I’ve heard it said many times before that baseball is a cruel game, and while I understood that it was, I never really felt the total impact of that statement until last night.
My youngest son’s team had clawed their way into the Conference play-offs, taking the Number 4 seed position. Numbers 4, 5, and 6 all had the same records and were only separated by head to head results. They traveled from north Florida to southwest coast Florida and began their first game at 3:00 in the afternoon.
By 4:15, we were up 1-0 in the fourth inning. Our starting pitcher, Big Mike, had thrown 4 nearly perfect innings, no hitting Stetson. We were feeling pretty good about ourselves, when the announcers told us that we were to seek shelter due to lightning in the area….2 hours later, we were back on the field, minus Big Mike.
J.R. came in to pitch and kept us in the lead, going into the bottom of the 9th we were up 6-4. With two outs in the books, a routing fly-ball to short center had the center fielder, right fielder, and second baseball looking for it in the air. The announcers on ESPN 3 were all calling it a game-ending flyable, except that it didn’t end the game for us. The ball disappeared into a black hole, only to reappear on the ground between the players.
Tie game, extra innings.
Nathan Dish is our Game 3 starter, clawing his way into the rotation from middle relief. Dish came into the game in the 10th inning and pitched scoreless baseball all the way into the bottom of the 16th. Now, I’ve met Nathan, had dinner with him, and know that my son and he are good friends. I like him a lot, but I can honestly tell you that I have never rooted for a kid as fervently as I rooted for Dish. With every pitch he threw, I was holding my breath. Every time he went into set, I made deals with the Devil,
“Please let him get this win and I will never, ever say the F-Bomb again,”
you know, the shit you say when you’re a desperate baseball lunatic.
Nate and the opposing pitcher didn’t blink for 7 innings. In the top of the 16th, we managed to get a run in. Going into the bottom of the 16th, we had one runner on second, two outs and Nate was still dealing. The first pitch he threw to the batter was promptly deposited over the left-field fence, giving the Stetson Mad Hatters (what the hell is a Mad Hatter?) the win. I could barely watch as Nate walked off the field. The other 8 players stood around in disbelief, seemingly asking themselves and one another how the game didn’t go their way.
I have a kid named J.R. who also pitches and is also a senior, facing his last baseball hurrah, and I also have a kid who worked his way into the starting line up and has had some pretty gut-wrenching outings, but I felt as if they were both out there last night and I wished I could console both J.R. and Nathan. I watched from a distance as the Fins boarded their bus and wondered how everything seemingly conspired against us. I get it, FAIR doesn’t enter into the sports equation, believe me I know that, but you would think that these boys would occasionally get some stuff back. I watched as my husband approached Nate and wrapped him in a fatherly bear hug (Nate’s family was in Wisconsin, no doubt listening on the broadcast). I watched as Nate ’s body held back deep sobs of frustration and anguish and anger. I get it- it doesn’t always go your way, but man was this a tough one.
On the long drive home, at 12:00 am, I contemplated all this and wondered how well Nate would sleep that night. Today they face the ousted Number One seeds and my youngest has the start. I’m starting to make my deals with the Devil, the Lord, Hell, anyone who will listen or at least let him and the Fins have a good ending to their year….
”I swear on everything’s that holy and not, that if they all do well, I will never, ever make fun of someone again…..”