Losing, and Winning, with the Inglorious Batters
This article originally appeared in BU Today.
Because the Inglorious Batters were too busy with exams at the School of Public Health this year to squeeze in practice sessions before their first softball game, they showed up with a few questions, like: “What’s that long thing?”
That would be the bat, explained one of the more experienced players, Weston Klimas (SPH’18).
Confidence Chika Achilike (SPH’18), who arrived in Boston last year from Nigeria, where she worked as a physician in a hospital and primary care clinic, had another: “After you hit the ball, which way do you run?”
The Inglorious Batters, SPH’s hapless, but lovable club softball team, lost that first game, 12-0. They lost the next game, too. And the next. In fact, they lost all of the season’s six games.
“There was only one game where we didn’t get mercy-ruled,” says Klimas, referring to the rule that ends the game during the fourth inning if one team is down by 12 runs.
“It’s been a journey,” he says.
And so it has.
“I don’t think we’re the most athletic team,” says Jennifer Kish (SPH’18), “but we’re the most enthusiastic team.”
Achilike, one of the Inglorious Batters’ handful of international players, emerged as a solid hitter. “I’m still confused about some of the rules,” she says. During one game, at Nickerson Field, she hit the ball and hurled herself triumphantly toward first, arriving a millisecond late.
“Confidence, you’re out!” her teammates called.
She remained on the base.
“Confidence, leave the base!”
Flashing a big smile, she left the base to join her teammates—and SPH classmates—on the sidelines. After she graduates next spring with an MPH in epidemiology and biostatistics, Achilike intends to return to Nigeria, where she will use her degree to improve health care for the poor and help to develop a stronger academic research culture.
She spent last year juggling classes and course work with her job as a research assistant at Boston Medical Center. Playing softball for BU’s recreational league, she says, was a chance to try something new and to have fun with her classmates.
“I actually got to second base a couple of times,” she says. “It was fun hearing people tell me, ‘Run, Confidence, run.’”
But those pesky rules…“When it’s three strikes,’” Achilike says, “I’m, like, why, how?”
It was classmate Ola Omotowa (SPH’18) who proposed starting a softball team in BU’s recreational league. He says he “woke up one day and said, ‘It’s summer, anyone want to join a softball league?’”
Savannah Strohmayer (SPH’18) brought the bats and balls—and an oversupply of home-baked cookies. Dennis Sunder (SPH’18) played with the glove his sister used in middle school. Achilike and some of the other players found YouTube video tutorials on the fundamentals. They asked the umpires for batting tips. As for who pitched and who held down which base—well, positions tended to be fluid.
Coaching, such as it was, fell to Oscar Garduno (SPH’18), perhaps the team’s most experienced, and knowledgeable, player. His qualifications? He grew up playing baseball in Chicago and he cares fervently about the game.
The first three losses were dispiriting, Garduno says, but then he recalibrated his expectations. “I shook it off,” he says. “We’re a new team.”
“We’re all really good at public health—and we are really bad at softball,” says Kish, a former collegiate Division One rower. “It’s sort of fun to be bad at something. You just come and do your best. You’re not, like, oh, man, I really gotta win this one for the team. It doesn’t matter if we win or lose. It’s for fun.”
The Inglorious Batters are thinking of starting a soccer team in the fall. That’s a game where some of the international players will show up knowing all the basics.
And they’ve got Confidence.
—Video by Bill Politis. Story by Sara Rimer. This article originally appeared in BU Today.