Let’s go ahead and make one thing abundantly clear: you do not have to be good at any sport to play on your company sports team. In fact, you can actually just be straight-up bad. That said, if your company is playing softball this summer, you should participate. It will be fun! Just be ready to play your part.
Here’s my strategy: have a good time and try at least a little bit. It’s like YMCA sports. If you take it too seriously or exert yourself too aggressively, you might need to figure out what is really bothering you. No one is good anyway, and everyone gets a trophy in the end. Now that you’re an adult, the trophy might be a nice cold beer or something.
I would know; I was once on a rec league team in Columbia, Missouri many years ago myself. It was essentially just a party where we threw some balls around and ran around a bit. I’ve never been good at softball but, here’s the secret, it’s still fun. Getting super into the game, having a good time, and not caring if I look terrible throwing a ball is what makes it so. More than anything, it’s about hanging out with your team. Try not to get too stressed out about playing the game. (Caring too much about what other people think is a big barrier here.) If you are downright terrible, just act like you’re not and try not to let on too much. Pretending is half the battle. The fun will follow. That’s the whole point.
First your team will need to settle on a name. By now you know that putting on appearances is a necessity, so selecting a name that says you’re here to play ball is of the utmost importance. Using your company name as your team name is boring and I have faith that you can be more creative than that. Don’t be afraid of puns and wordplay. For example, SoftBalls Deep is a good team name but, then again, maybe your company won’t be down to endorse that. Young Ball Boys is another one, but perhaps the team is co-ed. HitMakers or some shit. I don’t know. Go nuts!
Next, you’ll have to dress for success. If you have enough lead time, make some team shirts. Everyone loves a good t-shirt! There are websites that will do this relatively inexpensively, especially if you’re ordering for a larger number. (CustomInk or CafePress can get the job done easily.) Throw on some athletic shorts, maybe a pair of tall socks. Wear the right shoes, because you will presumably be running bases at some point. Unless you guys make no hits at all, which is a possibility. I’m also very pro-flair, say, if you wanted to rock a sweatband or some eye black. It’s all about looking the part.
Obviously you’ll want to pre-game to really get in the spirit of things. Make an event of it! This is good for morale and team bonding and also helps you to not give a shit about what the other team thinks of your skills or lack thereof. For the most part, no one is good at rec-league softball. The teams that are really good? Those guys are fucking dorks. They probably take themselves too seriously, and maybe even wear their high school letter jackets when no one else is home. Don’t be those guys.
Drink a few beers before the game. Use a designated driver (this should be a given) or consider tailgating in the parking lot. Pregaming is a must but it’s probably not to pregame too hard in the case that you do decide to make a hit later — it would not be cool to puke while running to home base. (The fact that you’ve come here to read a piece about faking your way through an inconsequential baseball game probably means that you probably don’t run much, but sometimes life comes at you fast! Kind of like a baseball! Take the necessary precautions.) The main goal before softball games has always been to get a little buzz going. You really don’t need any other goals. This isn’t a real thing, remember? Company sports teams Do Not Matter.
Related: You’re allowed to get tipsy, but be on time to your game. You’re having fun, but you’re not an asshole. Punctuality is important in life as in company softball.
At some point you’re going to have to have to actually get on the field and play. Arrange the batting order so whoever is most confident they can make bat-to-ball connection is first and the worst players (maybe you!) are last. This should be pretty easy. Your team will probably have one guy who played baseball in high school or a girl who does fast pitch on the side. Everyone company has a Baseball Guy. Let Baseball Guy be your guide.
So, whatever, hitting the ball is not that big of a deal. Keep your eye on the ball and try to hit it somewhere down the center or wherever you can. Assume you might miss and keep your expectations low, so that when you actually do make a hit, it’s a cause for celebration. Keep the mood light. Absolutely no one cares if you hit the ball and your boss is not going to factor this into your performance review unless he’s a stupid little baby butthole. If you hit the ball, go ahead and run!
Three strikes, you’re out. This might happen quickly, then you gotta hit the outfield. Some questions you might have: What if I don’t catch anything? What if I can’t throw that well? What if I have no idea how to shortstop? It’s ok. If you know nothing at all, stick yourself out in right field. You won’t have to do much because the chances of someone actually knocking the ball your way are slim at best. Do not under any circumstances be a baseman or baselady. You’ll have to do stuff. Let Baseball Guy take first base or pitcher. The main thing you want to do here is to act like you generally know what’s going on. Move around just enough, but don’t move around so much that someone will actually try to make you make a play. If you do end up with the ball near or around you, throw it in the general direction of home. It will make it there eventually.
Above all, try not to care what anyone else thinks about this particular skill set of yours. Just have fun and participate. Just get loose! Oh, and you might want to stretch. It would be terrible to tell people you pulled your groin playing your rival company in a fake game of softball. Other than that, just fake it ‘til you make it. Or until you get through nine innings. Or until you’re sitting on the bench because you’re hammered. Whichever comes first!
Art by Sam Woolley
Adequate Man is Deadspin’s new self-improvement blog, dedicated to making you just good enough at everything. Suggestions for future topics are welcome below.