June 28, 2006
I promised Team Pilinko that I would be at the park by 6:30 p.m. last Wednesday for the practice before their double header. As their fake, unofficial spokesman I have a phony responsibility to show up on time, but it was almost 7:30 when I finally trudged across the lawn at Mashashimuet to the softball field. I was late because I needed to stop at 7-Eleven for supplies.
I bought bug spray, film, a pen and some paper. Also a magazine, two taquitos, and a case of beer. I don't want to say that I came thinking I was going to be bored watching the game, but . . .
After taking my position on the bleachers, Tim Pilinko, team captain, walked over and caught me up to speed on the game so far. They were in the bottom of the third against Team Mott and Pilinko was winning 6-2.
"Have to rub it in their faces," said Tim after a particularly good play.
And that was the draw for me to these games. I didn't watch them play for any love of the game. It was the trash talk. It was watching these out-of-shape, blue collar boys drag themselves around the diamond and smoke in the dugout. Like versions of Babe Ruth without the fame or actual athletic ability.
When the sun began to set, and the lights were turned on, the bugs came out en-mass. Somewhere around that time I realized I had forgotten the bug spray back in my car, but I was far too many drinks along to make the trek back across the lawn.
I resolved to deal with the bugs in the best possible fashion: by flailing my arms around wildly, like an idiot, swatting away nano-sized blood suckers. No one should be this delicious.
The game progressed. Scores were scored, hits were hit, and catches were caught. I tried to keep good notes of the game but failed miserably. Looking back over them I realize how little I was actually paying attention. My notebook is a jumbled mess of quotes with no sources, meaningless doodles, and random thoughts.
One quote that I do have is from Bruce Schiavoni, catcher and self proclaimed motivational speaker. During the bottom of the seventh inning he called the whole infield in to the pitchers mound. At this point, Pilinko was winning but their lead had been drastically reduced.
"If we don't get this one it's fucking embarrassing," he exclaimed and returned to his position leaving everyone thoughtfully stunned.
Whether this "talk" did anything to motivate the team, I can't say. The game finished while I was going to the bathroom. Pilinko won, I am sure of that much, but the score is lost somewhere in my notes.
Team Pilinko's second game began against Team Conca D'Oro a little before 9 p.m. The game had barely begun when the sprinklers turned on and stayed on for almost five minutes before someone figured out how to turn them off. By that time, most of the infield and much of the other team's dugout has been soaked and I was laughing uncontrollably.
It seemed early on that this game was another win for Pilinko and I was celebrating heavily. They were up by 10 points/runs/whatever by the bottom of the sixth inning and seemed to be holding strong.
The top of the seventh inning however proved to be a devastating blow to Tim's team. Conca D'Oro managed to score 10 or 11 runs to tie the score and bring on extra innings. I had been trying to keep score of the game from the beginning, but somewhere along the way, my tallies had switched from runs scored to empties so, again, any actual reporting of this game was lost.
Pilinko would go on to lose in the eighth inning. I was glad at this point for the game to be over. The bugs had turned my mood sour and I was anxious to leave. If the game had progressed for any more innings I would have left.
But even in my foul stupor I understood something had happened. There was a complete collapse of something on that field. Something that caused Team Pilinko to lose a 10 point lead and the game in the final innings. But that something is lost on me. Hell, I barely know all the rules of the game, let alone the psychology of it.
Not much has changed about this sport over the years from what I understand. It is still the same playful, trash talking, friendly game it was when the Easy Riders were playing. The team names have lost their spark, but the rules are still the same.
Nick Bennett was born and raised in Sag Harbor and attends Long Island University. He is a first year intern at The Independent.