May, I sprained my right ankle — actually there is a good chance I broke it but my stubbornness kept me from going to the doctor — and I’ve been fighting through the pain every day since.
So I ask myself if I can continue to put up with the pain. I’m on the verge of being 29 years old, and I am not mentally prepared to end the semi-active lifestyle that I live.
That brings me to my next question, as to whether or not I can keep playing.
If I am able to make it through the pain of all but one of my limbs hurting, there is no doubt I will continue to play. Win or lose, if I’m on a softball diamond with friends, I feel at home. I’ve been on teams that have won by a lot and I’ve been on the receiving end of a beat down, but after each game I’m not sure there is any other place I would rather be.
Which sets me up for the third — and most important — question.
Did I have fun?
Years ago I saw a picture of former Detroit Tigers outfielder Curtis Granderson with a phrase written on the underside of his ball cap.
“Don’t think, have fun.”
Forget about an error made in the field, a base running blunder or failure to come through in the clutch. Instead, put the past where it belongs, worry about the next pitch or next at bat, and most of all, have fun.
Since then, I have adopted the same mantra when I play. I write it on the brims of my hats and also write the DTHF acronym on my taped wrists.
And, whether or not my team gets a notch in the win or loss column, if I had fun I have no reason to hang my head.
In my three-part self-evaluation, each question is contingent on the previous answer. I cannot move on to the next question without answering “yes” to the one before it.
My softball season ended Sunday, so since then I’ve had some time to sit back and think about the previous year.
I was able to put up with the pain in both of my ankles. I made it through the year without getting injured any further, and despite an unfavorable record, I had fun.
After all, I made some new friends in the process.
Now I can spend the offseason resting up, strengthening my ankles and preparing for next year, because I don’t see my softball career ending any time soon.