This weekend was the finals for the “Dog Eat Dog” tournament in Jack’s Fall Ball League. Jack’s crew was the severe underdog – and it showed. The teams started plugging away Sunday night and it was quickly becoming a slaughter. By the end of the 3rd inning, Jack’s team was down 11-3.
The team was playing badly. They were making fielding errors, striking out on bad pitches, their pitchers were all over the place – it was a mess.
Add to that, the other team was amped up. They knew they were going to win and they brought their confidence to bear in a constant stream of chants.
G-O-O-D-E-Y-E…Good eye! Good eye!
Two out rally! Hit it down the alley!
God they were loud and it was affecting our team.
But it’s baseball. And baseball is a looooong game. Keeping that level of intensity up just isn’t possible. The other guys quieted down and sort of slept on their score. It was almost as if they didn’t notice our team creeping back into the game. Our pitching suddenly got great. Our fielders made routine outs. We stopped walking batters and got some strikeouts.
At the bottom of the 6th (last inning), Jack’s team was down 13-8. Last chance and they needed 5 runs to tie it.
To make it more difficult, the bottom of our order was up. Little League batting orders basically have the good hitters up front and the shaky hitters in the back. So we had to get through our shaky kids without 3 outs and try to make it to the really good batters at the top of the line up. A tall order indeed.
I’m gonna focus on 2 back-of-the-order kids. One of them my own.
First was Carson. Carson is the sweetest damn kid. He’s a kid whose body is bigger than his 11-year-old consciousness. He hasn’t caught up with his own size and strength yet.
Carson bats with this big toothy grin that turns into a painful grimace when he strikes out. He swings like hell with his strong frame at almost every pitch that comes his way. Most of the time he strikes out. Once in a while he belts it.
This time, Carson belted it. The crowd and the dugout shrieked with glee as he made it to first base and the kids chanted his name.
Then there was Jack. I’d say out of every 10 at-bats, Jack walks 5, strikes out 4, and hits once. Often his at-bats are indecisive between trying to draw a walk or trying to hit the ball.
The first two pitches came shooting in for strikes. This pitcher was right on. So now Jack, with the game on the line, had to try and get a hit. In came the next pitch…
Foul ball down the third base line. Next pitch.
Foul ball. Next pitch…
Jack fouled off 7 consecutive pitches. And with each one the crowd and dugout was more and more on edge and into the at-bat. At the same time you could visibly see the pitcher getting more and more discouraged.
A shot towards second and Jack was off in a flash. With his trademark speed he blazed to first base and just made it in time. SAFE! Better still, now the top of our order was up.
Three batters later…A single slashed past the third baseman. Jack ran in for the tying run with the winning run right behind him.
Walk off. A walk off win after being down by 9 runs in the 3rd inning.
The celebration was…well, you can’t fake that kind of thing or plan for it. And I think it’s a celebration that only baseball can produce.
All the parents in the stands sprang up and as one launched into the air. Shani screamed at the top of her range. The assistant coach at 3rd base ran across the field to the dugout, literally leaping with joy as he did. At least two kids on Jack’s team were crying.
They shook hands. They milled about. They hugged. Parents hugged and shook hands. Dads and moms patted various kids. No one wanted to leave the ballpark in spite of it being 9:00 on a Sunday night. It was, without a doubt, the game of the year.