Greatest Sports Moments, Part II
Alright, sports fans, it's time for the second installment of my greatest moments of sports.
I realized with some chagrin recently, that I had never experienced the joy of hitting a home run. In the 13 years of summer baseball in which I played, I got to a medium skill level at best. I wasn't a superstar, but at least I wasn't a scrub.
But I never hit a home run. I never hit one any of the times I played pick-up softball, either. I have never hit one. And it's likely I never will. To me, that's a sad thought. I certainly hope it's a fate my kids never experience.
But this isn't a Debbie Downer post. Today, you get to hear me laud my own achievements in the realm of athletic competition, if for no other purpose than to assuage my home-run grief. There aren't many of these moments, but I'll always remember them. (Note: with the exception of moments 3 and 4, I don't remember what year in which the moments occurred). (Note #2: there isn't a lot of drama or build-up in these reminiscences, so if you're expecting it, too bad).
1) Seal the Deal
There are two things I'll remember about the season in which the first moment happened. First, that we only won a single game that year; and second, I played a part in that win. Also, we had green t-shirts for jerseys and some of my teammates were from my school (Two Mile Prairie).
In that game, we somehow managed to enter the last inning with a 3-2 lead. I had always had pitching ambitions, and coach decided to give me a chance at closing out the game.
So I go in, warm up, and start the inning. I struck out the first two batters, and got the third guy to hit a weak grounder back to me for the easy out at first. 1-2-3, just like that, we had our first win of the year (we wouldn't win another).
Sad prologue to this one: coach like my pitching so much, he started me the next game. I didn't do so hot. I don't remember how bad I did, but it was bad.
But the important thing is that I got the save and avoided the same embarassment that has plagued Cardinals closer Jason Isringhausen of late.
2) Start 'Em Up!
I think this next one was a couple of years later (our jerseys were white this time). I still had my pitching ambitions, but there were several guys on the teaem who were better pitchers. You must know that I had no pitching repertoire- all I had was a fastball which may or may not have had some break/slide/drop to it at any given time. I didn't know how to throw a curveball, slider, sinker, change-up, knuckleball, cutter, splitter, spitter, or screwball. Just the fastball (which I don't think was even that fast).
So I wasn't picked to start games, starting instead at the various base positions in the infield. But I could be pretty consistent in throwing into the strike zone, so I got a good amount of relief work. We had a pretty good season- we weren't the best, but we were a lot better than my 1-win season mentioned above.
Well, we got to the last game of the season, and coach surprised me by giving the me the start. I was a little nervous, but not to worried about it. So I started pitching, and did a pretty good job of it. Keep in mind that these are summer leaguers, not Major Leaguers, and remember that my fastball wasn't so fast- if I'd been pitching against high school players, they'd have eaten me alive.
But whatever stuff I had that day, it was enough to foil the lot of the opposing players. For 4 or 5 innings, I'd go into my wind-up, talking quietly to myself, psyching myself out while simultaneously and silenty trying to psych the batters out too. I'm sure I had several walks, and the infield got plenty of workout, but I got some strikeouts as well. I think they scored one run, but that was it. I and my team shut the other guys down.
This moment had another little bit of glory by yours truly: thanks to our stellar defense, we went into the last inning with a big lead. In that last inning, we scored enough runs to make it 10-1. I came up to bat and hit a hard grounder that got past the third baseman, bringing in the guy on third base. That put us up 11-1, invoking the 10-run mercy rule. I don't know if it counted as the game-winning run, per se, but it was the RBI that ended the game, so it was pretty cool.
3) White Boys Can't Jump
Maybe not, but they can play basketball. Just look at my NBA favorite, John Stockton. He rocked the house with his awesome skill and agility.
That wasn't me. The one year I played organized basketball, I was at best a little slow, a little out of shape, and a spotty shooter. At worst, I was clumsy and uncoordinated.
But we had a good season that year, only losing two games. We lost the first game by the score of 21-20. After that game, Coach said, "Okay, now we know how good our defense is. We let in 21 points. That's how strong our defense is- that means we don't let them score more than 20 points any more."
And in almost every game after that, the other team failed to score as much as 20 points. In fact, we often won by scores like 65-17 or 72-16, like that. We dominated, and even this little (yes, I was a lot skinnier those days) white kid did his part. In one game, I scored the first basket by taking the tip-off all the way for a lay-up. In another game, I had a hat trick of 3-pointers, which is unheard of, since I'm terrible at long-range shots.
Okay, so maybe those aren't as exciting as the baseball moments, but they sure felt good when it happened.
There you go- a little sports to get you ready for the weekend. I know I'm more than ready to experience some mroe pro-sports awesomeness, this time even better because I'll have my beautiful wife to tell me I'm getting too worked up over the game.
(Un-related P.S.- Happy Birthday, Juli!)