Some people enjoy getting a good thrashing on a Sunday. They maybe even look forward to it. I'm not one of them, but that is what I have endured for the past two weekends. Last week was at the London Tournament in Croydon, so it was in exhibition games really. This week was back in competition, albeit good-natured competition. Whatever you might infer from my calm exterior, I always want to win, and I want to do my absolute best. Getting thrashed rarely gives you the feelings you want.
Last week at Croydon I missed the heroics of Saturday's win, and was only there on the Sunday when we came up against the National League powerhouses of Richmond and Bracknell. I can't grumble about the final results, however much I dislike a thrashing! But as this blog sees the world through the prism of my own performance, I can grumble a bit. I took one fly ball comfortably in left field, and blocked a ball in the gap. When playing first base I fielded balls thrown perfectly to me by Aspi and Luis, but couldn't bring down those which were thrown slightly too high. One towering pop up came my way which I was very happy with until it completely disappeared in the sun, and fell to earth. So overall, solid results but no cigar.
I was back at first base as the Raptors returned to league action this Sunday, at home against Richmond. I'm not built like a classic first baseman — being of only average height and far less than average build — but I do enjoy playing first. You feel really close to the action, and feel involved in every play. I managed to collect a bloodied lip and a bruised shin to show for my efforts, but felt that I had little more besides. I don't think I made any errors as such, but I can't think of a play which I was able to make which a rookie player couldn't. And therein lies the frustration — having played this game for seven or eight years I feel I should be at a higher level. Learning to play the carom off the fence well wasn't much consolation.
My batting gave me similar concerns. The rib strain which would probably have sidelined me for the past few weeks (had I not missed them due to work anyway) has been playing on my mind, and probably cramped my swing. At Croydon, I made a connection in my only two at-bats, even if I did get out, so I shouldn't belittle that against such lofty opposition. Facing Richmond this week, I hit the ball all four times I came up — as you should against A-ball pitchers — but never hit it hard.
So what am I driving at here? Clearly we are all limited by our individual talents, and that is certainly true of me. But my frustration is not because I can't play the way Albert Pujols does, it's because I can't play the way I can. And that means I am driving — as usual — at the frustrations of the part-time player, as he tries to balance the hankering to play every game, every week, with the fact that he has a life to live outside the game. Rust seemes to accumulate on my game far more quickly than it shakes off! I have been able to attend just one practice session since the season began. I have played in five games, with just one more to go. That's not really good enough for the team, or for my satisfaction. Deep thoughts have to be thought about how I address this.
Being away from the action for a few weeks does at least help to highlight the positive changes in the team — rather like seeing a young relative shoot up in stature. Ken's pitching is far more authoritative than when I first saw it; Jim's pitching even more devastating. Steve Patmore caught the whole game in unpleasant heat on Sunday, and was one of our most solid defensive performers. As well as catching two pop-ups — which always look incredibly hard when encumbered by a mask and huge shinpads — he also made a perfect throw to me when a batter ran on a dropped third strike. In theory, it's an easy play but in practice, at our level, it is something else. I would consider that play my own defensive highlight of the day, and certainly one of his. Raptors were better than the scoreline suggested on Sunday, and the team can go on to even better things if they stick with the game. Hopefully the players will be a solid core for the club to build on in coming years.