Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Keeps you up at Night

Matt Clement took a bean to the bean last night. It was an awfully scary sight and for Boston fans it was one in a trilogy of head shots. I don't count the time Manny got hit and just shook his natty dreads put his helmet back on and continued. He is one of my favorite players to watch. Adventurous in the outfield and on the bases, but unmerciful at the dish.

Anyway Matt Clement experienced the greatest fear in baseball realized last night. I played baseball and pitched. It was easily my greatest fear. Unfortunately it's drilled into your head, pun intended from your earliest playing days. Whether its your father telling you to A. be aware of every pitch, because a line drive can kill you. "I knew a kid in another town playing your position that took one right to the heart and died." Whether that is true or not doesn't matter. It is true. Kids are killed everyday by linedrives. They are dangerous. But part B. to that lesson is get in front of the ball, don't let it get by you. Never "big league" it and field it at the side. I got tagged with the lazy, or lacksydasical name because I could field that way. I was great defensively. But my fear was that liner to the aorta.

My fear was never realized, but I did have an exchange that can be retold by many parents and teamates of mine, if they remember it as vividly as I. I was at bat. A place I feared more than the field. Batting gave me a 66% chance of utter failure, based on a great major league batting average. Now my batting average was .750 at the end of one season, because I wasn't stupid. I knew the average 12 year old couldn't hit the strikezone. I walked probably twice as often as I got out. Plus I figure someone got my stats messed up.

Anyway, I'm at bat and the pitcher from the best team in the league in a really important game decides to give me a little chin music. Well the natural reaction is to bring your hands up and in towards the ball. Watch the big leaguers, they do it to. Sometimes they raise their hands but mostly they don't. Its natural. The ump gives me my base, because the ball hit some of me. It mostly hit the knob of the bat, creating a foul ball. I told him unequivically, No. It hit the bat. He says okay. Most everyone was freaked out because the ball bounced away from my face in a downward motion, looking like it hit my jaw. I was pissed. No one had ever come that close to plunking my noggin. I couldn't stand the fact that this little pischer (Yiddish for bed wetter, look it up) thought he could get away with that. I beared down and decided revenge would be mine. My plan, base hit maybe a screaming rope into left center.

The next pitch I absolutely crush. I made good contact like this about four times a year. Three of which usually happened in practice. This one though would have hit the fence after a couple of hard bounces past the centerfielder, save for the fact I nearly took this pitcher's shoulder off. He couldn't react in time, and I drilled his ass into the clay. I felt awful. He cried and screamed off the field and to the dugout, and probably to the ER later.

I got in the car later and my mother gave me the best compliment a baseball player could ever hear. She first said that she was sorry for that kid that I hit, but second said she was proud that I didn't back down. I was too. I feel though that it was all a coincidence. Just dumb luck. I never intended to hit that boy. If I did I would have done it when he came to the plate. If I didn't pitch that game then the next time. (I always pitched against Crowfield who used older players it was suspected. I beat them twice, but lost probably six times to them. I rarely lost to any other team.)

The greatest fear in baseball is getting hit, and failing at the plate. You can't predict the former, that's what terrifies all of us. The other two guys in the Boston Head Shot Trilogy never were the same. Tony Conigliari was gonna be the next big deal. Bryce Florie couldn't quite get his action back to major league status. Both tried both unsuccessful, but luckily for Matt Clement, both much more severe.


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