Fall ball can go two ways. Sometimes fall ball is sitting there at 8:40 on a windy Friday night with a blanket wrapped around you and your wife. The kids walk every batter because their hands are too cold to pitch. It can be pure misery.
But fall ball can also be a sunny afternoon that’s so beautiful you’re happy to just breathe in the air. This Saturday was like that.
Fall ball has a totally different vibe. In the spring the whole town plays. The stands are filled with parents and all of Jack’s classmates are on his team or the team they’re playing. Spring ball had ended without a hit for Jack.
But fall ball is way more mellow; it’s more like a skills workshop for the kids who are really serious about baseball. I sat in the near-empty stands and spread out to watch some ball. Here are Jack’s highlights at the plate:
Bottom of the 2nd:
Jack stepped into the batter’s box like he was stepping out onto ice he’s afraid will crack under him at any moment. He sprang backwards from the first two pitches (called for strikes). The third pitch he sprang backwards, but he actually took a beautiful swing in the process. He struck out on 3 pitches.
Bottom of the 5th:
Jack got up to lead off the inning. This time he was severely over-matched. Fall ball has 5th and 6th graders, so these kids are just on that puberty line. Jack is a tiny boy. The opposing team put in a new pitcher who was literally taller than the umpire. WHOP went the ball into the catcher’s mitt with each warm-up pitch.
Another strike out – this time I couldn’t blame Jack for being timid.
But while Jack did not have a great day at the plate, check out his highlights in the field:
Top of the 4th:
Jack was playing left field. Two out. Two men on base. A foul ball went up over the stands and down a hill. I went to get it, but kept my ear out to make sure I didn’t miss a big play. And thank God I did.
PING went the aluminum bat and I hustled up the small hill. I got my head up just to see the ball sailing for left field. This was a huge play — it would either end the inning or lead to 2 runs. Jack was on a full tilt run. Jack stretched out…
He got it. Just barely. He got it with the webbing of his glove and he was going so fast he nearly fell down and dropped it. He held the ball up to the umpire. Out.
Jack’s entire team went nuts. They mobbed him as he got to the dugout and cheered “Nuck-ols, Nuck-ols, Nuck-ols!” One of the dad’s hugged me as I got back to the stands. My boy was beaming.
So a terrific day in the field and a moment of heroism. Not to mention…Jack had another game on Sunday. Stay tuned to see if a hit is forthcoming.