It’s In Our Hands
We headed to the top of the 6th inning, losing 7-6. The bottom of the order would start the inning, needing just one run to tie and more if we wanted to take the lead. The first batter drew a walk followed by a double that moved the runner to third. The defense would be playing in to cut off the tying run at the plate if a ball was hit slowly to the infield. The next batter hit a slow roller to the shortstop, forcing the runners to halt their advance. One out.
I made sure the runner on 3rd knew the importance of his run but reminded him that he could only run if the ball got through the pinched in fielders or wait until the ball was thrown to first to get the runner. He would have to be quick, but not hurry. The crack of the bat from the “top of the order” hitter echoed a sharply hit ball right to the shortstop again. This time though, he bobbled the ball as he checked the runner dancing off third base. Our leadoff batter is fast so by the time the fielder had the ball firmly in his grip, he was forced to rush the throw and bounced it underneath the first baseman’s glove. All runners advanced and we were now tied with runners at second and third.
Another strikeout for the second out meant we were down to our last chance to try to take the lead. After working a full count and fouling off 6 straight pitches, our next batter earned a walk that loaded the bases. The opposing pitcher took a deep breath as he readied to face the clean-up hitter. A base hit all but assured two more runs would score while an out would end the top half of the inning and leave us tied. Here’s the wind up…and the pitch…
“Dead ball,” yelled the umpire. “The ball hit him. Take your base.”
All runners advanced and the Sharks took the lead. A double by the next batter added a few more runs and then a dropped pop fly tacked on another. The inning would end on another strikeout, stranding runners in scoring position but we had done what we could do. The Sharks led 11-7. Now it was on the defense to protect the lead.
After having perfect innings in the 4th and 5th (no runners reached base), I huddled the boys in the dugout before we took the field for the bottom of the 6th. “We gave ourselves a chance. We rallied as a team and now we need to go out and win or lose this game as a team. No matter what happens in this inning, I’m proud of all of you. Now put your hands in and let’s hear ‘Finish’ on three.”
Ten hands of 12-year-olds and three more from the coaches formed a ball of fists.
You’ve Gotta Finish What You Start
After a quick out by the first batter, we were two outs away from advancing ahead in the playoffs. Sometimes the balls go right to where the defenders are standing and sometimes they find the holes. Sometimes the little breaks go one way while other times they go the other.
The hit was a long line drive that forced the center fielder to the gap to his left. He tracked the rolling ball down as his back was turned away from the infield. He had to get the ball in quickly because the runner on first, knowing he carried the winning run in his pocket, was accelerating around third as the cut off man turned and flung the ball home.
The ball headed towards the catcher as the young boy slid towards the plate. The rawhide smacked into the leather of the glove. The dust billowed up from under the sliding cleats as the umpire knelt ready to make the call.
Just as 5 runs were scored in the top of the inning, so were 5 runs scored in the bottom of the inning.
Things Don’t Always Go As Planned
Rocky Balboa lost to Apollo Creed in Rocky I. The Bears didn’t beat the Yankees in The Bad News Bears. Maximus dies at the end of Gladiator. Harry Potter didn’t defeat Voldemort in the first book. Heck, it took “the boy who lived” seven full novels to defeat The Dark Lord.
We all have great comebacks that sometimes fall short but it should never stopping us from trying just as hard the next time. We can learn something from every loss just as we can from every victory. Sometimes we learn more from our defeats because they stick with us a little bit longer. We think of what we could have done differently, how we could have changed something about the outcome or get lost in the “what if” conundrum.
Just remember there’s a reason why the rear view mirror is smaller than the windshield. What’s ahead of us we control. What’s behind, we don’t.
The best news of yesterday’s loss? Fall baseball starts in three weeks.
That gives us time to build relationships, solve problems and have fun…and hit the batting cages.
Photo Credit: Derek Gavey
Photo Credit: Scott Brewer
Photo Credit: SLGCKGC