Good morning! I am back in town for a while and want to finish a re cap of the season from %$&@(()%$. That's right. I want to forget it although there were as many highs as lows, so here we go......
As you know, the big kid was on the University's Search Committee to find a replacement coach for the one who 'resigned' last summer. As the team celebrated, dad warned: "better the devil that you know rather than the one you don't know." Is he prophetic? Nah....he is old...seen it all....experienced....you know what I mean.
And so, after interviewing three capable and experienced coaches, he went to bat (so to speak) for the Czar. It seems that the Czar professed his love for the Pitching Doctor (whom my kid thinks is the guru of all pitchers....the Paul McCartney of all pitchers....the ying to his yang....the up to his down....). The Czar was hired.
As he settled into a routine, the Czar was not who he professed to be in interviews. It seems that the Czar is all about himself. Further, he says that the Pitching Doctor ruined the big kid and humiliated him after a game in Fresno. In fact, the Czar spent 30 minutes yelling at him in front of the team. I was told the essentials of what happened and what was said, but actually, the lefty does not remember all of it since he blacked out after 15 minutes. Now the team uses the term "Fresno-ed" on a scale of 1-10 when the Czar is screaming. One is a snarl.....10 is a "Fresno". To this day, only a few other players came close to being Fresnoed.
After this incident, he was dropped from one of the top relievers to the bottom of the depth chart. He was relegated to the bench to breathe and focus and to carry buckets of balls. He was also sent to the bullpen to clean it. Now, that is a kid one breath away from being cut from the team.
As the season moved along, they played scrub teams who did not belong in D1. The Czar began to believe in his own powers and began to move himself more and more in front of the camera. Everything was self promotional including a radio show and a mini documentary about his process of coaching. He spoke little of the guys and how he was humiliating, embarrassing, and bullying them. The team wanted to play, so if the new coach says 'jump', they said 'how high?'
The season continued and the record of wins mounted, but again....he was not looking at the big picture which was conference play. Nope, he was beating up on teams that were a little better than a decent high school team and therefore set his roster and starters based upon their success against these teams. I would sit in the stands and see that the tallest opposing player on one team was a foot shorter than Big Red. After these games, the Czar would be quoted in the paper about his ability to lead. Sheesh....
Now we move along to conference play and the guys were slated to play the two worst teams in the conference. Naturally, they won. This is good. Once again...they played really bad teams. I could see it...the Pope could see it from the Vatican and he does not have season tickets.
Here is where it got dicey. The Czar looked at the players that he selected to start and relieve and they did not have the 'chops' to play the big guns of the conference.
It is now the middle of the season and the team is losing to the better teams. The Czar is shocked. His coaching worked in Ohio, why not here? Oh, it must be the lousy players that he inherited. Perhaps....After one very long weekend series, they ran through all of the pitchers. The only one left to start during a mid week game against a national powerhouse was the big lefty who could be found cleaning out the bullpen. Don't miss those sunflower seed shells....get them all.....pick up the empty gator ade bottles.....
With that said, the big lefty finally got his wish and started. Naturally, his momma was in the stands with her rosary and blankets since the game time temperature was in the 30's. Tink and I shook throughout the game and something miraculous happened....yep, the big lefty beat the powerhouse in his own stadium as the fans sat, clapped, and cheered. Yeah! He started! yeah! He won! Does he still have to clean the bullpen and carry the buckets of balls? What do you think?
Moving forward....the Czar went on the university's you tube channel and gave a number of interviews pontificating about his turn around stating that he always knew that this kid could pitch. OK.....nice.
The next weekend, he relieved the starter for an inning and held the opposition to no runs. They lost.
The following week, he started in Nebraska. What do we do? Well, we hop on a few air planes and find the stadium in the middle of the middle of no-where. Although, I must say...it was a neat stadium. The team lost the series and he threw 100 pitches since the opposing players kept fouling the balls off. He was taken out after the third inning since his pitch count soared. When he left the game, the team was winning 1-3. They flew out of Nebraska losing that game since the relievers could not hang on to the win.
The following weekend conference series was against a nationally ranked team.....he did not start on Sunday because the Czar needed a win during the week. He knew that the team did not have the tools to beat this team, so he played the other pitchers and lost all three games.
