Anxious to take in the game, we were hardly inconvenienced by the parking and were thrilled to have secured front-row seats only a few feet from home plate. Honestly, money couldn’t buy a better location. It appeared we might have been in a designated V.I.P. section as fans next to us evidenced an intimate relationship with select players.
Only a few seats were open as the near-capacity crowd could have been described as “standing room only!”
Our view captured the entire field of play and we were so close to the players that we could have handed them a Sharpie to get a quick autograph as they strode confidently into the batter’s box.
Temperatures were mild and just about perfect for fans and players alike. The sun was a minimal factor as it slowly faded in the west and the winds were negligible making for ideal conditions.
I can think of only one minor drawback and that had to do with the location of the nearest concession stand. It wasn’t exactly right around the corner, if you know what I mean. Not wanting to miss a single play, we toughed it out until some kind young lady brought some “eats to our seats.”
Starting pitchers for each team were obviously veterans who’ve had lengthy careers with plenty of innings under their belts. As luck would have it, the starting rotations were both righties. Rumor was both bullpens were shorthanded so we hoped the starters could hang tough and not have to be yanked early in the game.
After the final batter, and I’ll admit I didn’t pay much attention to the pitch-count, I wouldn’t be surprised that they threw well over one hundred pitches with a high percentage for strikes, too. What outings!
We hung on every pitch wishing for the endless sounds of the crack of the bat against the ball. The crowd was raucous as they cheered on their favorite players.
Out in the field, the position players were making constant adjustments to ready themselves for the subtle nuances of each hitter at the plate. Coaches, it seemed, were regularly directing infield and outfield shifts given their extensive knowledge of the scouting report and the opposition’s tendencies at the plate.
Accused of periodically passing judgment on an officiating crew, on this particular night it felt as if the umpires weren’t even there.
Shutouts or dueling pitchers are sometimes fun to watch, but my preference is an all-out slugfest. These teams didn’t disappoint, either!
I didn’t check the final box score in any program, on ESPN later that night, or in the morning’s newspaper, but I’m almost certain everyone in the lineup, top to bottom, got on base.
Forgive me, on second thought I take that back. It just occurred to me neither pitcher was able to put the ball in play. Come to think of it, and this may seem strange, but the battery on both squads didn’t fare well at the plate as the catchers were hitless, too!
Fans were kept on the edge of their seats as every inning of play had boundless excitement with runners regularly in scoring position. Wisely, hitters knew how to push the pitchers to the limits. Almost every batter waited patiently for just the right pitch thereby running the count “full” almost every at-bat. We even saw a foul ball put a player on base!
One might think with such aggressive offensive prowess, a corresponding defensive excellence would be displayed in the field. This was hardly the case. All the scouting reports and shifts were incapable of stopping these hitters from getting on base and they sprayed hits all over the infield and sometimes the outfield, too!
At times, it seemed due to a bad hop. Other times balls were simple squibblers just out of reach or a glove or mitt. “Hit ‘em where they ain’t” was the name of this game. Putouts were hard to come by. We never once saw a double play. It almost felt as if runners were circling the bases every inning. I’m quite certain the statistic of LOB was essentially blank.
Never having been to a Cricket Game across the big pond, which I’m told can last up to eight hours, this game could have gone on forever, especially since not a single player was ever called out!
As much fun as it was, we weren’t overly disappointed when the game was called after only three innings of play.
We’d seen it all! Batting through the lineup each inning. Everyone getting on base. The only play in the field was an awkward toss back to the parent-pitcher. After the sixth “swing and a miss,” out came the batting-tee where everyone made solid contact. The final hitter - and all left on base - got to “touch ‘em all” to end the inning, sometimes even sliding home for with slip-on sneakers, for a “play at the plate!”
Lacking the requisite peanuts and Cracker Jacks, we still managed a wide grin as the game between the Twisters and the Terminators ended in a 27-27 tie!
Some say tie games are like “kissing your sister.” In our case, it only made for a great occasion to warmly hug our enthusiastic little league grandson, Nathan, for a game well-played!
Ken Pollitz moved to Ottawa in 1991 as mission-developer/pastor of New Creation Lutheran Church. His biweekly column provides insights and viewpoints from Putnam County. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org