Friday, October 23, 2009

Return to the scene of the crime

Paso Robles - we had this tournament circled for the last 52 weeks. It was so much fun last year, and the first team championship Rabbit got with Blue Wave. It seems that no matter what, we get the early games, and we did. In bed early Friday night at the beach house, leave at 6:30 Saturday morning, call time at 7:15. Game 1 was against a team we should have beaten, and we did. 15-4. The boys looked sharp, and played very well. The opponent was a Little League team that was clearly over matched. For game 2 we were playing a team from Visalia. They jumped out early to a 5-1 lead. And then a strange thing happened. Blue Wave started chipping away. A run here, a great defensive play there, and in the fifth inning we had tied at 6. Game was called and ended in a tie. It was some of the best baseball the boys had played together ever. Both teams played excellent, were well coached and played their hardest. A tie was the correct result and we hoped we would not have to see them again.

You may recall my complaining about the weather last year. Yeah, nothing changed. It was dang cold in the morning. 40 degree cold. But at least this time we were prepared. After our two games on Saturday we all met at an RV park where several families were staying for a BBQ. It was a blast. The boys had a chance to unwind while the parents had a chance to watch the Dodgers win. A great time was had by all and the entire team was having fun together.

With a 1-0-1 record we somehow finished third in the seedings, so we had to play an eaxtra game Sunday. 3 games, 3 wins and we would repeat. The first game we were still asleep and then realized that we needed the win. What had been a 3-0 game after 3 was 8-0 mercy after 5. In the semi-finals we drew the Visalia team again. They were by far our toughest opponent in the tournament. Again, we surrendered an early lead 4-0 this time, and again we battled, scraped and clawed back. It was every bit as good a game as the day before and we barely squeaked out an 8-7 win. We were thrilled and it was time to prepare for the championship final.

I try to speak only of the things we can control. And I do go out of my way to not mention the umpires as a general rule. With that disclaimer, you all know what is coming. Blue Wave batted first, and scored 7 runs. 7-0 after one inning. 9-0 after 2. Then the Tournament Director had a meeting with the plate umpire. Seriously, between innings he called the ump over for a discussion. We gave up 10 runs in the bottom of that inning. Not a single pitch was a called strike. Not one. We used 4 pitchers and nothing mattered. The umpire even taunted our coaches being overheard saying "you picked a bad time to fall apart there." It was so egregious that one of our batters was called out on strikes on a pitch that bounced on home plate. The opposing manager looked embarrassed, the parents were furious and there was nothing we could do. After the game the base umpire gave us information on who to contact and pledged that he would file a complaint with the supervisor regarding the other umps conduct. Game ended 10-9. There was nothing we could do.

So, we were runner up, 3-1-1 on the weekend. Not bad at all. On to the personal side of things. Rabbit has learned to hit. And not just "seeing eye singles" but wallops. He went 9-13 on the weekend, including 3 hits in the championship game, driving in 7. His pitching was off, but he is entirely relearning his delivery, so that is not a surprise. His pitching coach wants him to rely on power. When he gave up one hit he immediately fell back and started to throw weakly. This is a process where he will find the right balance of aggression and intelligence. He has the arm of a great pitcher and the head to match. We just need to get them on the same page.

His defense, especially at first, is something special. He saved several outs each game by stretching on balls and getting throws that had potential to be disastrous. He is emerging as a leader, on the field and in the dugout. He is a serious student of the game and plays with intensity and respect. He also loves his mother, eats his vegetables, gets straight A grades and cleans his room. This is one good kid.

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