One Last Shot… A Real Life Baseball Story (Season 2, Vol. 5) The Good, The Ugly, and the Almos
by Paul Semendinger
Life as a middle-aged pitched without great stuff is interesting to say the least. Sometimes I feel like I am almost pretty good, other times… not so much.
Our team is now 0-4 on the season, and as the starting pitcher, my record also stands at 0-4.
Does it make sense to say that we’re a pretty good 0-4 team?
Can you be 0-4 and be any good?
I think you can… and we are.
Pitching to my son is the greatest of joys.
The following is a quick summary of the last few games…
On July 26, I pitched, on a steaming hot day, against Bloomfield. I believe they were the league champs last year. I went 6 innings. We stayed right with them. And I pitched my best game yet.
In six innings, I allowed just three or four hits. At one point I set down eight consecutive batters. The players behind me were terrific. They played amazing defense and for me to pitch well, that has to happen.
We hung close, being down by only a couple of runs heading into the last innings. Unfortunately, that’s when the other team put us away. The pitcher on Bloomfield was also the exact opposite of me. He was spectacular. That guy threw hard – had to be in the 80’s and he also had a killer change-up. As the game went on, it became clear that that game wouldn’t be our first visit to the win column, but it was a victory of sorts because for about seven innings, we stayed right with one of the best teams in the league.
Then came our game on August 2.
We thought that this might be out chance to win. We were actually playing another team without a win. We always seem to play these teams of superstars. For once, we’d be playing a team like us. This was our chance!
But only one word describes our performance – UGLY.
This was especially true for me.
I had nothing. Zero.
My strength (if I have one) is changing speeds and keeping the hitters off balance. I have found that sometimes throwing slower is actually better than throwing harder. Slow, slower, and slower yet often works.
It didn’t on that day.
The slower I threw, the harder they hit the ball.
I think I gave up 200 runs on what was probably 45,000 hits. (I stopped counting after a while.) You know those cartoons of Charlie Brown getting knocked off the pitcher’s mound so hard that his clothes fall off and he’s spun upside down? Yeah, that was me.
In that game, we also played poor defense. It was so bad that the coach jokingly sent this photo in a text to us after the game:
That error column was supposed to represent us. I don’t think it was that far off.
Yeah, it was ugly.
But I didn’t help matters and I left the field, for the first time since I started with this idea that I could actually pitch in a competitive league, feeling down.
And I felt that way all week.
It’s amazing how a silly game can impact the way we feel.
I know I’m not very good, or even sometimes any good, but I had been able (somehow), week-after-week, to keep us in the games for the most part.
I didn’t do that in this game, at all, and it was pretty darn depressing.
You know how a pitcher caries his last performance with him? I carried that one all week.
In our game on August 9, we again lost, but just by five runs (9-4). We were in it. I pitched well. Not good enough, of course, but I did well.
The game was actually tied going into the bottom of the fifth (we were the away team). In that inning, I gave them four runs because we also gave them at least three extra outs that inning. A pop-up fell in shallow left. A slow grounder just escaped up the middle. And a slow bouncer in front of the mound wasn’t played well enough by the pitcher (your’s truly).
The most frustrating thing about that inning was that I had two strikes on every batter. They just kept fouling off my two strike pitches and then were just able to put the ball in play. I threw my hardest (the opposite of what I normally do) and I just couldn’t put them away. Bloops, bleeders, and errors hurt us. With a little luck, we could have escaped that inning tied or just down a run.
We didn’t have that luck.
After that inning, an inning were I threw the hardest I have thrown all year, I was done. I gave it everything I had, but after that long inning, I had nothing more to give.
We might have been able to come back, but our opponents, the Bergen Astros, brought in a tall pitcher who in his youth had pitched at the collegiate level. In other words, they brought in the equivalent of Cy Young. He pitched the final few innings going through our lineup like it was butter.
In my dreams I have a fastball like his.
Of course, I could say, “Well, that guy is only 39 and I’m 52…” but I have to be realistic. I didn’t throw that hard at 39 or 32 or 25…or ever. I hate to even admit this, but I’m probably throwing as hard, at 52-years-old, as I ever have (which isn’t saying much).
Still, this has been, and is, great fun. Our team is filled with great people. We’re not there to win, we just want to play ball and have fun. Still, everything seems to be coming around. The team is jelling. Except for the one disastrous game, we’re getting closer and closer to victory.
I think we’ll get there. I think we’ll get a win.
I even think I’ll get a win. They won’t win in spite of me…maybe we’ll even win a game because of me.
If I can pitch just a little better, and if we don’t have that one bad inning, a good outcome just might come.
This is what baseball does… it makes us believe. It makes us enjoy.
It makes us feel like kids again.
It would feel great to be a winning pitcher!