Thursday, January 19, 2006

I Coulda Been an All-Star!

Growing up I played a lot of sports. I didn’t though play a lot of organized sports. I never tried out for any of my school’s teams. Watching all the training and running they had to do, I realized I’d rather just play a pick-up game with some friends. The drills I didn’t mind. I just wasn’t big fan of running in circles. I just wanted to play. I didn’t want to train. I went to a few BJU soccer camps. But, the only organized sport I played was baseball. I played two seasons of summer league in junior high.

My first season was an absolute failure. I was the nervous skinny kid stuck in right field. I wasn’t the worst. It of course isn’t a good sign when the coach starts offering rewards to an outfielder if he’d simply catch a fly ball. I’ll be honest and say I sucked in the outfield. The main reason was I had a toothpick for an arm.

Second season was my breakout year. The big difference was that I was moved to 2nd base. My father was the coach that season, and he knew that while I didn’t have a strong arm I did have McHale arms. I didn’t even have to bend my knees to dig a ball out of the dirt. That season I had my greatest and worst moment all in the same game.

It was one of our last games of the season, and we were playing one of our rivals. They were at least a rival to me. The team consisted of players from my team last year including their star pitcher. Their star pitcher was actually in high school, but because he was born two days before the age cutoff he was allowed to play in our league. He was their starting pitcher for this game. Remarkably, my team actually scored some runs off him. Unremarkably, their team scored some runs as well. The score went back and forth, and neither team could hold onto their lead.

Cut to the top of the ninth. We are down by a run and the other team is threatening to build on their lead. With two outs, they had the bases loaded and our pitcher couldn’t pitch a strike. Finally, our pitcher threw the ball over the plate, and of course the batter smoked it. I’ve never gotten a better jump on anything in my life. The pitcher dodged the ball as it nearly took out his knee. I watched as the ball kicked up the dirt a couple feet in front of me. Being right handed I stretched the glove across my body in order to backhand the ball. Somehow, running at full speed and with the ball already behind me I snagged it. My first thought was, “Holy crap!” My second thought was, “Play it cool.” So after tagging second and being shoved in the back by the base runner, I trotted back to the dugout. With a “I do this all the time” look on my face, I nonchalantly tossed the ball on the pitcher’s mound. In the dugout my Dad patted my head, and said “Outstanding grab, son.” It’s one of the few times I’ve felt completely badass. The feeling wouldn’t last long.

So we are down one run in the bottom of the ninth. Rally time! The inning didn’t start off well. The first batter struck out. The second guy walked, but then the third batter popped up. Two outs and we had a slow base runner at first. It didn’t look good. Then a funny thing happened. Either their pitcher changed bodies with our pitcher ala Freaky Friday, or he was instantly struck with sympathy blindness, because his pitches could not find the plate at all. Two back to back walks. We now had the bases loaded with two outs. “Brad, you’re up.” I heard my Dad yell. Crap! This is what every baseball loving kid dreams of. This is one of those moments. Not only did I make an outstanding inning ending play, but now I could tie it up. Notice I said “tie it up.” I wasn’t exactly a power hitter. My hope was to make contact. Standing at the plate I felt I was in the zone. I saw the first pitch cross the plate just above my ankles. I’ve never felt so confident in how I saw the ball. “Strike!” I heard the umpire yell. W-w-what! Ok. Shake it off. The next pitch was even lower. “Strike!” When the pitcher shakes his head in disbelief, you know he’s getting calls. Being a naïve kid, I didn’t realize that the umpire had no plans on calling a strike. So, when the next pitch kicked up some dirt I was still surprised when I heard “Strike Three! You’re Out!” I couldn’t believe it. I had failed. I let my team down. I turned around, and saw the dust cloud where the umpire made a hasty exit. I sulked to the dugout not fully comprehending what happened. It wasn’t till later on I realized the umpire didn’t want to stick around for extra innings. That’s why he called three straight strikes. Why did he have to wait till I was up to bat to throw the game? Was it at that moment he checked his watch, and realized he was going to miss Matlock? How do you, with any conscience, throw a kid’s baseball game? The other umpire came over and apologized to my Dad, who was pretty ticked off. At that moment, I pretty much gave up participating in organized sports.


Ben said...

I actually remember that game! Probably because it was one of the few times that Dad actually got mad. I remember the drama, the excitement...I think, don't tell anyone, but I actually thought you were kinda cool that day.

MOL Junior said...

whaddya say we go find that son-of-a-bitch ump and exact some vengence on his ass