All Points West: Dying hard is easy to do
     2016-03-04      By Frank Marquez    editor@geringcitizen.com
About a year ago I was playing softball for a little known federal agency called PBGC, which sits on K Street in the heart of lobby row in Washington, D.C. This is about the time announcements go out for signups. The team calls itself the All-Stars. Although I’m not a great fan of acronyms, I debate whether to tell you what PBGC means, though, I’ll tell you anyway – Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. It’s probably one of the rarest of government organizations, noting the word corporation. If you Google it, you’ll find out why.

This year, I’ll probably play for St. Francis Church in Scottsbluff, joining my fellow Episcopalians, on a team managed by Fr. Mark Selvey himself. He’s no Bruce Bochy, and often forgets the lineup, but we love him anyway. This team calls itself the Frankies for obvious reasons. I prefer it because it’s a bit of a double-meaning for me, frankly speaking.

I’m not sure why PBGC picked the name All-Stars, usually reserved for a team with great players, we were a mixed bag. Yet, we did win more than we lost. In D.C., we played against employees of other federal organizations and local businesses mainly catering or closely associated with those agencies in the Congressional Softball League (CSL). Last year, the GSPM (The Graduate School of Political Management) Politricks won the league championship. Other teams, the DICK-TATERS, Naked Shorts, and Yellow Journalists rounded out the crème de la crème. The All-Stars rose to prominence a few years. And to think, some of these fanatics and adrenaline junkies played on more than one team.

I cut my season short with the All-Stars to make it back to Gering in time for Oregon Trail Days, and was blessed to have played two games of a waning season with the Church League here.

Teams like Mitchell Berean and St. Agnes sounded intimidating.
Unhindered, I played third base and short stop and by no means was I stellar at it. Though, I did my best impersonation of the KC Royals and Major League Baseball Hall of Famer George Brett, often failing miserably. A man can dream, can’t he?

While with the All-Stars, I did manage to snag a few line drives.
Surprised that I still had such reflexes, I tried to play it cool, overthrowing the pitcher, the error costing us a run. My batting was OK, though I never went yard, I did manage to get a few triples, and most of my singles were off grounders, nothing spectacular. Successfully reaching first base meant legging it out, which I could do with regularity, thanks to all the wind sprints throughout my sports career.

The All-Stars recruited anyone and everyone who could run, catch, throw and swing a bat, and preferably those who could make their bats connect with the ball. The younger men on our team had that ability and would often send the ball sailing into the Washington Channel just off Hains Point where we played all our games.

Our great hitters said it wasn’t hard to do because who could miss the slow arcing pitch coming toward you? Often we could fish the large yellow balls out of the water, and took the time to do so, often in order to readjust our strategy if we trailed the other team.

Often, the games were chatty. We were eager to find out about each other. Never mind that you almost gave up catching a foul ball because you were too engrossed in a conversation about what major world crisis you solved at work that day. Many of the players on our own team admitted joining the All-Stars to get to know other people in the building – not for any real particular reason, but sometimes you just get tired of hearing the same old stories. Plus, in contrast to sitting all day in a cubicle farm, running across a nice patch of green grass was pure joy, which brings me to my point.

Winning isn’t everything, or so they say, whoever they are. It’s how you play the game, or if you play the game at all. If you have it in you, I advise getting out to play. It doesn’t matter if you’re two or 92.

Apologies for mixing my sports here, but when I ran my first marathon in March 2005 in Los Angeles, then Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced the age of the oldest runner that day. You guessed it, 92. I whispered to myself, ‘you’re not going to let that guy beat you.’ At the same time, I hoped I’d still be on my feet at 92. By the end of the race, I discovered not only did the 92-year-old guy beat me, so did an 8-year-old girl half my size, and a guy who ran backward during the entire 26.2 miles. I received a participation medal like everyone else in the race – reemphasizing my point of getting involved – thinking, if I can run and finish this mind-boggling distance, which I did in agonizing fashion (yes, I was limping from cramps due to dehydration and fatigue), I could do anything. Believe me, crossing the finish line feels like nothing else, and I’m sure the feeling was probably similar to the thousands of other average Joes and Janes like me crazy enough to try such a race. Vowing to reach double-digits (10), I ran my last marathon in 2013, again in L.A. In the same year, Diana Nyad, at 64, was the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida. She did so after 53 hours in her fifth try in 35 years.

One thing, I’ll add, though, aside from stepping outside the door in your favorite sneakers, ready to take on the world, is to never stop, once you start.

This spring, your local Scottsbluff Family YMCA offers opportunities for participation in men’s basketball, youth soccer and a sprint triathlon scheduled for June 4. All you have to do is sign up, which is something akin to setting a goal.

To echo Nyad’s words to CNN, “Never, ever give up” and “find a way.”

Quitting, my friend, is for losers. Don’t be one.

See you on the softball field. Or better yet, victorious at the finish line – any finish line.

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