Let’s not beat around the bush here, my batting so far this season has sucked, writes Rob Jones. It has sucked to high heaven. It has sucked so hard that it could probably suck a golf ball through a hose pipe. From six games, I think I have probably hit three balls well.
But I didn’t come here just to moan, or to have you agree with me about how much I suck, or even to have you assure me that I am great and that I shouldn’t worry. I mention my batting because the universal truth I take from it is a positive one, and it applies to all of you as well as to me: I can still make things happen.
Facing the London Musketeers, I think I registered one real hit. Otherwise I reached on errors, on confusion, on infield mishits, and on a walk. But I still scored three runs, a quarter of our total. Once I am on base, I can steal more bases. In those first games of theyear, I may have had one good hit, but it was equally important that I struck out only once (obviously I would argue that’s the umpire’s fault, but we all have to say that don’t we?)
This past week I was rung up 3 times in one game, which is extraordinary for me. Pretty bad, and certainly frustrating. Again I’ll blame it all on the umpire…. OK, it was a bit of me too. But even in that game I got more hits than anyone else on the team.
Even in a slump, or in a bad patch, we can still make sure that we are a tough out to get. Hustle up the line on every ball. Protect on every two-strike count. We may not be the most gifted athletes on the field, but we will do our damnedest to get on base, score runs and win games. There is enormous value in that.
The baseball gods
Of course, even as we go out and grab the game, it has ways of coming to grab us. You can get no action all game and then a big play to make. In my outfield days you would often find that to be true. It is less true on the infield, but still happens. In our home game against the London Musketeers I had a couple of routine plays at second base – a ground ball, a catch.
But in the final inning I had to move over to shortstop as we shuffled our players. Theoretically short should be the busier station. But in the top of the ninth I think four plays went to Clive, who had been brought in to man second for the first time in his nascent baseball career. Nothing at all came to me. Clive handled it all pretty well, securing one ground ball out and narrowly missing a second one.
I am pleased that he took it all in good spirits. It was a bit of a thankless task with the game on the line. But you cannot make the baseball gods smile on you. They do their own thing.
The thought of baseball this year has been an oasis in the desert of building dust which has covered my house. The Grand Designs nonsense has combined with the usual work and family commitments to keep me away, but for most of us baseball is a release from normal life — and that is only intensified the less you play.
One week, I came agonisingly and absurdly close to a game. I had been due to play but those builders intervened, and so once we were sure of a full squad, I pulled out. However, I still had to drive to Haverhill to deliver the equipment, and to watch the team all suited up and throwing. That’s more like a torment than a release.
Admittedly, I can’t quite claim that such a folly of a trip showed my devotion to Herts. It showed as much about the fact that training had been rained off — when a more sensible sharing out of the equipment could have been accomplished — and my difficulty in juggling different needs to get the team and the bats in the same place. However, a bit of exaggeration never goes amiss. So I shall claim that the trip to Haverhill spoke volumes about my desire for any whiff of baseball.
This coming weekend we travel to Richmond, but work commitments mean I cannot take part. For some reason I love playing at Richmond. Some of my first friendly games were there, and I remember a couple of sun-drenched league epics there.
I actually missed a friendly there once, because we sat for so many hours in traffic on the South Circular that by the time we got there the game was nearly over. Once it was finished, everyone agreed to play some extra innings, but I was due to work a night shift so had to leave again without ever throwing a ball. Really, I should hate playing at Richmond!
This missed opportunity this week feels more poignant as chances for playing baseball are now slipping away for 2014. And it’s only July! Here’s hoping my final appearance will be a fitting finale — and that I will, at last, hit the ball properly.