Our afternoon game was also very close and very exciting. They had a fireballer on the mound to start the game, so we struggled. When I came up for the first time, I got knocked down by a pitch. It was right at me, and I feel to the ground to avoid it. Bad luck for me, it hit my bat anyway. I hung in there fouling off a few pitches and taking a few balls. I struck out though, stranding Shaun after his RBI double.
Going into the top of the last inning, I was up first with our team ahead 5-3. The first pitch was inside, just under my chin. I joked with the catcher, asking if they didn’t like me. The next pitch was low and away. A 2-0 count is a hitter’s count. He needs to throw a strike and will often give you a pitch that ends up easy to hit. It wasn’t. Our grazed my belt. The umpire asked if it hit me. I told him it grazed me and he asked if I wanted to take it. I hesitated.
In our morning game, we’d had the same umpire. His strike zone was very big. Gigantic even. Shaun got called out on a pitch up at eye level. Every close play was an out. Nonetheless, I liked this umpire. He appreciated that I only use a wood bat and he’d chat with me.
I knew that if I didn’t take first base on this “hit by pitch”, I might not get on base. I knew that the count would be 3-0 if I stayed at bat. He’d have to throw me a strike.
I looked at the umpire and said “I paid to hit”. I wanted a chance to hit the ball, so I stepped back into the box. The next pitch was low and away again, so I took my walk.
Ed Confino was hitting behind me and he’s been gracious enough to let first pitches go by so that I could steal. Before my at bat, he’d said to me, “I might swing at the first pitch.” I told him, “I might run anyway, let’s not worry about it.” I took off and he hit the ball. They did get him at first, but had no chance at the double play.
I was dancing off second, thinking about stealing. I didn’t think the odds were good. He wad throwing hard and the catcher was good. I just got s good secondary lead and was able to advance when a ball scooted past the catcher.
On the next pitch, it was a grounder to third. He scooped the ball and we stared at each other. As soon as he threw to first, broke for home.
Earlier in the game, I’d seen someone tumble as a means of sliding, and commented on how odd the slides had been all week.
The throw was coming in hot. The catcher was in the right spot. I knew that I should drop to the ground and slide. I didn’t. I stretched with my last step as something like a slide. I’m told it was “poetic” and that I should give classes – for comedy’s sake!
I was safe!
We didn’t manage another run, so lead 6-3 headed into the bottom of the final inning.
JT was pitching, throwing hard and throwing some curve balls to catch them off balance. The first batter managed to hit one of those curve balls. So he was on first with his team down 3 runs. He wasn’t going to steal when needing 3 runs and wasn’t fleet of foot anyway.
Steve Liddle, who runs the camp and will be back coaching in the majors again with the Tigers, often says that he sees things in Ponce he’s never seen in baseball. This was one of them.
On the third strike, Russ Ryan fired to first. The runner was way off, having taken a big secondary lead. Turning to go back, he fell down. Strikeout, throw out.
JT got the next batter out and we notched our fourth victory, 6-3.
I’m now 6 for 9, with a double, a walk, one hit-by-pitch, multiple steals with some runs and RBIs. I’ll have to find the exact numbers….