After playing in four games in a row, I am now taking a brief break from baseball in order to go to work. So it seems a good time to quickly take stock of the season so far. Raptors have had ups and downs, and in that sense I guess I have mirrored their progress.
It’s rare, even unprecedented, for me to play in four ballgames in a row, as my shift pattern at work only normally allows me an absolute maximum of three. Playing between two night shifts, and also using up annual leave just so I could play, led to this remarkable streak. There’s dedication for you. This has dashed my usual excuse of not playing often enough, but I’ll think of a new one soon.
It’s probably also worth mentioning how the weather allowed four games in four weeks, which was welcome. The last two were pretty damned windy, but anything other than a rainout is a good thing in the UK. Let’s hope a good Spring lasts into a good summer.
This week we took on the London Marauders, a team we had great fun playing two years ago in some high-scoring, see-saw games. (Last year was probably fun, too, but I missed those games so I can’t comment) Starting at shortstop, I got to catch a couple of high pop-ups. There were two outs at second, one where I fed Chris and he made a throw to first for a double play which really should have been given; the second where I took the feed but could not get the ball out of my glove. I remember another ground ball which I fielded and made the throw to first but Will could not hang on, and another where I muffed the pickup then compounded the error by making a rash throw wide of first base and gifting the runner second base. Dopy.
I then switched to the outfield, where nothing of note happened. The Marauders decided to stop hitting big fly balls, no matter how much I willed them to. I did manage to misfield all three balls which came my way because of bad bounces on the rock hard outfield, which was rather annoying, but had little effect on the runners or the score.
At the plate…. well, the first two-thirds of the game were OK. A pop-up off the end of the bat clearly was not good, but that was followed by a walk and lots of stealing, and then a decent hit into the outfield which scored a run. The problem was that next time up, with runners on base, I popped up the ball in exactly the same way as I had in my first at-bat, and in the same way I had when I started the day’s BP. It might’ve been an idea to carry over the good swing into the game, instead of returning to the rubbish one.
So for the first half of the report card, let’s look at this season’s batting. I’m going to grant myself a B-. I’ve left the precise figures in my other trousers, but on the plus side I know I have an on-base percentage of about .583 and not a single strikeout so far. Since I have been batting high up the order, and often leading off either in fact or in effect, I would count that as a good stat. The down side is that I calculate my actual batting average at about .285, which is not so impressive. My last three outs, from the last two games, have been those useless pop ups which suggest something needs tweaking in the swing.
On the fielding side, I am going to generously grant myself a B+. There have been more bona fide errors than I would like – I can think of three or four, including throwing the ball away against Marauders, as detailed above. But for most of the games I have been really pleased (and maybe slightly surprised) with my handling of ground balls, which is key to any “change” to the infield. I have also caught every pop-up that came my way, so it’s good to secure all the easy stuff. Instead I have been let down by throws to first. They have been maybe a fraction late — or probably, more precisely, they have not been thrown hard enough and fast enough. That is something I must work on. Of course, I also bump up my rating just for getting the double play against Guildford, which I may well talk about for the rest of my life!
Since I made a pitching appearance for the second time in two years, I suppose I should provide a report card on that too. I think I will give myself a C. This inning was not as effective as the one I threw against Southampton last year, where at least I retired three batters. As I said in a previous week, I think I gave in to the demand of throwing strikes, and limited myself as a result. My overall career ERA must be astronomical, but I am thinking about “feel” rather than statistics.
I can assure you that the experience has not put me off returning to the mound — rather, it has shown me things to work on and improve. If I had to get up and do it again this week I would have a smile on my face. And I think that is the key in all aspects of the game.
The final word should really about my team, rather than about me. It’s not my place to assess the Raptors, but I actually think their report card would look pretty good. There has been great spirit in the team and in three games we have put together good rallies rather than folding in the face of adversity. There have been some really fine plays and performances. We all know we can do better, and there have been rookie mistakes, but that’s because we’re mostly rookies!
Everyone wants to work on their game and improve, and I hope that’s the point I have been making here in focussing on my own performance. When I next pull on the uniform, in about a month’s time, I hope I’m better and we can be better together.