Category Archives: play

To Run Or Not to Run

To run, or not to run: that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, ’tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish’d. To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause: there’s the respect
That makes calamity of so long life;

FB July-10-16_DSC0034

Sitting isn’t the challenge.

If those committed to the quest fail, they will be forgiven. When lost, they will find another way. The moral imperative of humanism is the endeavor alone, whether successful or not, provided the effort is honorable and failure memorable.
–E. O. Wilson

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Free Play Meta Action

Free Play June 26-16-_DSC0036

Free Play June 26-16-_DSC0035

Free Play June 26-16-_DSC0034

Free Play June 26-16-_DSC0033

“The way I look at it for the sake of giving you options is that there are rare occasions when the ethos of our free play approach trumps the scientific aesthetics of softball. Yes, technically and by one of the rules found somewhere not very near, you earned the extra base. But, I’m in general agreement with the ‘feel,’ of our group and urge you accept your best option as a solution to the ineffectiveness in this instance of the law.”

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This Too Will Not Pass Soon

gold

In December 1964, I was ten years old. We lived at 2705 East Overlook Road in Cleveland Heights. It was a big Georgian house with a library room with built-in oak shelves. In the corner sat our big black and white TV. Because of what happened next, we would soon get a short-lived first color TV–destroyed when our siamese cat Cleo pissed into it–that would be replaced immediately.

What happened next was that the underdog Cleveland Browns won the NFL championship, their first since 1955, against the Johnny Unitas-led Baltimore Colts 27-0. Frank Ryan hit Gary Collins with three second half TD passes, and Lou the Toe Groza added two field goals. Good times.

Early the next year, my parents decided that our family would watch heartbreak in color.

The cataloging of close, but no dice, big games had come to plague Cleveland. Such moments are in the context of much more broadly deleterious losses due to Reaganomics, the inevitability of the economic process of catching up, and, the somewhat sclerotic “anti-visions” of civic leaders over decades.

But, there was always hope that a Cleveland major league sports team might someday succeed.

Hieronymus_Bosch_Ascent of the Blessed

Yesterday was just such a day. join the party: Cavstheblog.

Ulysses:
Time hath, my lord, a wallet at his back,
Wherein he puts alms for oblivion,
A great-sized monster of ingratitudes:
Those scraps are good deeds past; which are devour’d
As fast as they are made, forgot as soon
As done: perseverance, dear my lord,
Keeps honour bright: to have done is to hang
Quite out of fashion, like a rusty mail
In monumental mockery. Take the instant way;
For honour travels in a strait so narrow,
Where one but goes abreast: keep then the path;
For emulation hath a thousand sons
That one by one pursue: if you give way,
Or hedge aside from the direct forthright,
Like to an enter’d tide, they all rush by
And leave you hindmost;
Or like a gallant horse fall’n in first rank,
Lie there for pavement to the abject rear,
O’er-run and trampled on: then what they do in present,
Though less than yours in past, must o’ertop yours;
For time is like a fashionable host
That slightly shakes his parting guest by the hand,
And with his arms outstretch’d, as he would fly,
Grasps in the comer: welcome ever smiles,
And farewell goes out sighing. O, let not
virtue seek
Remuneration for the thing it was;
For beauty, wit,
High birth, vigour of bone, desert in service,
Love, friendship, charity, are subjects all
To envious and calumniating time.
One touch of nature makes the whole world kin,
That all with one consent praise new-born gawds,
Though they are made and moulded of things past,
And give to dust that is a little gilt
More laud than gilt o’er-dusted.
The present eye praises the present object.
Then marvel not, thou great and complete man,
That all the NBA begin to worship Curry;
Since things in motion sooner catch the eye
Than what not stirs. The cry went once on thee,
And still it might, and yet it may again,
If thou wouldst not entomb thyself alive
And case thy reputation in thy tent;
Whose glorious deeds, but in these fields of late,
Made emulous missions ‘mongst the gods themselves
And drave great Mars to faction.

