and so it ends…

The Herts Raptors season has ended with a flourish, a bang, and an exclamation mark. Three wins out of the last four, and a superb win on the final day of the season. I played just a small part in it, but I was glad I made the effort to be there. I was working nights, so normally I would be sleeping rather than playing baseball in the afternoon – but there was something about the day which just kept telling me it was not to be missed.

The first quick thing to say here is to pay tribute to how hard the Raptors have worked this year, and how far they have come. The team spirit has been excellent, the defense has been much sharper, and the approach at the plate has been great. The team has earned its wins. I also want to give credit to the Tonbridge Bobcats, who approached both our games in a tremendous spirit and fought for this one right til the end.

I will consider the season properly at a later date, but I want to make a quick observation which builds on the last couple of articles. Remember how I said that the final play of your game can colour your view? And also about how a baseball game is a jigsaw made up of many tiny pieces, some good some bad?

Well, on this occasion I had two “final moments”. The second of them was me receiving the throw at first base to retire the last runner on a ground ball, and close out the win. It’s always good to be in on the final play, so while Ken did the actual hard work of fielding the hit and making the throw, I can say I was there “at the death”.

More significantly, it is true that my final at bat was — in theory — a bad ending. I struck out. It’s only the second time this year that I have struck out, but doing it with my final at-bat could have been a real downer. However, things work out in curious ways. The catcher dropped the ball in the dirt, and I was alert enough to sprint up the line and get safely to first base.After catching my breath, I was able to steal second. And then able to steal third. And then, on a passed ball, I scored standing up.

So that last experience of the season, and the one my mind can latch on to, is scoring a run, instead of striking out. And I can also feel to have redeemed in some measure my base-running error from two weeks ago. Then, I had been tagged out needlessly when it was important to pad our lead. This time I had manufactured a run when it was, again, vital to keep the scoreboard ticking over. This game always offers you a second chance, and I am grateful for it.

It’s hard to believe — and sad to believe – that the season is over. But having played in far more games than usual, I feel less frustrated and short-changed than usual. The final game is a bit of a blur, to be honest, and not just because of sleep deprivation. I have a graze on my arm and a bruise on my hip which I have no idea how I acquired. But I remember impressionistic glimpses of the game, and they all look pretty good to me. It has been a fine year, and I enjoyed the ride.

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