The World Squeaks By

31 July 2023
By Mike Kowalewski

Dateline:  Bell Field (May 30, 2023)

Group Photo bbq 2023

“If Softball be the food of life, play on!”  Amidst unpromising meteorological reports earlier in the day (“hail possible; scattered thunderstorms approaching”), the English Department remained undaunted and held its annual picnic/barbecue and softball game on Bell Field on what turned out to be a lovely evening full of spring sunshine and lush green fields sprinkled generously with goose droppings.  In fact, when the setup crew arrived to start the festivities, several families of geese, complete with flocks of goslings, waddled happily on Bell Field.  Solvei Robertson did a spectacular job preparing for the picnic and the grill was extra hot this year, which enlivened everyone’s spirits.  Veteran grill-master George Shuffelton, along with Carolina Cabanela, Ella Cunningham, Nancy Cho and Will Hassell all pitched in on the collaborative grilling and ensured the Department was well-fed with mouth-watering burgers and “dogs” of all kinds.  And an opportune breeze kept the bugs away.

Then it was on to the game.  The Seniors, though with somewhat depleted ranks at first, had a swagger in their step (perhaps from having Comps behind them or perhaps inspired by memories of last year’s Senior win over The World).  Anna Hepler stepped to the plate first for the Seniors and immediately hit a double.  She was followed by Hannah Piper and Leni Cebulash, who both added creditable hits and the runs began to accumulate.  Pierre Hecker – a Master of the Dark Arts who is “banned and censored” in some countries but not on Bell Field – attempted to unnerve the Seniors by magically pitching two balls at once.  All to no avail.  Ellie Reinhold and Diana Cashman both whacked the ball.  And after three outs, the Seniors led 4-0. 

The World realized they may have seriously underestimated the Class of 2023.  Leni Cebulash’s high-altitude pitching for the Seniors was both entertaining and highly effective.  Arthur Koenig and Will Hassell both got hits for The World.  And then play was unexpectedly stopped by something new in the Annals of the English Department Softball Game.  From the start of the game, the Department had to share the field with the men’s soccer team, which pushed back the playing field to the margins of Spring Creek.  Ellie Cunningham came to bat for The World and the ball peeled backward off her bat, bounced twice and then landed in the creek and began to float away towards Lyman Lakes like an over-sized chartreuse fishing bobber.  The World stood dumb-founded (“there goes our ball . . .”); consternation ensued.  Luckily Solvei and “Cool Hand” Peter Balaam sprang into action and rescued the ball with a long twiggy branch.  When play resumed, Kira Farmer and Kate Ng both got solid hits but flied out.  At the end of the inning The World had mustered only one run and the Seniors led 4-1.  

In the second inning, the Seniors continued to add to their total, adding four more runs before the dust settled.  Hannah Piper got another hit.  Ellie Reinhold came to bat with the bases loaded and hit a fly.  Leni Cebulash scored and so did “guest” Senior, Lucas Cantrell – an ENTS major who was allowed to play because “Diana invited me” and because George Shuffelton confirmed that Lucas had once dropped off guinea pigs at his house.  (Peter Balaam, a Man of The World, was unimpressed.  “Not that old guinea pig trick!,” he protested.)  Lucas hit a high-flying ball that bounced dangerously close to the bean salad on the sidelines. The World had to admit (however grudgingly) that the Seniors had come to play.

Down 8-1, The World was on its heels but not about to give up.  “Where’s my chewing tobacco?” sneered one World player confidently on the sidelines. Carolina Cabanela was first up for The World. She hit the ball and sprinted heroically to first base (losing her hat on the way). Pierre Hecker was clearly inspired by Carolina’s effort and hit a high-arcing double.  Then on the very next play (the most controversial of the game), Pierre, when the ball was hit, threw caution to the wind, whipped around third base and sprinted towards home.  Leni Cebulash sussed out Pierre’s intentions and raced to home plate.  She arrived first and touched the plate, but she forgot to touch Pierre.  A vociferous debate (that made the recent Debt Ceiling Negotiations seem like child’s play) immediately erupted about whether Pierre had actually scored.  Both sides made good points, none conclusive.  (What would any self-respecting English Department Event be without some kind of hermeneutic flashpoint?)  The final decision, hotly contested by the Seniors, was that Pierre had scored. The Seniors glowered, which means, of course, that The World revived. Olivia Ho, George Shuffelton and Peter Balaam all went to work and got on base.  Ruby Mead, Lydia Montgomery, Abby Quade and Phoebe Ward all joined in the action. Navya Murahari was nicked by an errant pitch and earned a walk. At the end of the inning, the World had cut the Senior lead to 8-5.   

