Sunday, March 25, 2012
The LL Chronicles #15: Dejection and Ejection
My eight-year-old son as he entered the dugout after giving up five runs in one inning: "Dad...can you not put this on your blog?" -- From my Twitter feed, March 10
Before I realized that it would become a season-long theme -- and the likely title of our team's season highlights DVD -- there was no offense to be found on this sunny Saturday afternoon. My A's were playing the Braves and both teams entered the bottom of the fourth inning without a run on the board. I'd made a pitching change to start the inning, going with Jeff -- one of the top three arms on our team. He's a VERY good pitcher whose talent is inversely proportional to his luck.
Sure enough, our defense collapsed behind him and the home plate umpiring imploded in front of him. The end result was tragically cinematic (and NSFW) as Jeff finished his one inning of work after 34 pitches and a 2-0 deficit.
After the A's plated a run in the top of the fifth inning, I handed the ball to my eight-year-old son Jalen to start the bottom of the frame. Entering the game, Jalen had surrendered just one run in four innings with -- as he'd be the first to tell you -- seven strikeouts. In hindsight, his hubristic house of cards was due for a dramatic collapse. Back-to-back first pitch singles were followed by a booming double that reached the wall and scored two runs. Jalen seemed overtly irked at his outfielders' time-released reactions, so I visited the mound in an attempt to calm him down.
Me: "Settle down, son. Relax and finish your pitches. We're still in it. They're not going to hit another ball that hard all day."
On the very next pitch he threw, Jalen gave up a run-scoring triple. Say what you will, but at least he was efficient with his self-immolation. He'd give up two more runs before finishing the inning and trudging off the mound trailing 7-1. Long after the game, with Jalen off to bed, Mrs. Bootleg told me that she'd recorded our son's pitching performance. We watched about two seconds before collectively agreeing to erase it...y'know...in exchange for putting this on my blog. I presume.
After he gave up 5 runs in 1 IP on Saturday; my son is starting pitcher tonight. Should be fun. Also, potentially ruinous, psychologically. -- From Twitter, March 13
This was a make-up for our game that was rained out back in mid-February. Against the Braves. Jalen wasn't sharp, but he kept us in the game and we held on for a 7-6 win. While the seven runs were the most we've scored all season, the real fireworks came in the first inning -- as this postgame tweet helpfully illustrates:
Highlights from Little League game tonite: (1) Son pitched OK. (2) He went 3 for 3. (3) I received a warning from ump & threat of ejection!
Trailing 2-0 in the bottom of the first, our leadoff hitter tapped an infield dribbler to the right of the pitcher. The pitcher pounced off the mound, bent over across his body, spun and fired a laser to first base. My runner clearly beat the throw, so I allowed a haughty smirk to cross my face while channeling the "...all for naught..." premature celebration of the Spaceballs captain. I was THIS close to bringing my hands together for a condescending "good try" clap for the pitcher, when the umpire yelled, "OUT!"
My immediate reaction was so obviously NOT an attempt to embarrass the umpire.
I silently struck this physiologically appropriate post with but a quizzical look on my countenance. From there, out of respect for the umpire's authority, I turned my back on him -- hands on my hips -- and graciously hid my thoughts on his obvious incompetence. When I turned around, I was surprised to see the umpire all up in my civil grill.
Umpire: "I'm ALWAYS going to reward the effort from the kids."
Me: "Even when you're wrong?"
Umpire: "OK...that's enough."
Me: "You just told me you don't care about getting the call right."
Umpire: "That's a warning. I will run you in front of your son if I have to."
In all seriousness, the whole scene was discreet enough for no one to be the wiser. And, yes, this was the same umpire who'd previously given me grief over my son's preference for jersey #5, instead of #42. Where would you set the likelihood of my eventual ejection this season? 60/40? 70/30? Perhaps, parlay me AND Jalen in the same game?
Rainy day, but HAD to get my son out of the house. I probably could've picked a better destination than Best Buy. -- From Twitter, March 17
Our St. Patrick's Day game against the Pirates was rained out, so I took Jalen out and about and ended up at "the free arcade"...as my friend Carrie described it. And, when you look at this picture, it's hard to argue. We, of course, regret nothing.
Finished with first Little League umpiring experience. Confrontation with coach, players mocking me & I made a child cry. All as I expected. -- From Twitter, March 20
At this level, every manager is required to umpire at least 10 games in the upper divisions. We're also required to complete an eight-hour umpire clinic which I've yet to sign-up for. My excuse? It's an eight-hour umpire clinic. Not surprisingly, the league looked past this "mandatory" requirement when it came time to assign adults to the umpiring rotation.
I arrived 30 minutes late to my first assignment, as the managers agreed to an earlier start time without informing me. Two other umpires were already working home plate and first base, so I was dispatched to third base. I had NO idea where to position myself or when I needed to rotate in time with the baserunners or game situation. The first base umpire helpfully, silently gestured -- with increasing frustration -- throughout the game to ensure I was in the right spot.
It was an uneventful affair until the bottom of the fourth inning. There was a runner on second who reached third base after evading a tag on the basepaths from the third baseman. This brought the manager storming out of the dugout and running right towards me.
Manager: "Are you sure he wasn't out of the basepath?"
Me: "Uh, no. He stayed in. I had a good look."
Manager: "Come on. How many feet out of the basepath does the runner get?"
Me: "Uh, two?"
Later that same inning, I called another runner safe at third after he slid under the tag. The third baseman immediately burst into tears, pulling his cap over his eyes. The runner sure looked safe, but I still felt terrible. Was I too emphatic on the call? Did I miss the call? Was there a chance the runner was tagged out before he got to the bag? My guilt lasted long enough for the shortstop to sidle up to his third baseman and say:
Don't cry. It's not your fault the ump blew the call.
I should've ran that kid in front his dad.
Surprisingly, watching MLB equivalent for past 5 years didn't make my son's Athletics 1-0 loss in Little League any easier to sit thru. -- From Twitter, March 21
Against the Padres, our pitching and defense were terrific...until the fifth inning. When Jeff came in to pitch...and the potential third out of the inning was booted -- by Jeff. We made 18 outs and 14 were by strikeout. The game started at 5:00 PM and we were all back in our cars before sundown. Jalen got the start and pitched two scoreless innings, but as he came out for the second inning, the following conversation unfolded between one of my coaches and his wife:
Coach's Wife: "Is Garrett going to pitch today? Uncle Lou came all the way down from Carlsbad to see him pitch."
Coach: "What do you want me to do? I'm not the manager."
Coach's Wife: "Well, can you talk to Aaron? Uncle Lou needs to leave soon."
This conversation took place no more than five feet from the back of my head, by the way.
11-4 loss in Little League. Son not scheduled to pitch, but threw 48 pitches in mop-up role. Adult equivalent = child labor law violation. -- From Twitter, March 24
Entering the top of the fifth inning, we trailed 10-0. We hadn't even recorded a hit to that point. With the 10-run "mercy rule" just three outs away, the A's rallied for four runs, salvaging a modicum of dignity from the belly of defeat. Jalen threw 2 1/3 innings after my starter got torched for five runs in the first. Eight-year-olds are limited to 50 pitches in Little League and Jalen stood at 35 when he started the fourth. And, then... this happened. It was time to take him out.
Me: "I'm proud of you, Jalen. We needed innings and you gave 'em to us. Great job."
Jalen: "Can't I face one more batter?"
Me: "No, son. You're done."
Jalen: "Well, can I walk to the dugout and see if I get a standing ovation and tip my cap to the crowd?"
Me: "No. You're switching with Drew. Go to second base."