Career Advice - How to Politely Avoid Playing on the Work League Softball Team

Career and workplace advice columns will always suggest getting involved at work, both in and out of the office. In the summer time, slow pitch softball is one way to do this and that's great if you're the Derek Jeter, Jennie Finch or Clayton Kershaw at the company.

But what if you are terrible at slow pitch softball? How can you tell your colleagues No without feeling like you are letting them down?

From time to time in this blog, I will make reference to a sizzle scenario. Here is what I mean by that term:

Sizzle - Any situation in life that has low pressure, low reward, but the potential for an enormous amount of stress.

Examples - The ATM machine. Filling up gas. The self-scan checkout lane at the grocery store. A tollbooth with no operator. Sending a fax. Leaving a voicemail. Filling out a form.

The list goes on and on. I call it a sizzle because during these events I imagine the panic sounds in the brain resembling bacon sizzling in a pan.

If you can relate to these sizzle scenarios, awesome, you have arrived at the right place. If you can't, I envy you. Especially the way you can confidently sign up for the office league softball team with no stress whatsoever.

Because for a sizzler, slow pitch softball is a nightmare.

The low pressure of slow pitch makes it all the more pathetic when you strike out. The reward for hitting the ball? Of course you hit the ball, it's coming in at three miles an hour.

Groundballs and pop-ups are supposed to be easy routine plays. For us sizzlers, there is nothing routine about 'em.

The worst part is, unlike flag football or basketball, softball has no time limit. An inning can go on forever. And since it's slow pitch, good hitters can map out exactly where they want the ball to land so if they smell blood in the water out in right field, it's about to be an hour of target practice.

The easy solution may seem to be simply saying no when the sign-up email goes around. The problem with this approach is you might have a great quarter doing whatever it is you do at your job, but last night your rival hit a grand slam in the bottom of the ninth and was carried off the field on the shoulders of the VP.

Not joining can make it seem like you are not a team player. You are not willing to scrape your knee for the company.

With all this stress in mind, here are three medium rare pieces of advice on how to politely avoid playing on the softball team without tarnishing your work reputation.

The Addition by Subtraction Narrative

When asked if you want to join, reply by saying, "I am so bad at baseball that the biggest contribution I can make is by not being on the team."

Using the word 'baseball' here is key, because in a very subtle way you have not turned down the softball team at all.

They will laugh and say, "Oh come on, it's no pressue. All for fun. Really just an excuse to drink beer on a weeknight."

At this point smile and say you'll think about it. Then conveniently go on vacation when final registration is due.

The Bad Lower Back Approach

Everyone respects a bad back. It's a mark of wisdom like gray hair or ordering escargot. And unlike a made-up leg injury, you don't have to ham it up in the office limping around. People will understand that everyday life doesn't upset the back, but the violent swinging motion in softball is not healthy on the vertebrae.

If they need further proof, then go to your doctor and get a note. Doctors are not supposed to write fake prescriptions, that lands them in a lot of trouble. However, you are not asking them to write a perscription for anything. Just a note that says, "Bad back."

There is no scenario in which the doctor can get in trouble for this.

Panel Review Person - So Dr., you prescribed medicine for your patient even though they were not injured?

Dr. - No, there was no prescription involved. Just a note.

Panel Review Person - Why did they ask you to do this?

Dr. - They wanted to avoid the slow pitch softball league.

Panel Review Person - Completely understood. I've been milking a bad back for the last 15 years.

Be the Stat Guru

If you can not go through with either of the above approaches, then give this last resort a try. Especially if your job is related to finance, math, spreadsheets, accounting, any of that good numbers stuff.

Say no to joining the team, but offer to keep track of stats at the games.

This way you are a team player and you get extra credit for sacrificing your time. And you get initiative credit for doing your assigned tasks plus this extra project.

Your co-workers will all want to see their batting averages. Your boss will want to see how everyone is doing. You may even be asked to give a weekly presentation.

Throw in some fancy graphs and don't be surprised when you see a promotion come your way by season's end. And that will be far more enjoyable than striking out on a three mile per hour fastball.

Other Pieces of Medium Rare advice

Has your boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife forgiven LeBron and this is about to become a major problem in your relationship? Here's how to work through it.

Well, that's the only other post so far, but every Monday morning a new one will be up. Stay tuned!

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