Sunday, September 7, 2014

Sunken Diamond at Stanford U.

I once pitched at Sunken Diamond, the actual first time that I ever pitched in a true stadium.  The occasion was an All-Star Game of 15 year old's.  I felt the excitement and buzz that our team was finally going places!  Of course there were rumors that Major League  and College scouts would be at the game to spy out the talent.  [There was one obvious person to check out, one of our opponents, a fellow named Nicky Tabaleya. He was very talented, with a very smooth swing he was known to hit the long ball and get on base but lacked speed.] There was something intangible about just walking into a stadium as a player that made butterflies in my stomach.  The stadium did not fill up but did field a respectable crowd.  A sense of awe overtook me in the same way when I walked out onto Yankee Stadium's field as a 5yr old after a game with my father to exit through the actual Center field gate...

I did not expect to pitch that day; my normal position was Center field.  My coach approached me earlier and explained his decision: with one pitcher sick, he wanted to save our number 1 pitcher for the following outing.  The decision put great pressure on me, but the sun was shining without a cloud in the sky, a typical Northern California day making me forget any pressure, creating a great desire to play baseball!

Great weather always gives a pitcher an advantage because the warmth keeps one's arm loose.  On that day I feel great; I place the ball where I want it without forcing any pitch and without tiring out. I do not have to push the ball but rather my pitches feel like I have the flexibility of a sling shot. I am striking out players and any hits are staying on the ground and the game seems in our favor.

Our team jumped out in front 3 zip.  I even had a base hit up the middle and contributed one of the runs.  During the 5th inning, however, favor turned to disfavor.  With three straight batters, our infield committed three straight errors to load the bases!  My pitches were good choices all were low in good spots around the plate, however, our second baseman booted two, our third baseman booted another and now I am looking at Nicky Tabaleya, that short stocky talented phenom.  Earlier I dispatched him on an inside pitch that he popped up for an out.  Now, he had the advantage, knowing there were no outs and virtually anything might score a run.  I decided to keep the ball out of his wheel house.  He had a natural smooth swing that he pulled upward.  I threw just upward in the strike zone hoping he would pop the ball up again and that is exactly what he did: with the most ever smooth swing, he indeed popped the ball up.  It was a very high pop up that carried beyond second base into shallow center field.  Our shortstop tore after it and our center fielder converged under it.  I thought: great easy pop fly!  There was, however, a communication error: nobody called for the ball and thus it dropped and two runs scored!

I finally ended the inning with a strikeout but the damage was done.  We were losing 5-3!  The score keeper counted 4 unearned runs!  We never were able to recover those runs and thus we were eliminated from continuing the All-star tournament.  My coach did not lament his decision and congratulated me on a good effort.  He said, "Sometimes even with the sun shinning, it rains! and there is nothing you can do about it except get a good night's sleep and play another one!" Or wait until next season.

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