Games » Toronto Blue JaysJul21
IT’S OVER! IT’S OVER! THE STREAK IS OVER!
Thanks to a sports bar in Columbia, I no longer can say I’ve seen every pitch of every Royals game. My son had some unfinished business at MU, so after dropping him off, I found a sports bar that guaranteed they’d be showing the Royals. It wasn’t shown here in KC, so I assumed they’d be picking it up by satellite from the Toronto station or however that works. I’m befuddled by a phonograph, so no way I understand this.
I arrived at 11 a.m. to eat lunch, get a good seat and make sure I had everything necessary to watch and score the game. They kept assuring me it would be on TV, right up until about 1:05, at which point, they lost confidence. Turns out they assumed it would be shown on the Kansas City station. Oops.
The assistant manager was so mortified she pulled out her laptop so I could the watch the game on MLB.com, which wasn’t showing it.
So to radio, where we could pick up 610 and listen to Denny Matthews and Ryan Lefebvre. That worked great for about five innings until they mysteriously lost the radio signal and I was reduced to getting the results off an iPhone. After that, the Pony Express got involved. Eventually, we were using carrier pigeons.
It wasn’t a total wreck though. When restaurants are embarrassed, you sure do get a lot of free beer.
A new streak starts tonight.
P.S. The guys in the press box helped with the stuff I couldn’t get on my own. Many thanks to Bob Dutton and Daniel Pauling. Many thanks also to Keely Brooks, the restaurant’s assistant manager who couldn’t get me the game, but pulled out all the stops trying.
Playing the wall
(I wrote this a while back after talking to Mitch Maier about playing the wall. I saved it on the assumption that sooner or later I’d be in a bind and need some copy. Today’s the day. Tomorrow: fresh stuff.)
The ball hit directly at you is the hardest one to judge. It’s hard to see the arc of the ball’s path without a side view, so for a while, the line drive that’s going to land in front of you looks just like the line drive that’s going to land behind you.
You gotta get help from the outfielders on either side. They tell you whether to break in or back. (That’s assuming you can hear them over the crowd.) If you need to break back, don’t backpedal: it’s slow, clumsy and inefficient. (I know from experience.)
You have to decide which shoulder you’re going to play the ball over and drop-step (A step backward with whichever foot is correct for the play you’ve decided to attempt.) This turns your body and allows you to go full speed while looking back. Let’s hope you picked the right shoulder. If the ball tails over the other shoulder, you have to turn your upper half towards the wall, losing sight of the ball and then attempt to pick it up over the other shoulder.
The worst-case scenario is the ball directly over your head. You can’t pick it up over either shoulder, which leaves you with two choices: alter your route in hopes of bringing the ball back into view or look straight up and wait for it to appear (like the famous Willie Mays catch).
If you’re lucky, your route takes you deeper than the point where the ball will land. You get beyond that point, turn, square up and catch the ball headed back towards the infield. This allows a stronger throw. The technique sometimes is referred to as “playing behind the ball” — getting deeper than you need to and then coming forward to make the catch.
Outfielders that “drift” — move lazily with the ball and make no attempt to run hard and get behind it and then come forward — are playing bad baseball. (That last bit was me, not Mitch Maier).
Okey-dokey, back to playing the wall: say this is a ball you won’t get behind. It’s going to use up every available foot of playing space. You’re racing back, looking up and waiting to hit the warning track. The change in texture underfoot lets you know you’re there — unless you’re in Toronto.
Mitch told me the Blue Jays’ warning track is made out of the same turf as the field, so this track doesn’t warn. He also told me warning tracks’ width aren’t uniform, so the number of steps you take before hitting the wall changes with the ballpark in which you’re playing. (Imagine getting hurt because you forgot you were in Baltimore.)
OK, you’ve hit the track. You extend the glove or throwing hand and feel for the wall without looking. You’ve got to get to the wall BEFORE the ball comes down. You find the wall and come back to the ball. If the ball’s going over, you find the wall and gather yourself for the leap.
Outfielders who start to pull up too soon and don’t get to the wall first will have difficulty going up for a ball because they’re unsure of where they are. (It accounts for that lame, half-hearted, iron-poor-blood leap you see some unnamed outfielders do.)
By the way, I understand pulling up. I was going back full-speed in right field, my centerfielder yelled “You’ve got room” and before I could finish the next step, got hit in the chest with the metal bar at the top of a chain link fence.
That centerfielder who was so bad at judging distance? Now a doctor — scary, huh?
So the next time you see this play done well, applaud. This stuff ain’t easy.