written by hertsbaseball.com correspondent, Chris Jones
Growing up on Merseyside I had only the vaguest idea about baseball. It was one of those sports that took place in other countries, like camel-wrestling or wife-carrying races.
I first saw the game when working in Japan. We would take our seats in the stands at the Tokyo Dome to watch the Yomiuri Giants take on the Yakult Swallows (really), and we would drink Asahi, cheer on the players and bang plastic sticks together at appropriate intervals.
Twenty years later I find myself with two half-American sons. Most Saturdays we come to the ballpark, and I watch, score and act as assistant coach. I know the game a little better now, but retain a somewhat sketchy grasp of the rules. Luckily at under-11 level, the intricacies of the dropped third-strike or the infield fly are not central to our games.
Of course, I’ve had to adopt a major-league team. My elder son favours the Mariners, while I cheer on the Boston Red Sox, for no better reason than that they share an owner with Liverpool Football Club. My morning ritual at the office includes dropping in at mlb.com to check the overnight scores; as it happens the Sox are on the road in Seattle as I write. Sometimes the overnight game has been a high-scoring affair, 15-4 or 13-12 after extra innings. Other times, the pitchers have prevailed: 1-0 or 2-1.
But in the Herts Dodgers matchups against the Herts Giants, we leave those pitching duels to the professionals; we believe our crowds turn up to see a festival of hitting. And so it was on Saturday at Grovehill.
The Dodgers took a 2-1 lead into this game, and the Giants were looking to restore parity after narrowly losing to their rivals last week. After some training, including a competitive game of ‘hit the lawn chair from twenty yards’, it was time to play.
The Dodgers fielded essentially the same team as last week, while the Giants rang the changes: the Lynches and Trautmans were unavailable for selection, but back in came Lewis Auchterlounie and Rory Vangundy. The Giants also welcomed Ben Jackson-Preece to the lineup. Both teams also acquired a temporary player from the U14s; Bai Frisby for the Giants and Blake Edwards for the Dodgers.
Unlike the tense encounter of a week ago, this game was one-sided. The Giants were scoreless in the first, while the Dodgers replied with the maximum five runs with no outs. In the second, the Giants picked up a run, but were undone after some good infield play at third base disposed of base runners in two successive plays.
At the bottom of the second, the Giants made two outs, but then allowed a further five runs to end up 10-1 down after two.
The bleak situation brightened up for the Giants in the third: it was their turn to score five runs. But anything the Giants could do, the Dodgers could do just as well, as they batted around and scored another five to take the game to 15-6 after three innings.
In the fourth, the Giants could do nothing to respond to the Dodgers’ clinical fielding, as Oliver struck out and Rory and Alex both grounded out at first. The Dodgers added a run to leave the Giants with the daunting task of hitting ten runs to make the Dodgers bat again. Despite good hits from Bai Frisby and Cameron Manning, this was too big a margin, and the Giants succumbed 16-9.
The coaches feel we are continuing to see signs of improvement in all areas of play. Plenty of batters in this game hit the fences: Cameron, Rory, Bai, Nicholas, Katie, Ozan and Blake. There were a number of neat plays in the infield. And perhaps most importantly, when coach Mike asked if his Dodgers players had enjoyed the game, there was a unanimous shout of ‘yeah!’. You can’t ask for much more.
Picture credit: Aidan C. Siegel