Sadly, day one of the tournament went as expected. We lost 11-3 in the first game to the team that would eventually win the entire tournament. We had one lousy inning, allowing 8 across in the second. Rabbit played well at first, no errors, and just barely missed a pitch, popping up to RF. Game two was bad. Scary bad. Frustrating bad. The plan was for each pitcher to throw one inning to keep our arms ready for ladder play in the morning. First pitcher did OK, the second pitcher was let down by the entire team. EIGHT ERRORS in the inning meant he had to throw 27 pitches before recording an out. 50 pitches total in the inning. 14 batters, 11 runs scored. It was amazing to watch. And painful. I have seen better plays in T-Ball. The natives (parents) were getting restless. It was not a pleasant time. Sadly, a disproportionate amount of errors were committed by the 8 and 9 year olds. I want to be clear, I do not blame them in any way, shape or form. Rabbit played up last year and I know how frustrated that made the other parents. However, the younger boys became an easy target, and I fear a scapegoat for our failings.
Rabbit drilled a ball in his first at bat of game 2. Absolutely smoked it. Hardest he has hit a ball in months. Sadly it went right into the glove of the pitcher who was diving out of the way. A tough out, and his second hard hit ball of the day. He was walked on 4 pitches next time up.
After the marathon inning finally ended Rabbit came in to pitch the third. A quick come-backer, strikeout and then pop-up got him a 1-2-3 inning on only 12 pitches. He was grumpy and blowing the ball past people. I am still confused how the same teams, same defense and same offense could produce such a wildly different result from one inning to the next. The defense was great for Rabbit, but horrible for the other pitchers. Inconsistency was a hallmark of the squad this weekend.
So here we were, again, on a Saturday night, knowing Rabbit had to pitch lights out to keep the tournament alive. I was frustrated, bordering on outright anger. It is tiring watching this team lose by 10+ runs every time out. We keep holding out hope that the "10s team" will finally play together and all will be well. My biggest concern is what happens when we do get the players we want and we still get skunked? I asked Rabbit if he was getting frustrated as well. With all the seriousness he could muster he said "no." He would lose 30-0 every game and be happy, just so long as he was playing. If he was not upset by it, then I pledged I would not be either.
Sunday game and, as expected, Rabbit has the ball and will throw so long as he is effective. First inning took 7 pitches. Second only 9. He did not have A+ stuff, but was very effective. He also picked a kid off, not noteworthy in and of itself except for the fact we recorded the out! That is the first time in the last 5 pickoffs that we have actually got the player out. The opposing team stopped leading off for 3 innings after that play. One thing the opponents were good at is cheering. Little League stuff mostly, but the odd softball scream thrown in once in a while.In the 4th inning they figured out we call him Rabbit and screamed out "Silly Rabbit Trix are for Kids" as he started his windup. The umpire called a strike, called time, and instructed the bench that they could not scream as he was in process of releasing the ball. Their bench thought they were the most clever kids ever. Rabbit struck out the side on 9 pitches. He was not impressed.
After five innings we were ahead 5-2 and Rabbit had thrown 58 pitches. When he went to the mound again for the sixth I knew this was going to end quickly. He retired the side on 7 pitches for a 6IP complete game. 6H, 2ER, 0BB and 6K all on just 65 pitches. It was a dominant performance. The defense played great behind him and he worked fast and accurate. The zero walks is what impressed me most of all. We had won! An odd feeling lately. Our win put us into the Silver Division (losers bracket) Championship against the same team we had lost to in game two on Saturday. Very long story short - we had too many walks, too many errors and too many pitches. We staged a great 5 run rally in the last inning, including a two-run single for Rabbit who later came around to score, but still ended up losing 13-8.
After the games the coach gave Rabbit the team trophy. It must be 3 feet tall. The coach wants to start a new tradition of giving the MVP the hardware. Rabbit felt good and cleared space on his bookshelf for it. The grumpy part of me says that we are 3-7 in out last 10 with 6 losses by "mercy" rule. Two of our three wins come from Rabbit throwing complete games. But this is truly a team game. They win together, and lose together. Rabbit is stepping up and grabbing a leadership role. He loves the game and plays hard. It is a good example for all.
Now to the title. My expectation was zero for this weekend. And that is what we got. A lousy effort and lousy play. But Rabbit would lose every game and still wake up smiling. He could strike out every time and still get up and take his cuts. And yet, he has shown that he can and will lead this team. He will help whoever he can however he can. And that will make him a better person. Not bad for a kid who turns 11 today.