June 13, 2005

For the longest time, there wasn't much to say.  Then something happens and you want to take the time to update everyone on what's going on but you simply have no time.  Well that's where I've been the last few weeks.  Of course the updates are kid related as that's just about all we do now a days, but it sure has been a lot of fun.  

To begin with, Tracey was drafted up to the senior league for softball.  We thought this was going to be a great thing for her.  She would be able to play up with some girls older than her with more experience and better skills and this would improve her skills even more.  Then they started playing the games.  This team, for lack of a better or more appropriate word, sucks.   They couldn't win a game if the other team only fielded seven ten year olds.  OK, that's a little strong and I suppose they would have a fifty/fifty shot at winning the game, but still.   We feel just horrible for Tracey.  The worst thing is, they've had to forfeit a few games because they can't even get nine girls to show up regularly and there are twelve girls on the team.  It's just sad.  Although after Tyler's season (highlights of which are still to come), it is kind of nice to go to a game and not really care about the outcome because we already know what that will be.

And now for the other side of the coin.  Tyler was drafted to play on the A's this season - a minor club in the Deer Valley Little League.  The same league that sent there major club to the regionals in California before being knocked out of the tournament on their way to the Little League World Series.  Tyler's coach has the name for baseball, Bagwell.  You could see right away that he's been a student of the game because he knew mechanics and basics of all the positions on the field.  In addition to being a student of the game, he is also a teacher of math to our youth and thus has the patience and knowledge of how to teach children and get the most out of them.  The team that he had drafted was a hodge podge of talents.  Kids that have never played the game before (six of them) and six that had played of varying skill levels.  Tyler turned out to be one of the top two kids at the beginning of the season and needless to say, we were a little disappointed.  We were hoping that he could get on a team with some better players who could help teach him the game.  But you must play the hand your dealt so we begin the season.

The season began back in March on a tear.  How were we to know that the A's would win 3 of the first 4 and have a record of 6 and 4 after ten games with this mismatched group of kids?  I guess only one really knew and that was Coach Bagwell.  He continiued to work these kids hard in practice and run through drills - the basics of the game.  If you can handle a ball, know what to do with the ball if it comes to you in play and you can throw a ball then you can run with anybody.  Offense scores runs (which he worked on endlessly as well) but defense stops the other team and can win you games.  The A's were in the hunt for first at this time and maybe started to believe they were invincable as they finished the last six games with a 1, 4 and 1 record.  This left the A's in 5th place with a 7 win, 8 loss and 1 tie record (or so we thought).

The league took a week off to allow for graduations, promotions and end of school activities with the Tournament scheduled to start June 1.  The official standings showed the A's in 7th place and we couldn't understand why?  Come to find out that the league doesn't accept tie games.  Every team was supposed to schedule and complete the tie games.  We weren't able to do that for one reason or another so we ended the season with a tie.  The league counted the tie as a loss and put the A's at the bottom of the three way time sending us down to 7th place in the standings even though the tie breakers put us back up in 5th place.  We tried to fight the decision but to no avail and as I said before, we played the hand that we were dealt.  

June 1st, we're scheduled to play the 10th place team - our friends the Yankees.  We were happy to see them again and quickly dispatched them to the losers bracket.  However that win meant that we played the 2nd seed next, the dreaded Dodger blue.  There's something about this team that makes the hair on the back of our necks stand on end.  This is the team of all teams that we struggle with the most and probably fear the most as they are tough to beat.  With that being said, they quickly dispatched us to the losers bracket leaving us to play our way through every day to have a chance at the title.  We all thought this wasn't likely after the Dodger loss Friday night.

Little league rules are strict when it comes to pitching in the minors.  If you pitch one inning, you are unavailable the next day.  If you pitch four innings in one game you are unavailable for three days (meaning you can pitch on Monday and Friday in the same week).  You are limited to pitching a total of six innings in a week.  With these rules in place, Coach had to figure out a way to get his three pitchers through the week winning every game.  A daunting task to some, but Coach studied and worked and decided that throughout the week we were going to have to throw position players in to pitch where we could, trying to preserve the pitchers we had for the next games all the while being forced to win the game or go home.  There's no pressure for these nine and ten year olds, they just want to go out and play.  But for us parents, we wanted to win as long as we could and show the league that we weren't a seventh place team.  We were better than that.

Monday finally rolled around and the A's are slated to face the Pirates.  We end up being the home team and we are forced to use two of our best pitchers, Gilbert and Adam.  We played the Pirates well but Gilbert struggled in the 3rd forcing Coach to put Adam in to pitch.  After dropping a few runs and losing the lead, we're now struggling to battle back and not doing that well.  In the bottom of the 5th (what would end up being the last inning due to time constraints) the A's were down 3 to the Pirates and our players were looking rather glum.  But the Pirates tried to pull a fast one.  They left their pitcher in to pitch a fifth inning.  They can't do that.  Coach called them on it and the rules were pulled out and the Pirates were forced to change pitchers.  They didn't have anyone available so they through in their first baseman.  Nice and steady stroke that our players could hit if they were patient and selective on their swings.  Plus we were at the top of our order with Austin leading off.

