Thursday, June 16, 2011

BRETT TAKES TO THE MOUND

Every kid that ever played a game of baseball wants the chance to be the main focus of a game.  The best way to be that main focus is to take to the mound and be the pitcher.  For those few moments in time it is just the pitcher and the batter and the ball.  The pitcher has all eyes upon him as he goes into a windup and makes the motion to the plate.  For that second He is the only one that counts on the feild and he remains so until the ball leaves his hand.  Once that happens it is up to the batter or the catcher to determine what will happen next.

I knew the glory of being a pitcher.  I pitched for Mr. Allard while I was growing up.  I wasn't a great pitcher but I could throw the ball hard and I could throw it straight.  I had a lot of practice pitching at home.  My dad had been a great catcher during his youth and he had somehow passed the catching gene onto my little brother.  I have always felt like it took a certain amount of craziness to actually want to be a catcher.  You sit down between the umpire and the plate.  You then proceed to have someone throw a baseball at you as hard as he can while somebody else is swinging a piece of lumber over your head trying to hit the ball.  Apparently my dad and little brother both had this craziness built into them.  Bob was a good catcher.  When we would play catch in the backyard during the summers and falls he would always squat down to catch while I pitched balls at him.  His insanity of wanting to be a catcher sao bad helped to develop my skills as a pitcher.

Brett, on the other hand, was a natural born second baseman.  He had the body for it.  He had the fearlessness of getting in the way of a hard hit ground ball and snatch it up and turn to throw to first base.  I believe that a lot of good ball players are naturals at certain positions.  I could see Brett's potential as a second baseman when he was very young.  He had the reflexes that it takes to play in the infield.  I have seen this same type of body and attitude in my great nephew Conner, who I also believe is a natural second baseman.

Brett wanted to pitch though.  He wanted to know what it felt like to be in that second of spot light just once.  Trouble was there were other kids that could pitch on every team he had been on and he was the second baseman on all of those teams.  As a second baseman you might get ten ground balls or pop ups hit to you during the course of a game and that is only if you are lucky.  No matter how many times during the game the ball would be hit somewhere else you had to be prepared and focused on every pitch.  If not you might get hurt or worse, make an error that allowed a base runner to advance where otherwise he wouldn't.

Brett was patient for a lot of years.  He played second base flawlessly and with intensity.  He learned to use the bat as another tool to keep him on the field.  He was a good all around baseball player and he was destined to be at second base.  It was obvious to every one who coached him during his twelve years or so of baseball that he had.  But the urge was still in his brain to pitch.

When he was nine years old the team he played on was a very average team.  They lost as many games as they had won during the course of the season.  I was an assistant coach for that team and I had fun watching Brett play second base all season long.  The one weak spot on that particular team happened to be the pitchers.  They were not very consistent.  One day a kid could come out and throw a great game and they would win.  The next week the same kid would try to pitch a game only to somehow not be totally in the game.  They would lose their focus and the other team would end up winning the game.

When we got down to the last game of the season It was obvious that this team was not going to be playing any post season play at all.  Actually they didn't have post season play at the YMCA but if they did, this team was certainly out of contention.  About the second inning it became obvious that this was going to be one of those games that our pitcher was not going to be doing very well.  Brett still had the urge and started asking both the coach and myself if he could give pitching a try.  We typically shrugged it off.  After all Brett was the second baseman.  We didn't have a clue as to who we would put on second if Brett wasn't there and so we pretty well kept putting him off.  But every inning before they went back out into the field, Brett would ask if he could pitch.

By the time we got to the fifth inning of that game it was clear that the game was not going to go our way.  While the team was out in the field we started discussing Brett's request.  Eventually we decided that it couldn't do any harm to let Brett pitch the way the game was going anyway and so the decision was made to let Brett pitch the fifth inning.

The team came in and took their at bat and then right before they were heading out to the field, Brett asked again if he could pitch.  I think he was stunned when the answer came back positive.  I think the rest of the team was stunned as well.  Brett walked out to the pitching rubber and began throwing warm up pitches to the catcher.  I went and stood behind the back stop to watch my kids very first experience on the mound in the center spot light.

I have see thunderstorms and high winds do less damage than Brett did that afternoon.  It was catastrophic.  The first pitch he threw to the first batter was hit hard and over the head of the left fielder  Home run.  Let me rephrase that because it will become necessary.  Home run number one.  The next batter also hit the first pitch some distance for home run number two.  As I recall Brett may have survived three pitches to the third batter before we watched home run number three head out of sight.  Home run number four was hit by the fourth batter on the first pitch as well.  Now Brett had arrived to the middle and lower part of the batting order.  Things should be a little easier from here on.

It took the fifth batter a few pitches and a foul ball before launching home run number five out to right field.  After the sixth batter hit home run number six, we started watching Brett for signs of frustration and/or anger but he showed none.  As the seventh batter ion the order came up Brett had a very purposeful look on his face and went into his wind up looking very confident even after the seventh home run left the playable part of the field.

Since the league had a rule that kept a team to hitting only once through the batting order per inning we decided to let Brett finish it up.  Home run number eight I think was the hardest hit ball thus far as it sailed over the center fielder's head.  Our infielder's were start to relax and let down their guard.  Not a single ball had been hit in the infield and there was no sign that the last batter might break the pattern.

As home run number nine concluded with the opposing player crossing the plate our team came off the field.  The maximum number of hitters had been reached and Brett had, in a way, survived an entire inning.  He did not look to down although I had seen him look better after an inning of baseball.  The coach asked him if he wanted to go out and try it again.. Brett answered quickly in the negative.  He had come to realize that he wasn't a pitcher.  He was a second baseman and he was fine with that.  Let someone else take the responsibility for that baseball for awhile.  He was fine with playing second base thank you very much.

He was a little disappointed after his first outing on the mound but was accepting of it.  Never again would he even consider taking the mound and trying to pitch in a game.  His place was second base and he knew it now.  The good thing out of all of this was that we didn't have to worry about replacing him at second base during that disastrous inning.  The kid taking Brett's spot at second only saw the baseball as it soared over his head nine times.  Brett's pitching fever had been put out for good.

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