On to Tuesday, the kid was naturally salty that he did not start on Sunday against the conference team, but rebounded nicely as he threw and won against his parents' alma mater in front of the home crowd. All of my siblings made it to the game and watched him throw and win. He was thrilled. It was an amazing game and day. It was everything he wanted and more....except a no hitter....don't get greedy, dude.
Finally, we are at the last homestand and games of the 2014 season. We attended yesterday's game knowing that he would not pitch this weekend. However, it was senior day and there was a picnic afterwards so we wanted to say good by to the guys that we knew and cared about....a bittersweet day. If the team won all three games, they would go to the playoffs, yet they did not have enough power to pull out a victory although the games were close.
As the starter struggled, the Czar sent in a freshman. The team did hit and the score was tied. Since the team plays in the mountains, the weather is generally chilly, so we sit in the sun on the third base side across from the home team's dug out and bullpen. As the game progressed, a player in a sweatshirt ran to the bullpen to warm up. His stretches were weird and I had a feeling that it was the big lefty warming up. As we sat in our seats, I said to dad "I think that he is warming up. Look at the way he is stretching....no one else warms up that way." And so, dad walked around the stadium and sure enough, it was the big kid. As he was called into the game, dad took his leave of his seat and went to pace. Sheesh.....
He was in the game for 1 and 1/3 innings....the opposing team popped up and grounded out. Then one of the opposing players was hit by a pitch...on his right hip. I said to Tink "now that has got to hurt." And hurt it did, the guy walked slowly to first base and looked like he was going to charge the mound. The crowd started to egg on the hit batter and roared when he 'rubbed' the spot. You see, when a batter is hit, the last thing a tough guy does is rub the spot. He broke the rules of modern toughness by touching it. As the lefty faced the next batter, he got him to pop up and end the inning.
On to the next inning, he hung up a curve ball and the batter hit a double. He is pulled from the game and another right handed pitcher is put in to face the next batter. Before he left the mound, he shook Big Red's hand thanking him for all that he has done over the years as he caught his wayward balls. He also shook the hands of the in fielders and thanked them for their defensive skills. (Quick note, the team had two triple plays on Friday night which is unheard of, so you know that they were decent defensively).
The next pitcher came in and since he is a side armer, the guy on second quickly stole third base. The end of the story is this.....Big Red tried to pick off the player on third base and his ball sailed into the outfield. The guy scored on the error and the team lost by one. The big lefty was the loser on record.
After the picnic, we took Buddy and one of his pitching friends to dinner. As we chatted about the game, he admitted that he hit the batter on purpose. Then he gave an evil look as he talked about it. Huh? Do you have to lead the league in hit batters? "I did it because he deserved it. He flipped me off last year and he knew that it was coming. I also knew the next batter would be toast, so I aimed at his hip." Bingo....accurate....painful...88 mph fast ball.
It seems that these guys all know each other and the hit batter has a history of obnoxious behaviors on the field. even the announcers during Friday night's double header mentioned this player's unsportsmanlike behavior.
Did he tell the Czar? Nope. Although, dad thinks that he was told to hit him and that it was not his own idea. But he is not talking....enough said.....
The season is over. It had its highs and lows...many highs...many lows....at the picnic, dad said that he was going to shake the Czar's hand. Want to? he asked. Absolutely, not. I do not play these games. In fact, when he walked over to the Czar to introduce himself, I felt the Skittles rise in the back of my throat and I was afraid that I was going to vomit a rainbow near the cake table.
It seems that my husband knows how to play politics. I call it being a shark. I now know that my son is a shark after seeing his facial expression after he hit the batter. I can't go there. And so, as we chatted about it and came up with an explanation. The big guy gets his aggressive and shark-like tendencies from the husband and his family; yet my family would not do that (I think) and we would be the people who would feed the sharks. Hmmm....interesting home to grow up in. Oh, well, he gets both messages and is his own person.
Now he heads to Illinois where I will start the "Skittles Chronicles" as he tackles the Midwest from the pitching mound.
Thank you to all who have shared our story from the beginning and those who have picked it up anew. It is the convoluted path to a dream and goal. We seem to be in it together.
Tomorrow at 8 am, he has a meeting with the Czar. This should be very very interesting....