Troilus and Cressida Act 3, Scene 3
William Shakespeare

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Free Play Motley Crew

the bop

the bop

the catch

the catch

the crew

the crew


 
Like dreams, statistics are a form of wish fulfillment. Jean Baudrillard

Blue-Cap-540sm

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Finding the Middle

Baseball-Tarot

Free Play Softball League evoked my frustration and depression for a moment yesterday. It was a nice day for softball but by 9:45am only four players had arrived, increasing to seven by our start-time of 10:00am. Very disappointed, after announcing to Dave that I was going to go home, but would first have to find some volunteers to take care of the equipment, I walked back to the field. Potential equipment caretakers were ambivalent, yet as I negotiated with several, three more players arrived. So, at 10:15am I decided to stay and proceed to make up the line-ups.

The week before several players had offered constructive criticism about my so-called handicapping. One mentioned I should do a better job of spreading out the “horrible players.” Since I don’t even make such judgments, and could argue that this advice is anchored to incorrect analysis of what has driven our recent lopsided games, I, nevertheless, considered what this advice entails.

Yet, on this day, we were missing so many of our most competent players that I was compelled to go out and play shortstop for only the second time in fourteen seasons. I’m not a horrible shortstop–I would say I am consistently mediocre at all the positions except for first base.

------------1 2 3 4 5 6
DB's--------7 7 0 0 2 5 -21
DK's--------0 3 4 1 4 8 -20

Not unpossible!

First one run game of the season.

I was mediocre in the hot spot, went 0-2, then 5-5, and made out the lineup without a thought about anything other than you need two teams of six each.

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Free Play exemplar

Jim, in green

Jim, in green | “…May I follow thee so that thou mayst teach me something of thy wisdom?” (Moses to Khidr, the green man, Surat al-Kahf, Quran)

The things that, being pleasant, make for health or for good condition, he will desire moderately and as he should, and also other pleasant things if they are not hindrances to these ends, or contrary to what is noble, or beyond his means. – Aristotle

Free Play Softball League is nothing more than the sum of, and interplay betwixt, its personalities and their real time entangled experience.

Character is the interpenetration of habits. Ideals are like the stars; we steer by them, towards them. John Dewey

Jim is leaving our game after eight years. He is moving with his family to take a new job. He will be missed. He exemplified how to come out and participate and have fun without whacking the game. Not once did he indulge in negativity, take part in drama, or, do anything but play, learn, and bring his good attitude forward every week.

This week he smashed a triple in his first plate appearance. Our game’s attractions are animated by small moments, yet his hit was a big, salutary moment. He’ll be missed.

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Free Play Fan of the Year

David A. Kolb founder of Free Play Softball league

The votes are in: Dave’s mom wins the Free Play Softball League’s Fan of the Year Award for the first year in a row.

She is coming out to Field #11 late in the season to see us bolt together games with nine to twelve players. With the reduced forces, we play what we term ‘half field.’ Everybody gets a lot of plate appearances. Dave’s mom has seen it all by now. I wonder what she thinks?

The Free Play Softball League has been greatly advantaged by the new diamond and the fact that the conversion of the main Forest Hills open field to four diamonds has kept the pee wee footballers and soccer players off the turf. The weather has been great too: two rainouts, 27 games played, and only the specter of snow next Sunday threatening to keep Dave’s mom cozy in her home.

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Free Play Spears

Can Free Play Softball League outlast The World Series?

Can Free Play Softball League outlast The World Series?

But full of fire and greedy hardiment,
The youthfull knight could not for ought be staide,
But forth unto the darksome hole he went,
And looked in: his glistring armor made
A litle glooming light, much like a shade,
By which he saw the ugly monster plaine,
Halfe like a serpent horribly displaide,
But th’other halfe did womans shape retaine,
Most lothsom, filthie, foule, and full of vile disdaine.

excerpt, Spenser. The Faerie Queene Book 1

Larry, 78, brought (I think) his grandson, eight grader Spencer to join us today.

He flailed away in batting practice and in his first at bat. I suppose he discovered his hardball game didn’t automatically translate to our more mild field.

But when she saw the knight his speare advaunce, 120
She soone left off her mirth and wanton play,
And bade her knight addresse him to the fray:
His foe was nigh at hand.

