The baseball season is now a quarter of the way over.
I have spent more than half of that time complaining about the fact that Mike Carp is one of the 25 men on the roster of the World Champion Boston Red Sox. On the games when he plays, I tend to lose my mind.
Carp, who was cut by Seattle in spring training last year, can’t play in the outfield. He can’t play first base. Offensively, Carp’s specialty is bouncing into 4-6-3 rally-killing double plays.
Every time I think the team has something brewing, it seems that red beard steps to the plate and causes me to teach the kids a few new swear words when he harmlessly hits a four hopper to the second baseman.
During all my screaming and yelling at the television, however, I have not lost sight of the irony of me criticizing any baseball player ,especially a professional.
Here’s how bad I was at baseball. One time in Little League I struck out on two pitches — and one of them was a ball.
That is a true story. Believe me, there is no way you can back that up.
Before I explain that situation, it is important to understand my biggest fear in Little League Baseball. I was absolutely terrified of striking out to end a game.
I really didn’t care if I was the final out with a ground out or a fly ball. I could live with getting gunned down why hustling down the first base line.
Living with the embarrassment of striking out for the last out was really tough. Striking out any time was always embarrassing, even though, as I tell Little Leaguers nowadays, the greatest baseball player to ever live, Babe Ruth, always led the league in strikeouts.
I had a lazy eye as a kid that basically left me without depth perception. That made making contact with the ball 10 percent effort and 90 percent luck.
As long as I put the ball in play, I felt pretty good about myself. Reaching base any way possible was the best feeling ever.
Of course, a Scotty Smalls-like lack of confidence on the baseball field might have held me back almost as bad as my poor eyesight. My older brother was absolutely no help in that matter.
One time, when I was 11, I reached base because of the catcher’s interference during a major’s game at the Northwest Little League Field, which is now called Scown Field.
I was feeling pretty good as I got to first base and looked to the fence and saw my brother, who was then playing in the Babe Ruth league.
“Way to go,” he said, dripping of sarcasm. “You really hit that catcher hard.”
“I got a hit last time up,” I snapped back.
“No,” he said. “That was a fielder’s choice.”
So instead of feeling good about my on-base percentage going up a few points, I was left feeling bad that my batting average was dropping even farther below the Mendoza line.
The same brother was kind enough a couple years later to make sure that I knew my dream of playing in the NBA would never come true.
So that’s the kind of mentality I was dealing with a year earlier when I drew the short straw of batting with two out in the bottom of the last inning.
There was a runner on third base when I came to the plate, but we were trailing by more than one run.
Keith Miller, the umpire who was 15 or 16 at the time, was behind the plate when the first pitch sailed over my head to the backstop. The runner on third came racing home and was called safe on a close play.
The coach of the opposing team came out of the dugout to argue with Miller, who was the best Little League umpire I ever saw in action. Some umpires in the crowd were chirping in, and the game was delayed as threats were made about kicking fans and coaches out of the ball park.
Among all of this commotion, the umpire forgot to realize that he didn’t reset his hand-held ball-strikes counter from the previous at bat, in which my teammate put the ball in play with two strikes.
Finally, the dust settled and the second pitch of the at bat came sailing in. It was high, but I swung anyway and, of course, missed.
“Strike three,” Miller shouted. “That’s the game.”
The players on the other team went running in celebration toward the third-base dugout. I protested to the umpire briefly before heading to the first-base dugout and pleading my case to anybody who would listen, and nobody would listen.
It wasn’t until we got to the car after the game that my coach/dad and sports psychologist/brother finally realized why I was so upset.
Then they realized that I really only did see two pitches, but by then it was too late. The victors had already spent the winnings on Fun Dips, fish and berries at the concession stand.
Sure, I knew then and I know now that I probably would have struck out anyway if my protest was heard and I was returned to the batter’s box.
All I knew is that I would have killed for a second chance to return to the box with the hope that I could maybe, just maybe, bounce out to second base instead.
Just like Mike Carp.
—Bill Foley, who holds the world record for the fastest strikeout, writes a column that appears on ButteSports.com on Tuesdays. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/Foles74. 2 comments