The Seniors suddenly realized that they were not going to win the game on Good Looks alone.  Anna Hepler and Hannah Piper both got singles but then Abby Quade made a sensational defensive for The World, a double out that included catching a fly ball and tagging out a runner.  Abby’s play deflated Senior spirits a bit, though Ellie Reinhold would not back down and kept up a spirited exchange of views with Pierre over her batting ability.  When the inning ended no new runs had been scored.  The Seniors led 8-5 and had only to outlast The World in their last at-bat to win the game.  But alas that was not to be.  Kira Farmer was the first up for The World and hit a single and then later scored.  Two more runs were scored and the score was tied at 8-8 with only one out.   In consideration of the tie, Department Chair Shuffelton, ever the diplomat, suggested that the Seniors could win the game, even with a tie, if they could recite Ernest Thayer’s “Casey at the Bat” from memory (“The outlook wasn’t brilliant for the Mudville nine that day . . .”).  “A sickly silence fell upon the patrons of the game” at that idea, so play resumed.  One other run soon crossed homeplate and the game was over.  The final score:  The World 9, Seniors 8.

As per tradition, the two teams formed lines for a Good Sportsmanship hand-slap.  After the game, the Seniors reflected on the final result.  Sophia Heidebrecht said, “We played the best we could.  Our fielding sort of fell apart though.  We had two people on Second Base.”  Hannah Piper felt a mix of emotions:  “We played hard.  We think it was a win.  I think The World cheated.”  George Shuffelton thought the Seniors put up a valiant effort:  “But maybe all those 395 papers caught up with them.”  He also conceded that “Pierre’s litigating skills on crossing home plate and not getting tagged” might have played a role in the World’s victory.  For his part, Peter Balaam was reminded of Marianne Moore’s view of baseball fans (this doesn’t happen at C.S. picnics!) and George remembered former governor Tim Pawlenty’s remark at a past Convo:  “when life throws you curve balls . . . embrace them.”

And on that note of potential but unlikely wisdom, this year’s picnic came to a close.  Although the Seniors may have lost on the scoreboard, some of them still felt they had won.  The Class of 2023 clearly acquitted themselves well against The World and all it could throw at them.  They can hold their heads high as they finish up their final term at Carleton and prepare for Commencement.  Remember, The World will be cheering for them as they cross the stage and take on the status of “new recruits.”

Your Humble Scribe,

(A Dispatch from Sabbatical Island),

Mike Kowalewski

Postscript (from the Edz): We know, crazy late post. We definitely did not forget about the annual tradition of posting Mike’s softball writeup. We just wanted to surprise you with a ~secret~ summer post. So if you’re reading this — congratulations! You found it. We’d offer you a prize but we like to think that reading this post was prize enough (and also, we are no longer on the Carleton payroll).

But seriously, before we three editors depart once and for all (read: our Carleton emails get shut down) we wanted to bid you all a fond farewell. Thank you for reading. Thank you for commenting, if you were one of the readers and/or spam bots who did so (shoutout to Maisie Goodale Crowther, ‘58). And of course, thank you Adriana and Solvei for putting up with our antics. Wherever the Miscellany goes in the future, we’ll be cheering it on (and, of course, providing witty and insightful comments from IP addresses that are not from somewhere in St. Petersburg — probably).

Most sincerely,

Your 2LM Edz (Andriana, Elena, & Sophia)