Austin worked a good at bat and was able to earn a walk.  Adam hit the ball back to the pitcher who fielded it and threw Adam out at first but Austin moved up to second.  Griff got a double scoring Austin leaving us down 2 with a runner on second.  Our Tyler came up to bat and worked the count full before finally drawing a walk.  Big John, the power hitter of the line-up also earned a walk all the while a couple passed balls allowed Griff to score putting us down by 1 with one out and two on.   Andrew comes up to bat who has struggled all season at the plate but he worked the count full before watching strike three cross the plate.  Brandon steps into the batters box to take his turn at the plate

Brandon is a first year player with a lot of natural talent but not enough playing time in him yet.  He has struggled at the plate mightily and I bow my head in doubt about the season.  A passed ball allows the runners to advance to 2nd and 3rd.  Another passed ball could tie it up if luck went our way.  But it wasn't to be.  The next pitch was dead on target for the catchers mit.   The only thing standing in it's way and strike three was Brandon's bat and I'll be damned if Brandon didn't connect on that thing sending it into the outfield for a double allowing Tyler and John to score to win the game.  Sitting here now, I have goose bumps running the length of my arms.  The stands erupted with the most joyous cheers a minor league game has ever heard.  The A's battled back to play another day.   There was joy in mudville that day - but what were we left with for pitching that next day?   Only our number one pitcher and a position player to be named later.  

The next day comes around and the A's come up against the Red Sox.  A team that we have struggled with all season long and the team that knocked the number 1 seed Giants out the first game.  This was going to be a mighty tough game and with only our number one available.  What was the mightly Bagwell to do?  He decided to throw a pair of Tyler's at them.  Tyler Griffith (Griff) is a shortstop and outfielder who has pitched in the past but hasn't faired to well.  But we had nothing else to throw.  It turned out the mighty Bagwell had done good as Griff went 2 and 1/3 innings before tiring and giving way to Tyler (yes, our Tyler) to hopefully close it out if time was on our side.  And it was. Tyler came in and mowed them down. Not allowing a run giving us an easy victory over the Red Sox sending them packing like the Pirates the day before.  It's the end of day four and we've played every day only losing one.  We're not supposed to be here, yet here we are battling against time.  Who will be next up for the mighty Bagwell and his band of vengeful A's?  None other than the dreaded Dodger blue.

The nemisis of the A's.  But we've been playing well.  They were beaten to be here in the losers bracket with us.  This will be a game of wills, emotions and mental toughness for the A's.   The A's know the game and are playing at the top of it.  They're firing on all twelve cylindars.  If they can overcome the mental aspect of the opponent there isn't a reason we couldn't win.  At least that's what us parents were telling ourselves knowing deep down that this might be our last game of the season.  The A's are home and Dodgers bat first taking a two nothing lead into the bottom of the first.  The A's come back fighting to tie it up at two after one.  Gilbert was strong on the mound and struck out two of the next four ending the half inning with no runs crossing home plate.  The A's continued where they left off scoring two in the bottom of the second never looking back.  This game wasn't as stressful or breath-taking as the come from behind win against the Pirates on Monday but it was just as sweet.  The A's topped the Dodger blue 7 to 3 and it was the most significant and emotional win of the tournament.  To be able to dispatch the Dodgers to the sidelines was a great feeling.   And then there three.

Thursday.  Day four of the baseball marathon that our lives turned into that week and day six of the tournament.  We've seen some great baseball this week and been a part of a lot of it.  Emotionally and physically I think all of us parents are drained but we hope our players are still at the top of their game.   We work all day and cheer all night for them while they rest up for the next opponent who are the Astros.   We've beat them twice this season but Griff is gone.  A scheduled vacation that couldn't be changed leaving us without our surprise fourth pitcher.  Now what is mighty Bagwell to do?  The same as last time, he throws a second baseman at them.  Austin did well getting through the first inning only allowing two runs.  The A's came back to tie it up and we sent our second baseman out again for the second inning.  He struggled a little more this time and didn't get a lot of help defensively from his infield.  Everyone looked a little tight - not loose and fresh like they had before.  Our second baseman allowed two runs and then loaded the bases.  The next batter cleared the bases with the A's ending the half inning down by 5.  Our bats fell silent and we didn't score any runs.  The mental mistakes started to add up and the A train was headed for derailment.   A beautiful run had come to an end with the A's falling to the Astros 14 to 6.

It was disappointing to lose that way after everything we had overcome to get there.  But we simply ran out of steam.  We played 6 games and went 4 and 2.  The winner of the tournament only played four games and the Astros played five.  What a run Coach.  From the beginning of the season, we should never have been there.  The way we ended the season, we should have never been there.   From the rankings and the hand that was dealt us, we should never have been there.  But we were and we made everyone sit up and take notice of the A's.  Thanks Coach Bagwell.  For a terrific season and one hell of a run in the tournament.  It was a blast.

Sorry for the long post all, but I hope you enjoyed my rants.  I hope to spend a little more time at home now with the season winding down and I hope to update this page a little more frequently than I have in the past.  I know, we'll see what happens next to throw a wrench into the spokes this time.  Thanks again for stopping by and I'll be typing at you later.  Take care everyone.