Then he kept his head down, held his spear more lightly, and slew a bunch of dragons.

It still turned into another, yawn, one run game 13-12 for one of the teams, or the other team. Somebody won.

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Free Play Cluster

FreePlayOct25WILLDSC08183

WIll in the middle, showcasing the glow of a good game.

FreePlay-October

Sunday’s game featured a double strike out, an interference ‘collective call’ when a slow rolling grounder seemed to roll up a player’s leg, and, the piece d’ resistance, an eager runner moving to the passing lane between second and third, and passing the base runner ahead of him.

Another one run game was the result of these outliers and lots of excellent play.

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Free Play Follow Through

FreePlay-follow-through

The Free Play Softball League‘s man-boys of autumn Sunday games will parallel the big league’s playoffs, and, then, those playoffs are concluded by the World Series, whereas the Free Players keep playing! Our extended season is both test and testament. During my fourteen year tenure, we once played in December, and have taken the season past October a number of times!

This week the pick-up squads collaborated on one of the best played games of the season. It was a real gem highlighted by two double plays, both of which I (sadly) initiated from the batter’s box with grounders to the infield. There were stellar defensive plays, and these supported a tense, low scoring one run game.

Oct4-15

With the fall sun shining in the batter’s eyes, hitting becomes more challenging.

Free-Play-Oct-4

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See the Ball, Hit the Ball

Freeplay-sequence

Wait for the low pitch, keep watching, try not to maim the pitcher. (I handed Andre my camera and he managed to capture a sequence of ol’ Cap himself plotting and releasing a single up the middle.) I have been a singles hitter since my first serious softball game in the spring of 1970. Because I am probably at least half as fast as I was when I was 15, I have to be twice as crafty.

FreePlay-9-20-15

We followed a 22-21 nailbiter 9/13 with a 19-19 tie this week. Kiss your sister, lads.

 

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Free Play Omar Not

FREEPLAY-SEPT6-DSC06510

When I returned to the softball diamond at the age of 48 in 2002, I claimed left field as if it had been left to me in a will or by contract. I had my old Wilson glove from 1968, a mitt so large it could envelope most of my head, and I figured–like riding a bike–my ability to judge a fly ball, let alone a dipping line drive, would instantly return.

It did. All those years covering the left field for the Abernathy Special Collections challenge team on the makeshift diamond behind Middlebury College’s field house turned out not to be wasted, even after 18 years had gone by.

Then came my nose’s $6,000 dollar encounter with a falling line drive in October 2005. I got over it soon enough, but I never regained my sense that I could trot out to left field and own it.

Then, my speed slowly disappeared. This left me with right field. This season I have also played first base, a position I am configured to perform very well at, but first is also the position where less versatile players gravitate to.

With a slim turn out this week, I threw caution to the wind and did so also hoping I wouldn’t throw the ball over the first baseman’s head. I ambled out to short stop for, I guess, the fourth time in my long ‘career.’ I thought to myself that my arm was strong and might turn out to be accurate too. I zinged every warm up grounder into the first baseman’s mitt. I figured I had a chance to not make a fool of myself.

What did worry me was the fast grass surface, and, how bumpy the infield had become by September.

What happened is I threw two runners out at third, one runner at second, held up two throws to first against fast hitters, made an error on a bad bounce, and, successfully semi-dove (!) for a looping infield fly, and caught a gimme infield fly to end the game.

This would count as my best performance ever at this demanding position. Of course ‘best’ in my case means ‘mediocre.’ The reality is, I can play all ten softball positions in a mediocre way. I’m versatile!

 

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Free Play Softball Slow Rolling Regression to the Mean

Free-Play-Aug-23-roster

We haven’t enjoyed a close game in weeks. Each week’s games over the last month have reflected most of the ways unpredictable regressions in performance, especially on defense, aggregate to severely tip games toward, as it were, one side.

Last week a newcomer crushed a ball 350+ feet. Who knew? Obviously, the oddsmaker didn’t know ahead of the stirring shot.

