The thing about baseball more than any other sport is that having played a game, what you most want to do the next day is play it all over again. My aching bones certainly don't want to do it again, but my mind and heart do. But that is never possible (unless you play in the Major Leagues, and have six games a week). And it is certainly not possible for me this time as, in July, my competitive season has come to an end.
It's good to end with something new — and so on my last appearance I finally played my first game as a Herts Hawk. I have been on their roster all year, but spent most of my time trying to offer wisdom and experience (don't laugh) to the Raptors. Sadly it wasn't to be my first win of the season, as we were outplayed by an eight-man Sidewinders team.
The Hawks are a different bag of fish to the Raptors in many ways. There is lots of talent on the team, and it plays with a positive spirit, but is probably disappointed with its results. I played a role in preventing the win this time around, so I am certainly not here to find fault! As further examples of the “value added” plays I was talking about last week, I caught two straightforward fly balls, but dropped two tougher balls which I had run down successfully but then needlessly put on the ground. It all exemplified the frustration I talked about last week.
It was a busy day in the outfield, and early in the game a booming hit came my way. It was sort of a fly ball, but was a little lower and a little faster than that. At first as I backtracked I thought I would make it, though it would be tough. For anyone who saw Ben Zobrist's catch for the Rays yesterday, it would have looked like that. But I didn't reach it, the ball bounced barely a yard shy of the home run fence and skipped over. I kicked myself about that, so you can imagine what I did later when I carefully chased down a shallow fly ball in left-centre, only to see it bobble out of my glove. I'm still not sure how I dropped it — guru Kal said I had overrun it, so he is probably right, but I maybe just didn't squeeze the glove at the right half-second.
I managed to redeem myself with two catches, and by hitting a 2-RBI double — so imagine my vibes when I then dropped another outfield ball! And that was to be my last actual play of the season. D'oh! Again it was shallow, a sinking liner, but I had seen it early and was running in so called off Tak from left field. I maybe took my eye off it as I saw him, though I should stress he did absolutely nothing wrong! Again I reached it and again the ball went down.
Other Hawks did a far better job than me, I am happy to say. Perrie made good plays from third base and, perhaps more importantly, smart plays. Knowing instantly where to throw the ball is one of the toughest things on the infield, and he did it with a sixth sense. Simon made a tremendous double play from shortstop, catching a bloop over his shoulder then making the quick throw to get the runner straying off second. And Greg showed me how it's done, taking a pop-up on the first base line even as the runner attempted to crash into him and put him off. He did crash into Greg, and they all went down in a heap, but the catch was made and the inning was over. Single-minded fielding.
So, for me, the season is over. Two weeks of work and then a summer holiday will keep me away from our remaining games. Despite my incessant grumbling on these pages, it has been great fun. Herts still shows the ideal way to play amateur sports — with passion to win, but with the ultimate aim of sharing the joy of playing. Raptors players have really come on, and have stuck with baseball despite learning some tough lessons. I don't think my own game has come on much, although I did get my first experiences of pitching and umpiring. On the positive side, I can say that after two years after stepping away from the outfield I can now volunteer myself to play almost anywhere on the diamond. Maybe next year, I'll be pulling on the tools of ignorance as the league's skinniest catcher …. OK maybe not.