TWITTER: @sirbacon123

04 July 2010

The Boys of Spring... and Summer

My dad always said that a bases-loaded triple was the most exciting play in baseball.
As someone who worked for several Major League teams and saw literally thousands of games, he knew what he was talking about.
I remember him telling me that on that play, unlike any other, everybody on the field was moving.
It’s really a shame that my dad didn’t live long enough to see my son play because I have a feeling 11-year old baseball would’ve replaced the majors as his favorite game.
Through the four months of March through June, it pretty much consumes every weekend for us.
Yesterday marked the end of our season, but it wasn’t by choice.
We were playing in the State Tournament, with one game on Friday night and two on Saturday.
If we won two of the three, we would advance to the next round.  
Anything less and we would go home.
For eight months.
The odds were definitely against us.
This year our team played in the 11-year old triple-A division, but our first two games in the tournament were against teams who played in the 11-year old Major League division.
To keep these games on a schedule, we play six innings or an hour and 45 minutes, whichever comes first.
We led our first game 10-4 at one point, but little-by-little the other team battled back.
It was a 10-9 game in the bottom of the 5th inning when the clock struck an hour and 44 minutes and 30 seconds.
30 more seconds and that would officially mark the last inning of the game.  
We would still need to get the final out to win or they could score two more runs to do the same.
But the game would be over at the end of that inning.
Well, not so fast.
With the tying run on third base and two outs, the coach of the other team went DEEP into the rule book to take baseball to another level.
With time running out, he ordered his batter to sprint from the batter’s box into the dugout.
Once he reached the dugout, he was called out, for the third out of the inning.
But since he did it, before time ran out, the game would not be over and we would continue for another inning.
Honestly, I’ve watched A LOT of baseball in my life and I have NEVER seen anything like this.
The 11-year boy, who had a chance to be a hero, was told loud and clear by his coach:
The boy heard it, so did his parents and so did everybody else watching the game.
Unfortunately the bad guys rallied for two runs in the bottom of the next inning to beat us 11-10.

Their coach must be so proud.
The second game of the tournament was equally heartbreaking for us.
We entered the final inning down 6-3.
We scraped together two runs then loaded the bases with one out.
Our cleanup hitter was up and all we pretty much needed was for him to put the ball in play and the game would be tied.
Well, put it in play anywhere but where he did.
He smashed the ball right back at the pitcher, who stabbed it, threw home for one out and then the catcher threw to first for a double play.
Just like that, our chances of advancing were over.
I know it’s just a game.
And it’s all for fun.
And blah blah blah.
But these games do mean a lot.
To the kids.  To the coaches.  To the parents.  
To me.
With all of the time and energy we invest, this team has truly become a part of our life.
Without getting too emotionally off track here, those two devastating losses just felt like another spoiled cherry on top of my melted sundae.
I am really looking forward to celebrating something, anything, before my clock runs out.
Maybe I should grab my bat and run off the field as quickly as possible to start another inning.
Ok, the pity party is over, now back to the action.
Fortunately (or unfortunately) we still had one game left in the tournament, where, as our coach told the kids, we were “playing for pride.”
As was the other winless team.
We kinda walked through the motions for the first few innings, then kicked it into high gear.
In my son’s second at bat, he got beaned in the foot.
It was the eighth time in the last eight games he had been hit and the 12th time this year, an amazing run of bad luck which had become a running joke on the team.
After getting hit this time, my son turned to the bench, from his knees, and held up one finger with his right hand and two fingers with his left.
And he smiled from ear-to-ear, making sure everybody knew that he had reached a dozen, and that he was ok with it.
The game would go on, as it always does, and we would eventually grab a pretty good lead, something like 8-2.
The next time my son would come up would be his final at-bat of the season.  
After all, the clock was ticking.
The bases were loaded and whatever happened would be my son's lasting impression of his 11-year old baseball season.
The count would become full, three balls and two strikes.
And then.
A high-flying blast down the left-field line.
After it finally landed, it would roll within a few feet of the 305 foot sign at the fence.
Everybody was in full motion.
When the play had ended, all three runs had scored and my son was resting on third with a stand-up triple.
A bases-loaded triple, the most exciting play in baseball.
Somewhere my dad is smiling.

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