I’ve been a baseball fan longer than I can remember. My first girlhood crush was on a baseball player (Carlton Fisk then of the Boston Red Sox). I followed every season from about 1974 on religiously. I collected baseball cards. I’ve watched a LOT of baseball over the years between MLB games and youth baseball through two sons. As an adult when I had a nice bundle of cash on hand about 5 years ago the first thing I did was buy season tickets to the Padres. I could only maintain that for 3 years, but SportsBoy and I had some great times at the ballpark together. I wrote about one such weekend which at that time was The Best Baseball Weekend Ever.
It has now been surpassed.
Youth baseball can often be excruciatingly bad. Even the most die hard baseball fan can look for any excuse not to sit through an entire game. When baseball is played badly, it can be impossible to watch. But when it is played right? It is a thing of beauty. It can be graceful, tactical, precise, and fraught with drama. Flash in the pan casual fans want to see homeruns. However, there is nothing better than a pitchers duel. Especially a pitchers duel that goes into extra innings. That is when you see the true brilliance of the game. Pitcher vs hitter. Strategical moves like hit and run plays and bunting to move runners over and walking a runner to create a force at any base. You do what you can on offense to get a runner in scoring position and on defense you do whatever it takes to get that lead runner. Inning after inning passes by with the defense putting up walls to stop the offense and succeeding time after time. It then comes down to heart. Who wants it more. Because no one is making a mistake. The game of inches comes down to a game of millimeters.
After 4 games when the team found a way to win – just one was a blow out – SB’s team earned a spot in the final. Playing the #1 seed so they were the visitors. Which meant when this scoreless gem went past regulation – which is 6 innings for them – the pressure was on their defense to keep the other team from winning it sudden death style. The HAD to win on defense. And they did it. 7, 8, 9 innings. First pitcher went 3 innings and then the next went 6. Pitcher #3 came on in the 10th. The kids are limited to the # of innings they can throw over the weekend and our team was playing it’s 5th game. The other team was playing their 4th so conceivably had more depth available to them. We were down a pitcher who was home sick. Yeah, there was some drama! All weekend long though, the defense was nails. The outfield play was nothing short of spectacular not only making the routine plays but also making some seemingly impossible catches and throwing out runners at home. One such play happened in the bottom of the 13th inning of this epic final game. The score was 0-0. The other team had runners on 1st and 2nd with 1 out. The hitter smacked a solid, deep single to center. From that angle, 9 times out of 10, the runner scores from second and the game is over. Shoot, the runner would practically need to stumble! Well, he didn’t but what he did do was take a VERY wide turn at third. I happened to shift my focus to him right then to see it which turned by previously sunken heart back to hope…maybe..with a perfect throw..with the perfect scooping catch and block and tag by our catcher..maybe??? Oh YES they did!! But hey, not out of it yet. Now it’s two outs but the other runners made it around to 2nd and 3rd. Walk the next batter to create a force at any base. The next batter hits a sharp grounder to the 3rd baseman who bobbles it. Oh no! But he recovered and settled and threw a fireball line drive to first to nip the runner by ½ a step. Two millimeter close plays! Game saved! Now, go win it will ya? Well, with some gutsy hitting, one walk, and smart base running the team *finally* pushed across a run. But being the visiting team, they had to shut the other team down for 3 more outs. Pitcher #3 was on inning #5 and literally petitioned to the coach to let him close it out. Fittingly for our part of town, he wears #51 which is Trevor Hoffman’s number. An MLB pitcher who is kinda known for closing games in tight situations 😉 Well, our #51 was true to his number and induced three flyouts. Quite fittingly it was one to each outfielder allowing those guys to finish off the weekend of stunning outfield play with the final 3 outs. Left, then center, then right, where my little guy just happened to have played all weekend. When the ball went up in his direction my emotions were all over “Aack, don’t blow it! Oh, but how awesome to make the final out! Oh thank gawd he DID!!”
14 innings of pure, spectacular, heart poundingly good baseball. I am naturally elated that they came out on the winning end, but you know what? Even had they lost, I would still have written about it being the best game ever. We really all had so much fun. Throughout the weekend I was laughing and cheering and freaking out with the other families and just having a blast. Looking in the dugout, the boys were too. Everyone stayed loose and upbeat. The coaches were relaxed and smiling and joking with the boys. It was like that even in between the last innings of that last marathon game. I think they would tell you that they had a ton of fun even if they had lost.
But it sure is awesome that they won The Best Game Ever 🙂