I think I witnessed a miracle last week, and in the silliest of all places: an adult rec softball game.
OK, maybe “miracle” is an overstatement. But it was a minor act of God, at least.
And it wasn’t the first of its kind, either.
These things seem to occur periodically, it seems, when we play a particular team that happens to be affiliated with a church in San Luis Obispo.
We’ve been competing against this group of guys on and off for many years. They are an amiable, good-natured bunch who play a similar style and level to us, so we can always count on them for a good game.
The first divine incident took place several years ago, and it involved one of our core players, who has been with the team since near the beginning.
At the time, he was a bit more brash than he is today and had a penchant for trash-talking, which he’d been doing a bit prior to a game with this church team.
Everything proceeded normally until around the fifth inning, when while playing shortstop, our guy moved to field a ball only to see it take a terrible, unpredictable bounce and hit him square in the face.
We ended up having to forfeit the game in order to take him to the emergency room, where he received a bunch of stitches to close a Y-shaped gash in his lip.
Afterward, I told him he’d been asking for trouble by mouthing off before the game. Clearly, God was on these fellows’ side and hadn’t taken kindly to such ungracious behavior from the opposing dugout.
We’ve chuckled about this over the years, and the incident became part of the history of the team — amusing and weirdly coincidental, but isolated.
Until Monday, when divine intervention struck again, only this time in our favor.
On this day, we were in the midst of a miserable evening, during the second game of a doubleheader that had opened with a 13-1 loss.
Again, on the other side of the diamond were those familiar guys from the church in SLO.
They jumped out to an early lead, but the game stayed tight into the middle innings, when one of their players hit a slow grounder to our pitcher, the very same guy who’d been playing shortstop during that fateful accident many years earlier.
He scrambled after the ball, picked it up and hurled it to me at first base. The throw was a little wide, so I stepped off the bag, made the catch and tagged the runner going by.
Only the umpire didn’t see the tag. His call: Safe!
“I tagged him on the head!” I said, appealing the call. But the umpire just shrugged, saying he didn’t see it.
So then I turned to the runner, knowing this was an honest, fair-minded team. If anyone in this league would admit to benefiting from a missed call, it was these guys.
“Didn’t I tag you? I clearly tagged you,” I said, grinning and laying on the guilt while their first-base coach listened nearby.
The runner smiled and conceded the fact, quietly. Not only that, he hadn’t even touched the base.
But he stayed where he was. Play resumed. All’s fair in love, war and baseball.
Fast-forward to the bottom of the seventh inning, and we’re trailing 5-1, at the end of a thoroughly frustrating night.
In two games and 12 innings, we’d scored two runs.
If you know anything about slow-pitch softball, you can sneeze and score two runs before you even have time to find a tissue.
But there we were, about to drop another game in the most anemic way possible.
One out. Two outs.
And then — suddenly — their crafty and supremely accurate pitcher did something he never does.
He went wild — mysteriously, gloriously, inexplicably wild — as if the Almighty himself reached down and tugged on the pitcher’s arm, causing his throws to veer just wide, just short, just long.
Also suddenly, we started to hit.
So it went: Walk. Walk. Double. Single. Another walk. Single. Single.
In a flash, it was 6-5. We held them in their last at-bat, and the game was over.
After needing 36 outs to get two runs, we needed but one out to get the next five.
We exchanged “good games” and headed home, everyone still a bit stunned at the turn of events.
Yeah, maybe it wasn’t a full-blown miracle. Maybe it’s just the beautiful spectacle that is baseball, where no game is over until that final out is recorded.
But I still like to think it was more than that, especially with our mutual history.
I picture that runner standing there at first, confronted with this moral dilemma, a little angel on one shoulder, a little devil on the other.
Hey, this is serious competition, out on a chilly September night at El Chorro Regional Park. I get it.
If it’s any comfort to him, I would have listened to the little devil, too.
Joe Tarica is the presentation editor for The Tribune. Reach him at email@example.com.