The Giants took a 6-0 lead in the first inning, only to have our boys chip away until it was 6-4. Wes struggled pitching in the first inning, so I brought in Cyrus, the youngest player on either team. He was dealing tonight and shut the Giants down for two innings. In the meantime, our boys had a huge inning and took a 15-6 lead.
Because he was pitching so well, I decided to let Cyrus pitch a third inning. That may have been a mistake, as he struggled with his control and the Giants starting hitting him. After they scored 3 or 4 runs and had the bases loaded, I brought in J.P. to pitch. I didn't really want to, but the other boys who pitched regularly had pitched recently and, in my mind, J.P. was the freshest.
J.P. pitched well and threw strikes for the most part, although his velocity seemed to be a little down. Connor kicked a ball at second base that he should have fielded cleanly. Then, on a ball hit slowly to the third base side of the pitcher, J.P. made a difficult throw to first base. Aidan, playing first, could have made the catch even though the throw from J.P. was a little bit wide. He didn't catch it, the ball tipped off his glove and ended up in shallow right field. Two runs scored. When the inning was over, we were down 18-15.
I checked with my dugout coach, Will, who confirmed we had or 9-10-11 hitters coming to bat in the bottom of the last inning. We don't have a chance, I thought, although I told the boys differently. With two outs, the boys rallied and before I knew it, J.P. was at the plate with two runners on base. He took two pitches for balls. Next, the pitcher threw two low and outside pitches that the umpire called strikes. After the second one, I yelled - loudly - at the umpire, looking away so as not to get myself in trouble. Damn, I thought, J.P. is going to look at a called third strike and be devastated.
The pitcher, who was throwing hard, looked in at the catcher, rocked back and let the ball fly. Low and fast, again, but this time swung the bat and hit a line drive single up the middle, right past the pitcher's head. Man, I was (and am) proud of that kid. Two outs, two strikes, two on, bottom of the last inning and our season on the line, so what does he do? He rakes, that's what he does. J.P. was "in the arena," and he wasn't scared. What a moment.
Ultimately, Aidan struck out looking with the bases loaded and the tying run on third base, and the Dodgers lost 18-17. That's baseball.
Another baseball season in the books. It passed by too quickly, as always. Damn, I love those boys and their fathers that coach with me.
This was a big spring for J.P. on the baseball field. The last half of the season, especially in the tournament, I moved him up to second in the batting order and he started hitting the ball with authority. He hit a double into the gap between left and center field two nights ago. Tonight, he had a pair of hits into the outfield (including the line drive up the middle in the last inning). Also, J.P. really began to develop as a shortstop. Tonight, as was the case Tuesday night, he threw a fast runner out at first base from deep in the hole. He had an infielder's hands and a good arm. I think he can become a good baseball player if it's something he wants to do.
I wouldn't trade coaching these boys in baseball for anything. I had that feeling again Tuesday night - a beautiful night after a shitty, difficult stretch at work - that on field #2 at Warner Park, under the lights, was where I needed to be. Hell, it was where I wanted to be . . . forever. As I've said before, if I'm lucky enough to make it to heaven, I hope my job for eternity it to coach 9-10 year olds playing baseball on a beautiful spring evening as the sun sets.
I'm a lucky man.