This was a last ride on the Raptors rollercoaster before the Theme Park closed for the season. There were a few screams, stomachs churned, hands were waved in the air — and when it was over, we wanted to do it all again. But we couldn't. Not just because it was now dark, and the Health and Safety people were itching to shut us down, but because this was our last game of the year.
It had been a classic see-saw battle with the Old Timers. And for me, it was a pretty busy one. An extraordinary number of chances seemed to come my way, even for a game at shortstop. The dramatic highlight was a pop-up which looked to be routine — until it disappeared in the blazing sun. I was just shouting that I had lost it, when I suddenly saw a small black dot reappear and I was able to reach out and snatch it off the very tip of the grass. Slater had to take a few minutes to recover from his heart palpitations.
Of the grounders, I'm pleased to say that a couple were dealt with cleanly but, frustratingly, others got away — one took a bad hop and I could only stop it with my bare hand, others were blocked. As the game went on, I played closer and closer in, even on to the grass, and I think it helped. You lose some range, but for anything near me, it removed the danger of the bad hop as the ball goes on to the redgra, and mader my throw shorter. Most of the ground balls were not being hit that hard. Even this late in the season, you are still figuring out what works.
I have been highly critical of my own batting this season, and with justification. The batting title has long since gone west! At least this week, faced with the milder offerings of the Old Timers pitching, I was able to get bat on ball every time. But still I only hit shallow singles. Looking at the photos afterwards, it was clear that I wasn't generating any power from my legs. A little guy like me needs to use everything, and too often I was only swinging with my arms. As consolation for myself, I include a picture of me in a more successful at-bat — this was an RBI single to the opposite field.
So the rides have all stopped now, the gates are closed, the candy-floss machine has been switched off. Somewhere in the dark is one of those scary-looking horses you see on the roundabout. Or maybe that's just one of the team who has had a rough night. This game had all the hallmarks of the Herts Raptors — both good and bad — and was a fitting finale. It would have been perfect if we had won of course, but dreams can't always come true. Even at the fun-fair.