Ho hum. Just another week. Just another see-saw nail-biter ending in heartbreak for the Herts Raptors. It had been three weeks since I pulled on my glove — the previous occasion was the one-run drama against Tonbridge. While I have grumbled on many occasions about the frustrations of long layoffs, they do make the playing experience more intense — it's always extra special to be back, and more fun to be with the team. And Raptors games at the moment all seem to be classics!
So let's have a whizz through the Jones performance on the road at Chelmsford. In centre field, it was pretty quiet. Although the Chelmsford Clippers scored 24 runs, they got remarkably few big hits. The only one they got while I was in the game went just over the head of Tom in right field. Moments before, Chris in left field had said to me “shouldn't he be further back?” I said “Nah, he's fine, they've not got any big hits”. I'll be listening to Chris next time!
At the plate I had a bit more satisfaction — a leadoff single up the middle to open the game; a close groundout to third; then I reached after being hit squarely in the ribs by a breaking ball which never broke; and finally a walk as the rally truly got underway. My average crept up to .333, my OBP to .625. I won't be winning any awards, but at least was swinging the bat with a bit more confidence and conviction.
On the base paths I made my most maddening out. On one occasion when I reached, it loaded the bases. Like any good players, we were alert to the possibility of a wild pitch, or a passed ball. And when a pitch did squirt past the catcher, Jeff Witter seemed to head off from third. I paused for a moment to check he was indeed going, and then set off for second. But Jeff stopped. Perfectly sensible, as he thought he couldn't make it – but I was now in trouble! The catcher looked at third, couldn't get Jeff. He checked second, as I tried to sneak back to first. But when he then checked my base and found it vacant except for a fielder, it sealed my doom. A good throw and a swift tag left Jones heading for the dugout looking pretty dopy. Logic suggests that aggressive running will sometimes lead to outs, but being tagged on the bases always feels like such a waste.
With plenty of new guys to get in the game I was benched and was able to enjoy the finale from the sidelines. Yes, of course I'd prefer to have been playing, but the experience was like being a particularly attached fan. It was tense and it was exciting and you felt as if you were taking every at-bat, fielding every ball. The Raptors were unlucky to lose after competing so hard.
My own process of “Going Through the Change” has perhaps stalled — as I must serve as a utility player when I can make it to games — but there can be no doubt that this set of Raptor players are going through a change of their own. It will be fascinating to see where they end up.