Saturday, October 13, 2012

Our Boys of Summer Play On

The first half of October is a visual smorgasbord here in southwestern Ontario.

The reds, the golds, the browns …

The frost …

The end .,,

Still there are remnants of summer past left lying around … the ball diamonds still have players practicing, the decks all still have tables with umbrellas unfurled, the sun still feels warm to the skin as it reaches its daily apex.

But soon those summer artifacts will all be packed up as though raked into piles like the brilliantly covered leaves that could no longer cling to their branches.

Thank god there's still ball.

The young ladies of the Turtle Club Athletics team continue to practice outside as long as the precipitation stays away and the temperature stays warmish. Once that evacuates to make way for the undeniable oncoming of winter – the young players and their coaches will move into a gym at a French school on the other side of our little village.

The Detroit Tigers are still contending in post season baseball – having defeated the last-minute winners of the American League West – the Oakland A’s – who wear the uniform that inspired our Lady Athletics from the Turtle Club copied and turned into girlie versions of green with gold trim.

I much prefer the old Turtle Club logo. As silly as some may think a turtle could be to represent a high quality baseball team – it means the world to us with its legacy behind it.

But now they wear the same cursive styled spelling of Athletics that the dastardly Oakland Centerfielder Coco Crisp wears.

As a Tiger fan, I despise Coco Crisp.

Crisp (whose name likely violates Nestle Copyright and Trademark rights) single handedly kept the Athletics of Oakland in this series with jump catches robbing home runs and base hits that drove in tying and winning runs and base stealing’s to move into position to score and cause various accounts of trouble that base runners distract middle relief and closing pitchers with.

Crisp got into the Tiger’s players heads.

And their fans too.

But the Tigers rendered the Oakland A’s - seemingly a team of destiny – to merely another remnant, another artifact of autumns transition to winter.

Most have a favorite sport. Mine is baseball. My daughter’s is fast pitch softball. I talk about the two as though they are the same.

But ball is so unique – no other game is like it – not even Cricket.

No other sport is so North American – even though it’s played seriously and elegantly as far away as Japan.

The smell of the red-clay dirt of the infield as the leather bound and red thread stitched ball bounces through the freshly cut grass of the infield – into the thick padded leather glove – and the throwing hand reaches inside that glove to grasp the ball and hurl it across the infield to first base – mastering the balancing challenges of a bent over runner reaching, clasping, grasping, and then planting and throwing.

And the outstretched gloved hand of the first baseman straining to meet the ball in flight before the runner who hit the ball travels at their fastest sprint up the first baseline to stomp on first base.

Safe? Or Out?

The question answered throughout the course of the game.

Where is the next play to be?

Ashley-Rae (with Rally Towel
waving in my face)
and I at ALDS Game 2 vs, Oakland
 As I sat in the stands with my ten year old daughter Ashley-Rae, watching the second playoff game between my beloved Tigers and those bastardly A’s – I continually challenged her with that question – pointing to the situation on the field.

So Ash, they got a man on second – Coco Crisp - and one out – what does Miguel Cabrera do if they hit the ball to him at third

Ashley looked at the field as though it were a math problem and solved almost like pretending to write with chalk on a chalkboard.

You check the runner at second to hold him then you throw it with all you got to first, and you can’t throw a big loopy throw, you gotta throw it hard so it gets there fast Daddy”, replied Ashley-Rae.

We punched fists in celebration of her correct answer. Then she adjusted the brim of her Turtle Club All Star team hat with the same greens and golds as the Athletics A’s hats – only her hat has a gold TC instead of an A.

I love that hat.

And she was wearing her Justin Verlander fan t-shirt over a sweatshirt.

My girls understand baseball.

Maybe they don’t understand everything totally yet, like the infield fly rule. But apparently even some post season National League umpires don’t exactly understand the complexities of the infield fly rule either – having cost the Atlanta Braves their post season chances in a single game wild card elimination match against St. Louis.

I hate the St. Louis Cardinals too.

Now as we move into the third week of October, and the playoff contenders dropping off at the same rate as the leaves from Windsor trees, our beloved Tigers pick up the American League Championship Series – the ALCS – against the even more dastardly – even more bastardly New York Yankees – led by my favorite short stop who I cannot stand – Derek Jeeter and their former Tiger center fielder Curtis Granderson.

Our pitching army of Verlander, Fister, and Scherzer, with a side of Sanchez will do their best to stifle the bats of the Big Apple pin-stripers. And the clout of Triple Crown winner Cabrera, 1st baseman Fielder, and a slew of other guys on this squad who can easily run into a home run now and then – they will do their best outpace the Yankee hitters through nine innings.

And whoever wins gets to play in the World Series.

And whoever loses – their boys of summer will fall into winter like the umbrella on my back deck that still needs to be furled up and put up in the rafters of the garage.

Ready for next year.

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