Heading for the Hunlock

My regular readers — of which I know, there are literally several — will know that I like to write a paean to the Hunlock series every year. One of those articles referred to it as an encore, an extra flourish once the season is over, and something of an added bonus. This year’s event is slightly different for me, as I didn’t have much of a season at all. So it’s not an encore — it’s almost the main event.

Rob Jones in action
Your correspondent, Rob Jones, legs out an infield hit against the Blue Dogs

The Hunlock Series brings together players from all the club’s teams, both youth and adult, and spreads them around in a way which creates four new evenly-matched teams. That makes for great competitions, and you should have no doubt that a friendly series can be genuinely competitive! There is a great atmosphere to the event, but if you think Greg Bochan wants you to get a hit off him, or if you think Glen Downer is after anything less than a home run, you’re mistaken.

One of the best things about the Hunlock is that you get to meet up with players you might not have seen all year. There are guys turning out who were already part of the club when I joined up a decade ago, and in that sense it’s a bit like a class reunion. Rod Naghar has been doing his thing successfully for the Hawks this year — after doing it with various teams over the years — and it is fun to play alongside him for the first time in a long time.

Old faces return, too, including Carlos Casal Jr and Snr who both did so much to make the Herts club a force in British baseball. And for lower league guys like me it is good to play alongside the best that Herts can offer. I’ve never really seen Kevin Niedringhaus play baseball before, but it was a revelation to watch somebody work like that on the mound, and to turn their hand to so many skills so well.

Another fine thing is to meet new talent, and to see guys who could do great things for Herts next year. You can read elsewhere on the site about Guv Bhangal’s exploits, and I think he got one of those hits at the expense of my Red Roosters. Matt Cox — whose surname I admit I only knew after I read the match reports — made a great impact for us, and I know I would want him for any future team. Great speed, good hitting, and great exuberance. All of those contributed to the inside the park home run he notched up against the Black Widows. Straight out of the box, he was clearly going to stretch it as far as possibly could, and it was a perfect example of putting pressure on a defense. A well deserved feat.

My own performances were rather less dramatic. On the couple of occasions I have turned out this autumn I have played like a 40 year old who has barely played any baseball this year. So, no great surprises, but I’d rather be able to make a more flattering comparison! I did actually get a couple of RBIs, but I think there was only one proper hit in there. The rest were luck and nonsense. As for fielding, I missed both of the balls which came my way in the course of the day. On a routine ground ball, I singularly failed to “get my ass down”, and it went right by. I have a clear mental image of myself as that stiff 40 year old, tightened up further by lack of game time. No excuses, really — I always marvel at those guys who just show up and just do it, whether they be young or old —  but instead a fresh determination to try to get the most playing time I can.

Maybe this coming week will find that I have worked some of the old man stiffness out of my system. That’s assuming the coach even dares put me on the field this week! This year has been disrupted by weather, work, and family issues, and the plan to get lots of playing time before moving my old legs into management needs a bit of rewriting. Whatever turns out, I shall hope for another good day at the diamond this Sunday, definitely my last of 2012. For the real beauty of the Hunlock is that the good parts of it far outweigh any grumbles about results or booted ground balls. It’s about playing for the fun of the game and whatever else happens, it’s always fun.

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