difference between the indoor and outdoor games involves batting. The best
indoor hits arc long and low because of the tight parameters of the building
and because it has no fences to clear. This is a crippling blow to those huge
sides of beef who excel at the outdoor game, the guys who can crack the ball
into the next county.
between the two games exist, as True says, "because we had to make up some
rules to accommodate both the building and our league schedule." For
instance, games at the Ball Park last seven innings or 55 minutes, whichever
comes first. "When time's up, that's it," says Investors manager Dave
Fraley. "We don't even break ties."
As for the
logistical rules, they're comparable to those that make Arena football a far
different game from the one Joe Montana plays. A giant net, which extends from
home plate to the outfield wall, hangs just below the Ball Park's ceiling to
prevent balls from getting trapped in the rafter beams. If a batter hits the
net with an infield pop-up, it's a foul ball. A ball glancing off the net above
the outfield is in play. So is anything hit off the 18-foot-high wall that
rings the outfield. So is anything that reaches the blue tarp that's suspended
from the 44-foot-high roof and drapes behind the entire outfield wall. "In
the outdoor game, you step back when a hit is over your head," says Show
Me's manager and outfielder, Tim Garcia. "But in here, you wait for the
In centerfield a
red-tarp target hangs in front of the blue tarp. To the hitter, 220 feet away,
it looks like an oversized matador's cape. "Hit it and you get a
double," says True. "It's the longest shot in the building, and the
batter has to keep the ball low, below roofline." A smaller tarp, this one
green, is above the scoreboard in left. This target is 190 feet from the plate,
and batters who hit it are rewarded with a home run. "Only 12 since
September," says True. (Rightfield has no such target, so lefty pull
hitters are out of luck.)
The orange ball
has a cork core, as opposed to a traditional Softball's much harder center. As
a result, the ball doesn't carry as far. However, it still skids off the hard
AstroTurf surface, giving an advantage to wiry outfielders with sure hands.
"That ball hits your glove and just wants to jump back out," says
"I love the
indoor game," says Joe Kicielinski, who plays first base indoors for the
St. Clair A team, and whose summer-league team reached last year's National
Softball Association World Series. "It puts finesse back in the sport.
There's a premium on quick guys who can do it all, both offensively and
defensively. It stresses basics. Our summer team has done well recently because
we took the indoor game and started playing it outdoors."
plays as well as Kicielinski & Co. As Investors and Show Me's prove, some
real Keystone Kops routines can take place in the indoor outfield, with players
falling over one another in their struggle to control the elusive ball. After
55 minutes, all antics and heroics come to an end; the Show Me's prevail 8-4 to
remain undefeated for the season. "We escaped with our lives," says
Garcia. "Usually we win by 10 runs or more."
"The speed of
the game is what I find frustrating," says Meyer, the aging Investors
catcher. "Guys get thrown out at first by outfielders—I've seen it happen
to rabbits." He pauses, and his dismay fades. "Oh well, no matter. Win
or lose, post-game is beer time on our team. We're either toasting with it, or
crying in it."
players—weeping Investors and toasting Show Me's alike—repair to the Stadium
Club lounge, where, on this night, the proceedings remain sedate. Such is not
always the case, according to a few of the players. One night, they say, bar
patrons signaled last call to players on the field by mooning them through the
plate glass. True doubts the truth of that particular bit of Ball Park
In any event,
there are no moons out tonight, and as the witching hour passes, the park and
its lounge empty out. John Phillips, a Ball Park regular, lingers. He looks at
the darkened infield and muses on how the facility has changed things for him
and for others.