Thursday, June 01, 2006
Baseball chemistry is a fragile thing. It's an unpredictable mix of the internal workings of each player's confidence, skill, team dynamics, and the unfolding situation of each game's events.
Our team is blessed with a variety of players with different personalities and talent levels. One of them in particular is a high-spirited, natural athlete, talented in all sports, but unsure of his baseball potential. For baseball, he has another weapon: he's a lefty.
We had heard stories about how he pitched beautifully as a 9 and 10 year old. But after one especially bad outing, his confidence was shaken. He gave up pitching and a lot of people wondered if he'd ever try it again. It would be up to him to make that decision.
We've always played him in center field, where he runs like a gazelle, anchoring the outfield. At the plate, he's consistently a .500 hitter. We've wanted to work him into the pitching rotation, but would never put him in until he decided he was ready for it. This year, he's slowly been coming around to the idea.
The other day, I asked his dad to talk with him about starting for us last nite. Early reports were positive; he said he wanted to pitch. But then when I saw Matt, he said how our young lefty had changed his mind, and how he didn't want to pitch anymore, and that his stomach hurt. The situation had changed into a game time decision.
When our young prospect arrived at the game, he had an anxious look on his face, and he was turning three shades of pale. Fifteen minutes before game time, he walked up to me, and he said he wanted to pitch. That's what we wanted to hear. We gave him the ball, and he took the mound for the first time in over three years.
The kid was awesome. His competitive nature came through, and he led the team to its best win in 2 seasons. He pitched five solid innings (the max at this age), allowing only one earned run, and walking none. The few times he trailed in the count, you could see the intensity build in him. Consistently, he battled back, throwing strikes and getting outs. And the defense played solid behind him.
The team won 5-2 in only one hour and thirty minutes, a lightning paced game for 12 and 13 year olds. At the halfway point in the season, the team's record stands an even 3 wins, 3 losses, and 1 tie.
More important, with 7 games to play, team chemistry is building, the boys know they can play solid ball, and they have discovered a new leader. The second half of the season just got a lot more interesting.