I spent a bone-chilling evening outside last evening watching my son, Carter, play baseball. The temperature dropped down to the lower 40s but the windspeed picked up as the night went on. There were a handful of parents from our team in attendance and the home team from Burnsville was absent any parents who were not coaches for the team. There was a lot of complaining about the weather from our team’s parent — justifiably so. The ball team was not immune to the low temperatures either. Carter caught the three innings and all of us in attendance could see the struggle he had keeping his throwing hand warm. In fact, several moms commented on the deep red color of his hand — a result of the cold temperatures and the brutal wind chill.
In spite of the hurdles created by the weather, Carter played a very good game. He caught the first three innings with only a couple of passed balls (wild pitches in my humble opinion) and several good attempts at throwing out base runners. He had three plate appearances. The first was a hard hit ball to the backhand side of the short stop who made a great defensive play to range to the ball and throw out Carter by a step at first. The second at bat was a 2-1 fastball that Carter drove to left center resulting in a near inside-the-park homer in which he was barely thrown out at the plate. Carter says he was safe, my view was a bit obstructed, only the Lord knows for sure! His third and final at bat was a full count strikeout that he was caught looking. I keep preaching about the expanding strike zone and the need to be aggressive when he has two strikes, but I am a bit more forgiving in this kind of weather.
The last three innings of the game (a shortened six inning game due to cold and daylight), Carter went to the mound in his usual role as closer (can you call a pitcher throwing the last 2 -3 innings a closer?) with his typical “always-around-the-strike-zone accuracy. He made it out of the fourth inning with two strikeouts and a nice throw-out to first base from the short stop. The inning saw an inconsequential base hit and error to strand two baserunners. The bottom of the fifth was his best inning of pitching. He sat down three consecutive batters in a 1-2-3 strikeout pitching performance. The bottom of the sixth inning was the biggest challenge. He struck out the first batter on four pitches.
The group of parents were excitedly cheering him on — more in hopes of getting the game over and heading for their heated cars than for any other reason. The second batter reached first on an error and subsequently stole second base. The third batter, a young guy who looked like he could do some significant damage at the plate, topped the ball on a change up that Carter threw resulting in a slow short roller down the third base line. The catcher, Leo struggled to fight his way past the batter leaving Carter the only player able to make a play on the ball, He hustled in, picked up the ball, glanced at the play at first, but choosing instead to spin around and nail the lead runner at third. Now with two outs to go, all he needed was a strikeout to end the game. That is the point when it appeared that the “wheels might come off the wagon.” In spite of a first pitch strike, Carter three seven consecutive balls to walk the next two batters.
Our team still had a three run lead, but it was up to Carter to settle down and end the ball game. He was facing weather conditions that made it increasingly harder to get a good grip on his pitches. Gritting his teeth, he bore down and relied on his fastball to throw three consecutive strikes with the game-ending pitch an unhittable high and tight fastball in the up and away corner of the K-zone to send everyone home with shivers in their bodies and smiles on their faces!