Gamer (n) – In sports, a complimentary term denoting a player who gives his or her all, someone who “answers the bell” under adverse circumstances.
A former teammate of mine, Conrad Pacquette, paid me what I consider to be the best compliment I've ever received concerning my softball playing. It was after the end of the season in 2007, in personal correspondence wherein we discussed the next season to come. I had expressed the thought that I was going to retire. He said that was nonsense, and the reason he gave was that I was one of the biggest "gamers" he knew. He said when next season rolled around, I wouldn't be able to resist playing. And he was right. I played that season, and I've played every season since.
Now, I like all of my teammates, and I think all of them have some gamer in them. I've seen guys play with injuries and illnesses. For instance, Jack Atton once pitched a doubleheader for us while battling kidney stones. That took some wicked guts. He was in pain most of the day, but he sucked it up and did the job. Big Jay Atton was back on the field a week after taking a line drive to the face. That took mental toughness. I couldn't possibly list all of the guys who have continued playing with ripped open knees or elbows. Sometimes, it's just a matter of fighting the normal wear and tear of the position you play. Catchers, like Joey Baszkiewicz or Dave Nutter or myself, get to the seventh inning of game two and their legs feel like cement. That's just the way it is when you play that spot - you've been doing squats for about three hours - and it's the reason you don't see a lot of catchers with blazing speed on the basepaths.
This week, two true gamers have had their mettle tested.
Robbie Costello suffered a hairline fracture while pitching in another league. He was the recipient of a line drive that smashed off of his leg. He missed the games last week, and it was expected he'd be out for at least another couple of weeks. However, he has said he'll be there for us this Sunday. He pitched a game earlier this week and came through it none the worse for wear. That's pretty amazing, if you ask me.
The other gamer is Fast Freddy Goodman. He will NOT be playing, but it's not because he doesn't want to play. As of this writing, FFG is in the hospital and will be for the next day or two, at least. He has been diagnosed with pancreatitis. That's a good enough excuse to lay low, for sure. It's a hideously painful condition, and Freddy has been hooked up to a morphine drip for the past two days. Still, he asked his doctor if he could play ball on Sunday. That's how much of a gamer he is. The doctor, of course, told him not to play.
If I know one thing for certain in this life, it's that not playing is eating up Fast Freddy, even if it's under doctor's orders. Goodman hasn't missed more than a handful of games since he joined the team in 1997 and I've never known him to miss two weeks in a row. About half of the season, he makes a four-hour drive back from New York on a Saturday night in order to play on Sunday morning (Fred has a season ticket package for the Mets, so he drives down to see the game on Saturday, then drives back to play games on Sunday. That's a guy who loves the game.)
So, we're a bit banged up in some spots this week. We'll see what happens. I'll be doing the managing again, at least in game two. Jack will be there at the start of the day, but has a family commitment to attend to later. He's asked me to fill in for him as I did last week. If I find us down in game two, and I need to rally the troops, I might consider a "Let's win one for the New York Jew Boy!" speech.
(I know that sounds as politically incorrect as can be, but if it's OK with Freddy - and I guarantee it is - then it had better be OK for you, too.)
Something I forgot to mention last week (and I should be kicked in the ass for forgetting to do so)...
Big Jay Atton, with his win in game two, broke the all-time record for wins by a pitcher in a Bombers uniform. It was Big Jay's 31st career victory, breaking Jimmy Jackson's record of 30.
The reason I should be kicked in the ass is because Big Jay was so kind to me when I got my 300th hit in 2011. He stopped that game and retrieved the ball from the pitcher, for me to have as a memento. That was a nice gesture. I owed him at least as much for his milestone.
Here's what happened.
Reds - 3 BOMBERS - 1
Reds - 10 BOMBERS - 9
Two games we could have won, but we didn't. No complaints. The Reds won them, fair and square. More power to them. I wish we had them in our division, though, because I'd sure like another shot at them in the regular season. It won't happen. We only play them the once, so if we want revenge it would have to be in the championship. It could happen. No way of knowing until 9 or 10 weeks from now.
In the first game, we got a pitching gem from Brian Pacheco. He just joined the team this week. Great guy. I've known him for several years from the M Street Softball League in Southie. With Big Jay Atton not available for us this week, he was recruited to take care of a game pitching. And he did a marvelous job of it, too, holding the Reds scoreless through the first 5 innings.
