A recap of unusual things witnessed in 2009 throughout baseball parks in North and South Carolina
By Craig Shipman
I have heard it said before that if you sit at a ball field long enough, you will see it all. Well, this year took me to plenty of fields and even though I covered 210 games in 2009 for Junior Diamond Prospects, I don't think I have come close yet to seeing it all. While each of the dedicated players, Moms and Dads probably have their own unique views and stories, here are 10 of the most unusual, wacky, and downright bizarre moments I witnessed during baseball in 2009.
10. Gimme a Break - On a day that was hotter than blue blazes at the George Poston Complex in Gastonia, the home plate blue was even hotter than that. With each successive pitch, the home plate umpire seemed to lose more and more focus. Coaches cooled him down between innings as best they could with sports drinks and ice wraps, but total relief was only felt once the game had ended and the umpire could be moved to an area with air conditioning. While everyone admired his dedication, everyone needs to remember when to take a break. Thanks to all those dedicated umpires, but please look out for your own personal health.
9. Not Tinkers to Evers to Chance - A double play can be the momentum swing a team needs. It turns promise into tragedy for the offensive team. At younger age groups, the most common double plays are catch and shoot fly balls or line drives caught and thrown behind runners. The strike ‘em out and throw ‘em out is rare. A double play seen in Mount Pleasant was even more unusual. With a runner on second base, a nice bunt by the South Eastern Predators was fielded by the catcher of the Goose Creek Diamondbacks, but the throw to first pulled the first baseman off the bag. The lead runner never hesitated rounding third, but on this day, that decision would not fare him well. An accurate throw to the plate resulted in the first out. The catcher then saw the batter breaking for second. He would not let him escape twice on this play and threw him out there for the 2-3-2-6 twin killing.
8. No Parking Zone - A 13 year-old taught the driver of a moving car a lesson during the homerun hitting contest at the U.S.S.S.A. Team SC tryout in October at a field in Lexington, SC. Who hasn't seen a car hit at their local complex, but those were usually foul balls. This was a dead red, screaming shot hit off of "FungoMan" that was deposited over the wall, striking a moving car pulling into the parking lot. It was a real crowd pleaser (except for the driver of the car)!
7. Going, Going, Gone ... Again - I know the thought of back to back homeruns is pretty common, but for 10-year olds? I saw it happen at Park Circle in July when two players from the Red Dogs each went yard. The excitement level for a second trip to the plate is not diminished in young players for this type of achievement. By the way, that game was won by the Red Dogs on a homerun from a third player.
6. Slow and Steady Wins the Race - In what could have been dubbed the Mud Bowl at Murrells Inlet in December, one young man learned a lesson about teamwork. Conditions were much more conducive for football than baseball on the day in question. To say it was a slow track would have been an understatement. On a day when batted balls hit the mud and stuck, a Coastal Carolina Sharks pitcher fielded a routine bunt very close to the mound. Instead of flipping the ball to first for the out, the pitcher opted to take it himself, although he was pretty far from the bag. The batter, although not apparently fleet afoot, did what he had been taught and ran it out. This time, the pitcher was too bogged down to get to the bag and the runner was ruled safe while a beleaguered first baseman stood at the bag and watched the play.
5. Turn Out the Lights, the Party's Over - A foul ball in the first inning of the first game of the Global Sports World Series in North Charleston (10U) at the Pepperhill Complex sent fans screaming and running for cover when the ball off the bat of a Carolina Cyclones' batter connected squarely with a light and rained down glass on the fans of the Red Dogs. I've seen a countless number of balls bouncing off light standards at the collegiate level and been in squirrel and snake induced blackouts at Legion fields when transformers blew up, but this deluge of glass was a new one for me. By the way, no injuries were reported.
4. How Many Stolen Bases for That? - It was hard to know which way they were coming or going at the J.B. "Red" Owens Wagon Wheel Complex in Easley this fall. A Flames base runner stole second on ball three. When he realized that it was not ball four, he unexpectedly started trotting back toward first base. The Palmetto Diamondbacks did not realize it was a live ball soon enough and they gave up a "reverse" steal of first. The runner would not have additional stolen base opportunities that inning, advancing on hits and an error. I wonder how many stolen bases he was credited with during that inning? He stole second once and first once during the frame. Does the reversal cancel the first stolen base? Or can you steal first?
3. Eight Men Out (in the field) - The Carolina Reds found themselves in an unusual predicament at a Park Circle field while facing the Chain Dirt Dawgs. The Reds arrived with only nine players and when one was confined to the dugout after a collision at home plate, they were left with only eight players to play defensively in the field. Fortunately for them, it was the last inning. Opting to use only two outfielders, all three outs were recorded by the "left-centerfielder" and the Reds won the game.
2. Neither rain, nor sleet, nor ... - I have watched some bad weather games. I have sweated to the triple digit days with humidity so thick it could be cut with a knife. I have been drenched in the rain and even watched the Carolina Reds and 29er Prep battle it out in the snow at King's Mountain, but rarely do things outside the weather elements halt play. If they do, it is almost always a bird or a squirrel, but at George Poston Complex, the game between the SC Storm and Mallard Creek Cyclones was halted due to the players disturbing a ground hornets' nest. If you have ever stumbled onto one of these, you know that halting the game was the right call, but certainly one I have not seen before. The game did resume after ample insect spray was applied to the field.
And the #1 Bizarre Play of 2009 is.......