Make it hurt so good

1.

When I was in sixth grade—the last year I played Little League fast pitch softball before quitting until high school—my coach, Mr. Tersigni, would pile us all into the back of his Ford Bronco and take us to Dairy Queen after a win. While the experience of that last season and my volatile coach soured me on my sport for a few summers, Mr. T (who looked quite a bit like an out-of-shape Jose Canseco, plus mullet) imparted something I’d internalize.

He’d hit grounders at me until I stopped pulling a leg like an elephant avoiding a mouse, demanded I take the ball off the shin rather than give up the base hit.

2.

That last summer, I remember the lumps of my shins showing through socks and stirrups, the swollen contusions tender even when I stood still. I remember the way they bounced against each other in the back of the Bronco on the way to Dairy Queen, Mr. T turning up the radio and the whole team of 12 year old girls singing along to John (Cougar) Mellencamp:

Hurt so good
Come on baby, make it hurt so good
Sometimes love don’t feel like it should
You make it hurt so good

3.

My coach can’t get over how much better my hitting is when I swing freely instead of trying to muscle the ball. He doubles over laughing when I overthrow first and tell him I didn’t feel like I was throwing. “So you don’t believe you’re doing something right unless you can feel it?”

Close. Unless it hurts.

4.

A brief history of softball-related injuries:

Summer 2002, 75 percent tear of right quad
Summer 2003, concussion and whiplash
Spring 2004, left triceps, hip and outer thigh covered in contusions
Summer 2009, high ankle sprain
Winter 2009/Spring 2010 deep bone contusion (lower ankle), ankle sprain*
Fall 2010/Winter2010/Early Spring 2011assorted bruises

*soccer related

5.

Sometimes, it doesn’t even hurt. It just bleeds.

6.

Sometimes, it doesn’t bleed. Well, it bleeds under the skin.
bleeding under the skin

7.

The narrative here isn’t lost on me: that a man taught me something I loved would cause me pain, by definition, because it hurts when you do things the right way. You give up the body, you give up the ghost. If love is baseball and baseball hurts, if a=b and b=c, then a=c and love hurts.

8.

I don’t know how much of the project is about unlearning the bad lessons men taught me about baseball, and how much is about unlearning the bad lessons men taught me.

9.

“When you’re doing it right, it shouldn’t hurt. You shouldn’t even feel it.”

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