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Enlightenment, Now and Later

are-we-there-yet

enlightenment-cartoon

bonus:

From the 1960 season of Alan Watts‘ KQED television series, Eastern Wisdom & Modern Life

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Free Play Rings the Bell Curve

"Don't start singing until I raise my hands and give the signal."

“Don’t start singing until I raise my hands and give the signal.”

(Actually, Dave, back to the camera, is discussing further sales of 26th Anniversary Freeplay Softball swag.)

85 degrees at 10am. The crew could barely be moved to execute a batting practice. It was the oddest start to a game in my fourteen years.

But, what followed was a second game in a row during which both teams played each other like heavyweights, trading hard blow for hard blow, until defensive troubles keyed a last inning rout. As the handicapper, I always hope for smoothing by virtue of individual mean performances canceling one another out. However, on Sunday, once again I was reminded that of the two kinds of outlier performances, the offensive mediocre becoming godlike, and the defensive godlike becoming nightmarish, it is the latter outlier that most ably causes the train to jump its tracks.

Mike

Mike

When new players show up for the first time, the big test is in the future. Will they return? Mike, pictured above has returned, and I for one am grateful. We had a brand new player, Eddis, do a Travis Fryman impersonation at third. Butter. Wow!

And, then, at bat, Eddis finally got a hold of a ball–and we knew that was going to happen.

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Freeplay Kablooey

Freeplay Softball

This photo from the game today shows a ball driven down the left field line by a batter, Pete, who is out of the frame, the left fielder chasing the ball, the shortstop to the left of the baserunner running from second moving to take the cut-off throw, the third baseman waiting, the pitcher contemplating, a 3rd base coach advising, and, what seems to me to be a lonely bat tossed to the front of the circle at home plate.

The game was very close until it became a last inning, and decisive, rout. The home team managed to hit its way out of deficits created by outbursts of its own shoddy fielding, but in the last inning this pattern was deposed by the defense of the visitors, who had earlier come to bat in the top of the seventh and scored eight runs.

From my spot, playing right field for the visiting team, there was a lot of interesting dynamics in the final inning, and some of my reflections could be captured by the idea, “What does a player contemplate within the live flow of the game?” This is unanswerable.

Ironically, today’s game was much closer than the score but it also was the worst rout of the season. The brightest spots were all the new 25th Anniversary swag distributed by Dave Kolb, and, for me, the great play by a rapidly improving player who is playing his first season’s worth of softball in over two decades. Will – you’re the man!

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Pecking Order

creepygirls-baseball-cartoon

I likely was around the age of ten–1964–when my friends and I started playing kick ball on the asphalt diamond at Coventry School during the summer. This gave me the opportunity to be a self-assessor, and, also to step back a bit from process of making teams, to wonder why my above average performance never was reflected in where I was chosen in the picking of players. I asked my dad. I forgot what he told me.

A few years later, and for a few years, I played baseball on the long gone diamond at Fairfax School. Because I had a good arm, I played third base. But, I was a terrible hitter. I usually was picked in the first third of picks.

Eventually, one leaves the world of pick up ball behind. I played for Roxboro Junior High’s football team. Mike Baum and myself were the blocking fullbacks, opening holes for the storied Tom Olmstead and Victor Wong. We collapsed a Wiley Jr High team’s rushers in the last series of the last quarter of the 1968 season. This helped Olmstead score the team’s first touchdown of the soon-to-be realized 0-5 season. The coaches were idiots.

In high school, I proved mediocre at: football, cross-country*, and made one appearance as a side-arming reliever on the JV baseball team in the spring of 1970:

walked the first batter
hit the second batter
walked the third batter
gave up a three run triple to the fourth batter

Infinite ERA, right? That’s something!

The next year a classmate Jonathan Bass created an intramural softball league (at Hawken School) and enlisted me to help organize it and promote it to my fellow juniors. Somehow he got the Head of the Upper School and Athletic Director to approve it as an alternative to playing a varsity sport or PE class. Participation skyrocketed diue to this late breaking development.

