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Commentary: Dodging danger at state softball

FORT DODGE — Dallas Center-Grimes got what it wanted on Tuesday with a 7-0 victory over Denison-Schleswig.

I got what I wanted as well: escaping Harlan Rogers Park with all my limbs attached, after seven innings of dodging hard-hit DC-G softballs.

Tournament officials erect a set of scaffolding along the left-field line, next to the dugout, from which photographers can shoot. It offers a unique vantage point to capture the action on the field, and since it’s unlike anything else I’ve used throughout the season, I like to take the opportunity to give readers a different point of view.

In five years of covering the state tournament, I’ve never really had a close call. On Tuesday, I made up for it.

The game got off to an inauspicious start when one hard chopper was ripped down the line and bounded into the chalk-bordered photographers’ box inside the fence, coming to rest after a glancing blow off one photog. This one I saw off the bat, but it was down and out of range of us sitting ducks on the scaffolding.

Dani Heritage, however, changed that. In her second-inning at-bat, the slugging first-baseman ripped a screaming liner our direction. The photographer next to me shouted a warning — “Look out!” — but I had no time to react. A yellow blur, luckily, mercifully, glanced off the flimsy metal railing inches in front of me and bounded down to the grass below, as the scaffolding reverberated from the powerful strike.

The scene elicited a hearty chuckle from nearby DC-G fans and the biggest sigh of relief I’ve ever heaved. Give me a glove and I’m good to go, as my 1.000 fielding percentage in high school can attest (one fly ball in right field of a blowout freshman baseball game counts, right?). But shouldering a heavy camera, camera bag, notepad and pen, and I’m at the mercy of my rapidly diminishing reflexes.

Later, Macey Wolfe got into the action. The .431-hitting center fielder tattooed an off-speed pitch toward our tiny journalistic perch. I imagine it narrowly sailed over the stand, but I didn’t see because I was hunched over, studying the wood grain below my shoes and waiting for the impact of not-so-softball on skull like I was a kid in one of those 1950s-era “Duck and Cover” movies.

There were a few more close calls before the game ended, and even the photographers on the first-base side got to dodge a few as well.

I’ve dodged sideline tackles in football, breaking the fall for takedowns in wrestling, whizzing discus throws at track meets and errant buzzer-beating full-court heaves in basketball, and somehow, I’ve come out of it unscathed each time.

But with every game, meet, tournament and event I go to, there’s that lingering thought in the back of my mind: “Look out!”

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