Unfortunately I have to admit to being something of an obnoxious jerk when I was playing youth baseball (And I hear those “Something? Did he say Something, just something of an…?”). I wanted to win, I wanted my team to win (and unfortunately that order is probably right for that time in my life), I wanted to excel. Well, I had limited talent, but I did have a good eye and could run. Of course that got me the leadoff spot on my team and made the stolen base a major part of my arsenal.
Did you ever notice how many youth league baseball pitchers can throw the ball, but don’t really know much else about pitching (It’s also true of a lot of big leaguers too.)? Most of them can’t figure out how not to balk or how to speed up a throw to the catcher to pick off a runner. Well, this is the story of one of them and of me and how I scored four runs without ever hitting the ball (and, as usual, all conversations approximated after 50 years).
We were well into a season (I think I was 12) when we had a late game (that’s 8 o’clock) against one of the middle-of-the-pack teams in our league. We’d faced their “ace” a time or maybe two already and I always made a point to study a pitcher. If you couldn’t hit for power and had to rely on walks and speed you studied the pitcher. This one had a couple of quirks, the most important of which is that he rattled easily with men on base. Well, that being the case, I was just obnoxious jerk enough to take advantage of it.
I led off the game and took four straight pitches for a walk. So down to first I went and while the pitcher was fuming about walking the first man, I took off for second. No one called time, the pitcher was standing like an idiot on the mound paying no attention to me, so why not? I was safe without a throw. Next, I took a giant lead off second. I was so far off the bag that I could just barely make it out on the horizon (It’s that little white thing off in the distance, right?). The shortstop was yelling at the pitcher to watch the runner. So he did. He turned and instead of running toward me, threw the ball to the bag. No one was on the bag (the shortstop was dogging me and the second baseman was playing his position) so the ball sailed into center where the fielder was staring at some girl in the stands (or something) and I managed to come all the way home standing up. One run for the good guys.
A couple of innings later I came up again and again took four for a walk (I think there was a strike or two thrown in this time). Down at first, I took my lead and the kid looked over his shoulder at me. He spun, tossed the ball to first, and I was safe by a mile. OK, pitcher, you want to play, fine.
“Hey, dimwit,” I yelled. “I’m not going until the second pitch.” I don’t know whether he believed me or not, but he threw the ball home. Of course now I’m committed to going on the second pitch or looking like a liar (Would I lie about something like that? Seriously, would I?). I know he didn’t believe me about the second pitch because he threw home without even looking at me. I was safe easily. So I took another lead and yelled “Second pitch again, dimwit.” He spun, flipped the ball to the shortstop. Of course I hadn’t moved so nothing happened. He threw home, I didn’t move. He took his stretch, I led off. He threw, I broke for third and was safe again. “OK, dimwit, second pitch again.” By now my coach (who was the third base coach) was telling me to “put a sock in it.” You know I didn’t listen, don’t you. So I took my lead and the pitcher stared at me. I led off a little more. He brought up his arm and out fell the ball. “Balk, ” called the ump and I had my second run.
As luck would have it there was no one on when I came up for the third time. By now the pitcher hated me. So the first pitch almost clipped my head. The next almost got my elbow. OK, now that’s ball one and ball two. “Two more and I’m on first, dimwit.” Of course that did it. The next one knocked me down. Ball three. “Try again, dimwit.” Now the ball soared a foot over my head and I was on first again. “Hey, dimwit, second pitch again.” After the first pitch to our two hitter the catcher came out to talk to the pitcher. I waited. The stretch, the pitch. Oops, it’s a pitch out. You know they were thinking “we got that obnoxious jackass.” Except that the rattled pitcher now threw the ball eight feet over the catcher’s head and by the time it bounced halfway back to first I was safe on third. Now to get home. So I took a giant lead and the pitcher threw to third. This one didn’t go eight feet over the third baseman’s head, it went eight feet to his left and I scampered home with my third run.
I had one more at bat and this time the pitcher wasted no time. He plunked me solid in the ribs with the first pitch. OK, you got your revenge, but did you notice that I’m on base again? So down the line I went. About halfway I stopped and told him “First pitch this time, dimwit.” He apparently believed me. He toed the rubber. I led off. He spun (he was right handed) and faked a throw. That’s a balk and I’m free to second. And that was all for the pitcher. Out came his coach. In came the third baseman to pitch while the ex-pitcher went to third. While the new guy was warming up the ex-pitcher glared at me I waved at him and held up two fingers. The catcher must have seen the motion because he went out to the mound and talked with the new pitcher. The first pitch was a ball (I think) then came the second pitch. I took off and the pitcher threw to the plate. Or he threw at the plate. The ball bounced a couple of feet in front of the plate and went over the catcher’s head. I was about two feet from third when the ex-pitcher threw a great body block into me (the football coach would have been proud). He went down. I went down. It was interference. But I didn’t know that, so I reached over to grab the bag. Apparently the catcher saw me do so and heaved the ball to third. I don’t know who he was throwing to because the third baseman was on the ground with me but the ball sailed high and out into left. I got up, dashed for home, and scored my fourth run. I’m not sure what the ruling was on it (I don’t know if the ump should have stopped the play or not, but he didn’t) but I was home with four runs and not one time had I touched the bat to a ball (not even a foul).
It was a big day for me. I’d scored four runs and we’d won the game (I don’t recall the score, only that we won). Then came the postgame commentary from the coach. Something about being a good sport on the diamond and not showing up the other guys. At least I think that was what it was about. I was way too pleased to notice. Besides, I knew he couldn’t be talking to me.
Tags: youth baseball