I played first and third base and because I was the team captain, batted myself in the top third of the order. I kept the statistics for the entire league. Somewhere is the record of my performance in every season I’ve played softball since the spring of 1971.

In 1975 I played with the Wizard of Oz team in Vermont. It was the team’s inaugural season. I know I batted ninth and played short outfield, and sometimes pitched, and sometimes played catcher. I was twenty and two years away from my first really enjoyable sportsman’s experience.

Many American men have a sense of what is a pecking order. It might be interesting to ask him how early in their athletic career did this sense begin to be developed.

*My senior year, I recollect that the cross country team had a record of 14-1. I was roughly the eighth or ninth runner on the team, and injured my self in a meet at University School. This led to the single mention of my athletic performance in the yearbook: Stephen Calhoun ran well with the cross country team until he got smart and broke his ankle.

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Free Play Routski

Is the dark matter blowing in, or, out, wonders astronomer Stacy

Is the dark matter blowing in, or, out, wonders astronomer Stacy

I turned to Dave Kolb at the beginning of our at-bat in the top of the third inning, and because the score was 3-12, said to him,

“I knew the regression to the mean would come eventually.”

In response, Dave tells me,

“It depends whether or not you believe in probability!”

We tossed a few more musings back and forth.

We have a darn interesting inner free play softball game too. Anyway, I added the probability thingy to the long list of fascinating topics I’m motivated to some day, or in some lifetime, discuss.

The game ended 18-12. My wondrous handicapping streak is over. Probably it could start up again.

Al, and his kids Brandon, AJ, (and Rick)

Al in the blue shorts, and his kids Brandon, AJ, (and Dave and Rick)

The intergenerational aspect to our Free Play Softball league was evident when Al and his sons showed up. If memory serves me, Al was playing in our game the same year I started, 2002. His kids are now in their teens. Kurt wasn’t there Sunday, but his son Max plays with us. Mark’s son Vincent is normally a regular, but he was riding dune buggies somewhere on this day.

FreePlayJuly5-2015DSC04942

The game wasn’t as close as the final score, or, alternately, it was closer after the visitors spotted the home team a 12-3 lead. I made a rare executive inter-game trade at the end of the third inning, and, well, as the kids say these days, ‘whatever!’

The team photo reflects me telling the group to look like they had some fun. Apparently, it was a grueling game for some of the players; albeit it transpired under perfect conditions on Field #11; except for the aforementioned handicapping.

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Free Play Softball Squeezes a Game In

David A. Kolb

 

David A. Kolb, second from left, was the main founder of Free Play Softball, now in the middle of its 25th season. He was doing brisk business getting players to make pre-orders of 25th anniversary swag. Will, all the way to the right, hit a critical triple–with an error providing homerun-like experience–as we all collaborated on a seventh consecutive close game.

If you are ambulatory and between the ages of 12 and 112, join us Sunday mornings at 10am, Forest Hills Park, Cleveland Heights, Field #11. We have extra gloves.

 

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When Will the Regression Happen?

ACTION SEQUENCE:Elder Larry bats, second youngest Vincent runs--Vincent beats the throw to gain Larry a single

Elder Lartry bats, second youngest Vincent runs–Vincent beats the throw to gain Larry a single

As the so-called oddsmaker, my lineups this year have resulted in nothing but close games.

V--HOME
18 17
16 14
15 16
17 18*
13 14
11 12

Six games have been decided by a total of seven runs.

My goal every week is to constitute rosters that will possibly result in either team having a chance to win in the last inning.

Only one game has been decided by the last at-bat of the home team. (*)

I haven’t crunched the numbers for previous seasons, but as oddsmaker for eleven seasons I understand that the Bell Curve of results over those seasons would show one run games are not so far away from the mean result to be outliers. But, even my most successful handicapping over entire seasons has also showcased plenty of routs, so my guess is the mean result for my best season as oddsmaker is a margin much larger than a mere single run.

Alternately, we’re at the beginning of my best season. This is scary because the inevitable regression will arrive one of these Sundays. I’ll also learn if habituating players to close games comes with a psychic cost too.

June 7, 2015

June 7, 2015

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