“Have you ever played baseball?”
“But you are American!”
NOW Taiwan Dad was asking the hard questions. It hadn’t been so hard for him to recruit me onto his softball team.
He’d called earlier in the week and asked, “Gordy, can you come to my softball game this Saturday?”
I replied, “Will there be food? — I mean, yes.” I think watching sports is boring, but Taiwan Dad is literally one of the coolest people, so I figured I could bring a book and yell, “Go sports!” between chapters.
It wasn’t until later that I realized he wanted me to PLAY on his softball team.
“I’m not good at all,” I warned him later that night. “I can’t play softball.”
“That’s okay, we are all old men. Nobody is good.”
But I didn’t know how to explain to him how bad I am at sports (ALL SPORTS). Maybe I should have explained that a newborn deer learning to walk has better coordination than me. Or that a seal working for fish is more capable of catching a ball than me. Or that in a game of one-on-one between me and a double amputee, I would lose.
This is ACTUAL FOOTAGE of me playing sports:
But the problem is that most everyone says they’re “not very good” at sports, so when people like me say they’re not good at all, everyone figures, “They’re average.”
I didn’t want to be a bad host son, though, so I kept my promise to go to Taiwan Dad’s softball game. I’d had really patient roommates in college who convinced me to play basketball with them on a regular basis. Even though I never really improved (the only things I was good at were blocking and pantsing people), I’d learned to be a good sport about being bad at sports. I just felt bad for Taiwan Dad and his team, sure that they thought of me as their ace in the hole, the American import for their softball team.
I quickly dispelled that fantasy. After failing to catch the first 20 throws during our warm-up, Taiwan Dad looked like he finally believed me when I claimed to not be good at softball. I was surrounded by men older than me who’d been playing baseball all their lives (baseball is the #1 sport in Taiwan) and here I was learning to catch a ball.
I didn’t want to be bad; I wanted to surprise myself and be good. But I don’t think it’s in me; my dad was an artillery officer in the Marine Corps, so I think dodging things falling from the sky is in my blood.
I hoped after our warm-up that I’d be dismissed and could enjoy the game from the cheering section (as I originally intended), but they were short on players, so they kept me in. Luckily, I’d done my job well enough that they put me in far-right field. They said that area of the field got the least amount of action and they were correct.
Unfortunately, softball isn’t just standing out in a field by yourself. Occasionally, everyone on the team has to take a turn at bat. I, of course, missed every pitch EXCEPT one. When I hit it, I ran as fast as I could from base to base and managed to get my team a point (or score/goaling/inning/whatever). I thought that might be my turning point in the game. Now I would hit every other ball and maybe catch one in outfield!
But I didn’t. I never hit another ball.
The team was very nice, though, and not just fake nice, either. Guys can get real upset about sports, but these guys kept high-fiving me, took pictures with me, and even asked me how to say certain baseball terms in English (of course, the only baseball terms I know are base and ball). Some even told me they respected me for having a good attitude even though I sucked so bad. It’s just another testament to the niceness of Taiwanese people.
In the end, my team lost, which I think was my fault (apparently, actually hitting the ball and scoring points is important), but I felt good about myself afterward. I’d tried something I’d never done before and even though I sucked balls (appropriate in this situation, right?), people still liked me. And I got a good blog post out of it.