There have been big hits, infield dribblers and strikeouts; tag-outs, blown calls, and infield flies; late starts, rain and even sunburn. The season is only two weeks old but so far it has all the ingredients of a feast, writes Rob Jones. The Herts Raptors don’t yet have a win to show for it all but they have pretty much everything else.
The genesis of this blog, and its title Going Through the Change, was as I moved from outfield to infield. There’s always another change to go through, nothing stands still. This year I have finally moved officially into management.
My co-supremo Geoff has to do most of the work while I miss games and training as per usual — and while I oversee the wrecking and remodelling of my house — but it has been good to get another new perspective on the baseball experience. The drafting of players, the signing off of projects and purchases, and the week-long preparation of line-ups and locations. There’s an enormous amount goes into it.
One of the main reasons I have played Single-A these past few years is so that I can pass on to new players the hints and tips I have learned in a decade of experience. Very few of them are revelations, but I have found that fundamentals are crucially important in baseball and if I communicate that to people then I have done good work. So far that has been fun, and there is a lot more to do. If I can do more of it, that might help win some games!
We have new and enthusiastic players again this year, to add to those who did such good work as Eagles last year. It’s always great to see new players discovering the game and maybe scratching an itch they have had for years after seeing baseball on TV or watching their kids play. I’m in a good position to say you’re never too old, as I am already “mature” enough to be an Old Timer.
My co-manager Geoff Thomas has made an impeccable start to the season, and it has deserved more than the two losses which are shown by the bald staistics. Importantly for a manager he has cultivated a personal style, and can regularly be seen on the sidelines clutching a brolly. The first week it was to ward off the persistent rain, the second week it was for shade from the glaring Essex sun. Next week, who knows.
But one of the toughest challenges for a manager at this level is to share out playing time for all those who have paid their money and put in their time. Raptors have achieved an even spread of game time, and when Geoff did need to step in to the game at Brentwood he did so in style, with a double in his first at-bat. He added aggressive steals and runs to help take the team to within a whisker of a win. Leading from the front.
One of the Raptors success stories so far has been the outfield, which has been as solid as the rock of Gibraltar. Baseball rookies often start in the outfield, but it is wrong to think it is the safe or easy place for them. In previous years we have sometimes been unable to secure all the outs we should on fly balls, and this year our boys with the big gloves have been exceptional.
Of course, it is also an extra treat to have Joseph Osborne-Brade back in centerfield after a long layoff for a broken leg. But it wouldn’t be such a treat if he wasn’t making highlight-reel catches.
My own season has got off to a steady enough start. With the bat it’s been a bit rusty, with a string of infield hits helping to get my batting average to .500. I’ve not yet walked once, which is unusual for me, but I did manage to secure a big hit when it was most important. Leading off the ninth as we tried to rally past Brentwood I smacked a double, which became a triple as the fielder lost a battle with the outfield fence, and I then crossed home when an overthrow to third went dead. Run scored, job done.
Fielding felt good the first week at London, with two nearly-catches falling just out of reach, but other plays being made securely. When I entered the Brentwood game as a substitute my arm just would not wake up and I made a poor throw to first which could have ended a tough inning. The brain worked, just not the body. We made more mistakes than we had in week one, and I certainly take my bit of blame for those.
We made a memorable base-running error, too, which you can read about in the match report. But it had an extra element for us due to the revival of a dead language.
I can’t share too many details but suffice it to say the runner called for advice in Latin. It caused confusion and hilarity and ultimately embarrassment as he was tagged out. Our runner was using a sporting motto, but when I worked out what he meant I in fact did so because of my schoolboy Latin. My wife found this hilarious when I recounted the tale to her later. When was the last time you heard Latin used for a purpose at a baseball game? I don’t think the sport was well-established in Caesar’s day. He doesn’t know what he was missing.
Raptors return to action this weekend against the Kent Mariners, and all the same passion will be there, and the same dedication to doing things the right way. I already miss playing and on a summer evening like today it’s frustrating to not even be at training. I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed for the first win on Sunday.
NB: Thanks to the London Marauders for their fine photographs, and for making me look good in them.