by Paul Semendinger
My second season as a 50+-year-old pitcher came to and end on October 11, 2020 when we played our final game of the season.
This one was a bit different from all the others…
After winning my first game in 35 years, in my next outing I got shelled from a ballclub aptly named the Bronx Bombers. After I was removed from the game, the next pitcher, a new signee named Sam, got his first appearance and did much better than I, although by the time he came in the game was out of hand.
The next week we played a team from Bloomfield, New Jersey and I acquitted myself well enough. I went five innings and allowed six runs, but only two of those, I believe, were earned. Sam went the final four innings and gave up nine runs. How many of those were earned, I’m not sure, but we didn’t play great defense behind him. Yes, I said, “we” as I found myself playing first base in the late innings replacing my son Ethan who had pulled a hamstring.
This brought us to our final game. Sam, who was brought on to be another pitcher, and who has much better stuff than me (who doesn’t?) got the start. We all wanted to see how he’d do as a starter. And he did well.
Finding myself on the bench, my role became scorekeeper. Ethan played first base in the first few innings. He knew not to push the hammy too much… that is, until he ran out a ball at bat and felt a twinge. I went in to replace Ethan at first. I would end up playing three innings there. I did well enough. On one play, on a close play, the runner from the other team plowed into me unnecessarily, but I held the bag and the ball, and we got the out. There was an over-throw on one play where I missed the ball. I don’t think that error was mine. I made the other plays, I think three in all. I wasn’t a disaster.
At bat, I blooped out to shallow left and lined out softly to second in my two at bats. The 0-for-2 day left me at 3-for-13 for the season (.230). That’s 230 points higher than I thought I’d hit.
The game was not close. I believe we had fewer than five hits on the day. We did score two runs. One of our runs came on an RBI double from Ethan. That was in his last at bat of the season; a great way to finish especially since it was his birthday. Coach had cupcakes to celebrate the big day after the game.
I believe we were down 8-2 heading into the seventh inning when I came in to relieve Sam in a mop-up role.
Brookdale Park in Essex County is a beautiful park. It’s a huge complex with ball fields, soccer fields, playgrounds, great places to run, and more. It is well maintained and very nice…
The baseball field, though, is not maintained well at all. The pitcher’s mound is a disaster. Before the game I did my best to make it better as when we arrived the mound which may have once been a tiny hill (was it even raised any longer?) was now just a pitching rubber sticking up high out of the ground. I shoveled as much dirt as I could find around the rubber, but it was of no use. The dirt was all too soft and the pitcher just sank in the soft sand rather than standing atop a mound. It was a horrible place to pitch from.
My one inning wasn’t pretty: a loud double, a ground out, another ground out, another loud double, an infield error (that would have been the end of the inning), a soft bloop single up the middle, another soft bloop single over the middle, a bloop single over third, a hit batter, and, mercifully, and thankfully, a ground out. My outing put us down by more than ten runs which, to all intents and purposes (we didn’t score in our at bat) ended the game by mercy rule.
And that was that.
My final line for the season: 9 starts, 1 win, 7 losses. I pitched 53 innings, including one 9-inning complete game. I gave up more hits than I can count and also a bunch of runs, but how many were earned is unknown. The numbers I do know are these. In those 53 innings, I walked only 8 batters. (I did hit two guys, one today). If nothing else, I throw strikes. On the season I recorded 26 strikeouts.
All things considered, not bad. Remember, I had Achilles surgery in January. I’m 100% now (I think), but I was still recovering and in physical therapy when the season began.
Am I a very good pitcher? No.
Did I battle and give it my best? Yes.
I can’t wait until next year, but I have no idea what next year will bring.
Will the team want a 53-year-old guy who battles, but doesn’t get great results as their starting pitcher or will they prefer a better arm like Sam’s or someone else?
I did find out that I can hit a little. Maybe next year I be a utility guy who sometimes pitches? Maybe.
I do know this. For one full year, I was the starting pitcher for a baseball team. I lived the dream. I went out every Sunday for an entire season and battled and did my best. The results don’t necessarily look it, but I did better than my best.
Further, I got to play an entire season a great bunch of men. We had a lot of fun. We even won a game!
Best of all, I played the whole season with my son Ethan. For me, that was priceless – better than any wins or losses or anything else. I’ll hold all the memories of playing baseball with my son in my heart forever. Nothing is better than that.
Postscript: This winter, beginning in late December, I plan to start throwing and preparing for the 2021 season. I have a few things I am considering to make me even stronger. When Opening Day comes, I plan to be ready and better than ever.
Of course I want to pitch. I have a lot more innings in me and I am determined to win a bunch more games.
I’m not done yet.