The softball screamed off the face of the aluminum bat, over our shortstop, over our left fielder’s head, and three bounces later, lied at the base of the home run fence. I stood, hands on hips in my center field position, suppressing a smirk.
My reflexively-misogynistic teammate had been burned — burned bad — by a strong-ass woman. I loved every second of it.
My decade in co-rec softball has taught me three things about the world in which we live: dudes who go out and drop two hundred bucks on softball gear that makes them look like a Major League Baseball player from the year 2035 are almost always terrible, don’t punch a fence if you want two un-broken hands (I did this), and the entire co-rec softball enterprise is a hellish tapestry of almost comical levels of misogyny that might prompt you to turn in your humanity membership card and beg for the sweet beyond.
The unabashed sexism takes the form of more than the occasional (bad) sexist joke. The strain of women-hating that runs through co-rec softball sometimes drives men to give up runs because — put simply — they don’t see their teammates with vaginas as part of their team.
I’ve watched in abject horror as an opposing pitcher, with the bases loaded, snag a red-hot grounder, go to throw the ball home to save a run, and stop his throwing motion. Why would he possibly do that? Because a woman stood at home plate, ready to receive the toss and record the out. The pitcher instead fake pumped once, twice, three times. If you looked close enough, you could almost see his disdain for women firing impulses in his caveman brain, telling him not to throw the softball to the teammate with differing genitalia.
I imagined an angel on one shoulder of this conflicted pitcher, with a devil on the other. But both were stupid assholes reminding the pitcher that girls aren’t people.
Watching this unfold, I grabbed a nearby teammate and shook him as we both broke into guffaws while this pitcher decided to make a run for home plate. He screamed for the catcher to clear the way. The base runner, of course, beat the misogynistic bastard by three steps. “What the hell,” the catcher said, flummoxed while both teams shook their collective heads. The pitcher, now embarrassed and looking at the ground as he made his way back to the mound, muttered over and over, “I couldn’t, I couldn’t.”
It makes you wonder how women ever forced the inferior sex to let them vote.
This sort of childish hatred for the opposite sex should hardly come as a shock. Sexism is baked into the foundation of co-rec softball. Women must hit different softballs than men. Softballs designated for women are smaller, harder, and fly a hell of a lot further. Men’s softballs feel like wiffle balls in comparison. Women are given a free walk to first base if a man draws a walk with two outs in the inning. This wrinkle in the co-rec rules is based on the awful assumption that a team would naturally want to walk a man — a batter who is always superior to his women teammates — just to get to the weaker batter (batting orders must rotate women and men).
The message is clear to anyone paying attention to the rules and regulations governing co-rec softball: women players are inferior in every conceivable way.
The backward rules ignore a multitude of factors, including the following: there are men playing co-rec softball today who haven’t done a pushup since Reagan was president and haven’t hit the ball out of the infield since Cheers went off the air; there are women who played high school and college softball, and can consequently kill an infielder with a line drive straight to the sternum; there are men and women who seemingly pay their seasonal league fee to stand at the plate and draw walk after walk after walk, with no intent to get the damn bat off their shoulder.
But none of that matters to the softball powers that be. Men are men, and women are women, and all men are better than all women. There’s no other way to interpret the rules.
But back to my teammate — the one who got got by an opposing woman who rightfully took great offense to him playing left field about as deep as you would if a weirdly large child was at bat. This teammate — we’ll call him Bill because his name is Bill — has an unbreakable pre-game routine that includes gender-scanning the opponents’ infield and outfield. “Girl in right, girl at second, girl at third, girl at catcher,” he says, without the decency to even say “woman.” “Gotta hit it to those spots today. Gotta hit it there.”
Bill says this while ignoring the spindly 60-year-old man in right center field who dropped three fly balls in warmups and has to six-bounce the ball to the cut-off. He ignores that the woman playing third base throws absolute rockets to first base and sports cat-like reflexes that make it seem as if there are four infielders on the left side. Bill ignores everything except for his deeply-held beliefs about gender: boys rule, girls drool.
I once stopped play for thirty seconds because my dude-bro outfield teammates refused to budge for a woman batter who had hit a couple screamers in the first leg of the day’s doubleheader. She came up to bat in a critical spot — runners on the corners, two outs, down by one — and Bill, our left fielder, along with our right fielder, would not back up. “Give a step,” I said, realizing I could’ve easily said “give some respect,” and the meaning would hardly change.
But they didn’t. They stayed put. I yelled for our pitcher to hold the ball and told my fellow asshole outfielders that they needed to back up twenty steps before the next pitch was thrown.
They begrudgingly backed up ten steps. And the batter still skied one over Bill’s head. I was supposed to be his backup, but I couldn’t literally or figuratively get behind that sort of sexist stupidity. Bill looked like an asshole with his back to the infield, running like his shoes were aflame after the softball that so easily glided over this head.
Watching women make fools of men has become a secret (and not guilty) pleasure of mine as my co-rec team gets annihilated week in and week out.
Forget Gatorade. Forget water. I could hydrate myself with the tears of men softballers victimized by their own raging sexism.