We took a 1 - 0 lead into the bottom of the 6th. Our bats were fairly dead throughout. The only run was driven in by Joey Baszkiewicz, Pacheco's catcher, back in the 2nd inning. Joey Baz has been a hitting machine so far this season, coming through in the clutch over and over. With two outs, and Tom Resor on second base, Joey stroked one, coming through again.
Bottom of the 6th brought the only crack in Pacheco's game. He gave up a leadoff home run to tie it, walked the next batter, then another home run gave the Reds all the cushion they needed. In the 7th, I led off by lining softly to short center for the first out. Jimmy Botting (4 for 7 in the doubleheader, one of the few bright spots with the bat) singled, but he was erased, and so was the game, on a 5 - 4 - 3 double play. Give the Reds credit. They played good defense all the way.
Game two was a bit harder to swallow.
Robbie Costello took the mound and he looked great, even coming off of his hairline fracture. Our bats showed some life, and we led 5 - 0 through four complete. In the top of the 5th, Robbie gave up a single and two walks, to load the bases with none out. Next batter hit a decent ground ball to me at first base. I couldn't corral it cleanly, but recovered in time to make a flip to Pacheco - playing second base in this game - who had hustled over to cover the bag. We got the out, but a run scored. After another base on balls, bases are loaded with one out. Robbie was squeezed a bit by the ump, walked in a run, making it 5 - 2, then it fell apart for us. An error let in another two, a sacrifice fly scored the run that tied it, then two singles followed to put the Reds up 6 - 5.
We tied it in the bottom of the 6th. Tom Resor singled with one out, and, after a second out, scored on an M. J. McCabe double. Costello walked, but we couldn't get either of them home.
In the Reds seventh, it was 3 hits, 2 errors, another sac fly... 10 - 6.
Bottom of the 7th, last call, the first two batters reach. Pacheco singles sharply to score one. I'm up. I hit it hard, but right at the shortstop, possible double-play ball. Pacheco was forced at second, but the throw to first skipped by the first baseman, out of play, as Dave Nutter scored, 10 - 8. I took second on the bad throw.
Jimmy Botting singled, sending Pacheco (running for me) to third. Pat Atton walked, loading the bases. The situation is three men on, one out, trailing by two. And Mark Preziosi, big stick, coming to the plate.
For the next bit of play-by-play, you have to understand Mark's day so far. He had absolutely crushed the ball to left field three or four times already, but the Reds were playing him somewhere in downtown Chelsea, about 300 feet. All of those shots had been chased down for outs, unfortunately. My thinking at this point (I'm coaching third) is that Mark is likely to launch another moonshot. If it goes for a hit, wonderful. We win. If not, I've got the fastest guy on the team on second base. Pacheco will score on the sac fly and I'm willing to take a chance at sending Jimmy Botting for two bases on the sacrifice. That would tie it. They would need to make two good throws to get him - left fielder to cut off, cut off to catcher. Jimmy has a 50 - 50 chance of beating a good throw. A bad throw is a sure thing for us.
(The other scenario is to stop Jimmy at third base, leaving us with two on, two out, and Tom Resor coming up. That's not anything to sneeze at. Tom's a fine hitter. But I figure when you have a very good shot in that situation, take it. Not that I wouldn't trust Tom to deliver, but you have two outs either way and the opportunity is there, and it's a bit of a surprising play, they need two good throws, a good tag...)
Mark launched the deep fly I had anticipated. Pacheco scored easily, making it 10 - 9, and I sent Jimmy careening around third to try and tie it. They made the throws and the tag. We lose.
Right call? I don't know. Since it didn't work, I guess I have to say no. I think it does work more often than not, though, so I'm not destroying myself with second thoughts.
We remain in first place in our division, with a record of 4 - 2, but we now share that lead with the Renegades. Since we have beaten them twice, though, we hold the tiebreaker. Next week we have the winless Courtesy Flush to play, so the prospects are good for us to get healthy.
BOMBERS STATS HERE
(Since it's my blog, I know some of you care about my stats. I was a fairly weak 1 for 5, 1 run scored, 1 RBI. I didn't kill us at first base, but I didn't do us too many favors, either. Pretty average, I suppose. Eh. With the coaching decisions, I'm not the happiest guy in the world, but it's not so bad I'm going to have arsenic with my dinner or something.)
Soon, with more.