Let’s start with a quick update on Jack’s little league season. He’s about 6 games in and we have yet to get a hit. At first he was hitting long fouls, pop fly outs, and drawing walks. But that past 3 or so games, he’s started the old pattern. Striking out looking. Weak, late swings.
Yesterday he had a game at 5 and asked me if I wanted to go have a catch that morning. We did that for a while, and then on the way home he started telling me:
“I hope I get to pitch today.”
“I’ve been working on this new pitch. It sinks down and away. It’s a 2-seamer, but I twist my hand…”
Insert MASSIVE eye roll from me.
See, here’s the deal with little league pitching – throw strikes. That’s all. I see kids out there trying to throw curves or change ups or whatever…they hit the backstop and bounce on the ground and get by the catcher. Throw hard strikes and you’re good. Try and throw junk and it’s a mess. So forgive me if I tuned out Jack’s explanation of new pitches.
We get to game time and the first half inning was a complete disaster. Jack’s team pitched like crap, fielded like crap, and before they even got to bat they were down 11-0.
When they finally got to bat, they scored a couple runs back, but Jack managed to end the inning by striking out with 2 of the worst swings ever. I think the last pitch may have actually been in the catcher’s glove by the time Jack decided to swing. Oh yeah – it is a slump.
Back in the field for the second inning and another kid on Jack’s team pitched poorly. So with two men on and two out, Coach K calls for Jack.
“Time to be nervous,” Shani said.
“Well,” I said to Shani, “given the score, it’s a safe time to pitch. Not like the game is on the line.”
Jack took the mound. The batter hit two foul balls for quick strikes, and then whiffed for strike three.
“He struck him out!” Shani cheered. “Go, Jack!”
“That pitch actually just did what Jack said it would do,” I said, a little unsure of what I’d just seen.
Next inning, top of the order. Double. Walk. And then…
Whiff! Strike out swinging.
I watched the catcher’s mitt this time. I’ll be damned if that ball didn’t start in the zone, and then dive down and away. Guy missed it by a mile. Two quick groundouts later, Jack got out of the inning with no runs scored.
Next inning: Strike out swinging. Strike out swinging. Single. Strike out swinging. Guys were whiffing left and right at Jack’s down and away pitch.
He came in for a third inning, and promptly walked the first batter. The coach pulled him, but his whole team was cheering for him. The boy was flying high.
After the game (they lost 15-8), Jack was smiling ear to ear as parents from both teams complimented him on his pitching. He grabbed 2 hot dogs from the snack bar (they’re free after the game) and stuffed them in his mouth as we drove away.
“I was mufflemumble change eye levels muffle stuffle.”
“You know, you no longer have a 0.00 ERA, because that guy you walked came around to score.”
“No. GULP. He came in on an E-6, so I’m still zero.” He went on for the next 10 minutes to give us his entire philosophy behind how he pitches.
We went out for dinner and he thanked our server without being told. Then when we went home, he was nice to his little brother. It was good stuff. So who knows how long that slump will last.
A few side notes:
Side note 1: Big compliments are due to Coach K. The umpire made a TERRIBLE call at 3rd base to end our team’s inning. Coach K was standing right there. He started to argue, but in mid-sentence he stopped talking and just jogged right for the dugout. I thought that was exactly the right way to handle that.
Side note 2: The Phillies have responded to Jack’s request to interview a player again. In a few weeks, Jack is set to go to the stadium and interview Tyler Goeddel.
Side note 3: Alex has written an article about great hikes in the area that the local paper is considering printing. I’ll be sure to keep you updated on that.