Actually, that’s not entirely true. Or, more accurately, I can’t prove it. Which may or may not be the same thing, depending on who you ask. Here’s what happened.
For several years in my pre-teen years I played little league baseball. Like most kids, I started out in Tee Ball, learning the very basics of the game. For a few years, my Dad was our team coach, and in what I believe was my first year playing games with live pitchers, I was the catcher.
Now, I’m not going to toot my horn and claim I was a good ballplayer, but that first year after Tee Ball I was a pretty decent catcher. I fought through a sprained ankle and wrist to actually be considered for the league all-star team. I wasn’t selected, only to find out that my coach didn’t vote for me, because my coach was my Dad, and he didn’t want to play favorites. Or so he said, perhaps he really did think I wasn’t worthy of the all-star game.
Over time and teams through the years I played just about every position. Infield, outfield, you name, I played it. Well, all but one – I never pitched. This was primarily based on the fact that although I had an average strength arm, I had a tendacy to throw wild.
During one season my Dad wasn’t coaching, we found out during a practice that everyone was required to take some time and practice pitching. Some injuries had crept into our pitching rotation, and there might be a need for one of us non-pitchers to step in and mop up a few innings. But the likelihood of getting called in, pretty low. We hoped.
The baseball fields are long gone, bulldozed for a corporate park, but at the time we played in East Amherst near a Friendly’s that became a post-game go to hot spot. There were three diamonds, but one in particular was special because it had lights and nicer dugout facilities. The lights meant night games. Everyone wanted night games, simply because they seemed special and cool.
After our pitcher-tryout practice, we played our under the lights game, and I ended up riding the pine for the first couple of innings. In fact, due to our pitching injuries, we were down to just eleven players, which meant it was just me and one other kid on the bench. I don’t remember the specifics of the game, whether we were the home team or away, but I know we fell behind early by more than a few runs. And then, out of the blue, it happened.
Everyone was in the dugout, when (I’m paraphrasing, of course) I heard:
“Minneci, you’re pitching.”
After our at bats ended, I trudged out to the mound and started throwing warm up pitches. Wild warm up pitches. Over the head of the ump wild warm up pitches. And this is where it gets crazy – the first two batters I faced, I struck them out.
Let me repeat, I struck out the first two batters. One more out, and I’d have pitched one half inning of successful relief in my debut. What happened next might be displayed on film in slow motion, with flashbacks to childhood trauma, although I was a child so there wouldn’t have been much to flashback to, I guess. Whatever magic I had on those first two outs disappeared.
First problem was that I started getting hit on. Not just screaming line drives or bloop singles over the infield. Home runs. Yes, plural. At least two over the fence home runs.
Second problem was mixed in with the dingers I managed to accidentally hit three batters. I say accidentally because my control was so bad, had I been aiming for the batters, I would have surely missed and launched the pitch over the homeplate back stop.
A dozen or so runs later (quite honestly, I can’t remember the exact number, I just know it was double-digits), I somehow got the third out. I think it was possibly a pop-out, because I sure as hell didn’t throw well enough to strike anyone out.
So let’s recap: 1/2 inning pitched, 2 home runs, 3 hit batters, at least 12 runs scored.
And my wife says I’m not an athlete.