Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Finally a Champion (Baseball Part Two)

My two boys enjoy sports. I’ve said that here before. Their experiences are a little different. My younger son plays baseball and has added football. He is pushing us to let him play basketball this coming winter. Though my older son has played basketball and soccer, he prefers baseball and plays that both fall and spring.

They are competitive with each other, when it comes to sports, even though their likes are different. I’m guessing brothers are like that. One of things they’ve competed on is Championships. Each of them was in a Championship game a couple of years ago. My younger son’s team won their game and brought home the trophy.

My older son’s team lost a heartbreaker, up two runs in the final inning before losing by one. I remember that latter game very well. My older son’s team trailed by one going into the final inning and he was first up. He finagled a walk, stole second, and then was brought home for the tying run by a teammate’s hit to center. I remember that my son missed home plate and I began yelling at him to go back and touch it before he got called out. (He didn’t listen to me, but he did listen to his coaches who had realized it as well.)

This season brought my older son back to his second championship game and a shot at finally matching his brother.

My older son is in his first year of Pony League, having moved up last fall. Most kids in Pony are in either 8th or 9th grade. (My son is in finishing 7th grade.) It's his fifth year overall to play. He started in Minor leagues, and then went into Major. Now, he’s completed his first year of Pony.

And it was a nervous night for parents.

To begin with, my son’s team, the Mill Creek Tigers, had an excellent season this spring and were seeded #1 in their post-season tournament. It meant they got to skip the opening round, playing the winner of the game between the #4 and #5 seeds. They had a good night in that second round game and propelled themselves to the championship two days later.

And that’s what brought the nervousness. The Championship game was against the #3 seed, the Mill Creek Reds, a team that started the season slow but finished strong. They were the only team my son’s team didn’t beat during the season. The Tigers played two games against the Reds and both were close. In each game, my son’s team fell apart in one inning and that was the difference.

In this game, it looked to be different. Going into the top of the 5th inning of a seven-inning game, the Tigers led the Reds 9-2. And then the roof caved in. The Reds scored seven runs in one inning, the maximum allowed, tying it up. With the score tied 9-9, my son’s team managed to plate another run in their half of the 5th and made it 10-9.

With hearts in our throats, the Tiger parents watch as the Reds threatened in the 6th and 7th but couldn’t score. The final was Tigers 10, Reds 9. And my son had the championship and trophy he so desperately wanted and that my wife and I wanted for him.

Pony is a different league from the previous ones that little kids play in because Pony is where kids start to drop out of some rec league sports either to play on school teams or concentrate on other sports. In all the leagues below Pony, there are plenty of teams in the league to make up a good season. For Pony (and higher levels), the rec league combines its season with another rec league in order to produce a full slate of games.

My son is looking forward to playing baseball again in the fall and then again in the spring. I do not know, however, if he’ll play beyond that. He’s recognized that his talents may not match his love for the game. Also, there are things he wants to do in high school that may not allow room for baseball.

He’s had great seasons and has game balls from all the times he played, except for this season. The coach didn’t believe in game balls, saying that baseball was a team sport and that the team won or lost. My son understands this. Of all the game balls he has won, one of them is extra special. One season, he had a coach that only gave out a game ball if the team won. The team went .500 that season. My son received one of the game balls for having a two-hit day in which his second hit brought home both the tying and winning run. Until this season, nothing had eclipsed that ball.

Congratulations to my son and to the Mill Creek Tigers.


Keli Gwyn said...

Congratulations to your son!

Walt Mussell said...

Thanks, Keli. He's still happy about and the after season party will be here soon.