Life In The Minors
AS I sit in my usual seat on our team bus amidst the laughter of our 30 or so players and staff watching the Hanson brothers bash it out with every team in the Federal League in "Slap Shot," I can't help but laugh and shake my head as I reflect on this bizarre past week.
Bizarre week in
The various episodes that took place on and in between the playing fields of the Frontier League were part "Field of Dreams," part "King of the Hill," part "Rocky," and completely entertaining.
Our "Field of Dreams" episode came Tuesday during the sixth and seventh innings of the second game of our doubleheader against the third-place River City Rascals at home in Huntingburg.
The whole day had been a string of strange occurrences. After getting rained out on the previous day, we were forced to play two seven-inning contests in a little bit of humidity and a whole lot of mud.
After 13 innings of semi-normal baseball, the evening took a quick turn. At about 1 a.m. with about a dozen faithful Dragons fans still awake, we were batting in the bottom of the sixth.
With two outs, our third batter and right fielder Dustin Delucchi took a first pitch for ball one.
Before the next pitch, a massive fog rolled in and settled over the playing surface of League Stadium, prompting the umpiring crew to call a delay.
The whole scene of the Rascals, in their early 1900s-style uniforms, complete with baggy pants and high socks emerging from behind the wall of fog was surreal -- as if a scene from "Field of Dreams" had just come to life. Many of the players ran for their cameras to capture the very odd image.
The delay eventually ended, and with just his black spikes peeking out from the bottom of the fog, River City left fielder Travis Dawson settled under Delucchi's fly ball on the next pitch to end the inning. At least that's how we think it happened. When we took the field in the top of the seventh, the fog had only partially dissipated. Ahead 9-2, we sent one of our top relievers, Brent Kelley, to the hill to close the game, even though we could not see the upper half of any of our outfielders.
The first out was a, uh, routine pop-up to our second baseman. The next batter struck out.
The third batter of the inning sent a fly ball to center field-ish, where Kurt Fillmore tried desperately to locate the ball as it dropped 40 feet to his right.
After another brief delay, River City sent its baserunner back to second base where he was ordered to get picked off by his manager to bring a merciful end to the game.
A day later, we were bussing it off to Ohio for a two-game set with the Canton Crocodiles. One problem -- our bus broke down. After trekking the first nine or so hours of the nine-and-a-half-hour trip, our bus could take no more. So, Bussee busted out his cell phone and rang up some help. So there we were, half asleep, groggy and grouchy, and stuck on the side of a freeway at about 9 in the morning. Our radiator hose had busted.
To our rescue came a character that had to be straight out of an episode of the animated series, "King of the Hill." The skinny, 5-foot mechanic came fully equipped with a NASCAR cap, a pair of $5 sunglasses from Wal-Mart, some tight fitting Wranglers, and a half-smoked cigarette poking out one end of his mouth.
I believe his first words were, "So, I hear somebody got hosed here."
The highlight (actually lowlight) of the week came following our loss at Canton in the series finale on Thursday. Our bullpen, as focused as ever, passed the time between the first and sixth innings by tuning in to the play-by-play of the game on the Crocodiles' radio station. It turns out that the team's general manager went on air for a little color commentary, and proceeded to bash our third baseman, Pichi Balet, on everything from his name, to steroid allegations, to his fielding miscues.
Once word got to Pichi, he went "Rocky."
Standing outside the team's office following our game, Pichi was ready to tear into someone, anyone and everyone.
No small guy, he paced and shouted outside the stadium, waiting for the Crocs' GM to step outside, while the rest of us were showering.
Although it would have been a sight to see our 22-year-old all-star beat the stars out of a pudgy 50-year-old, cooler heads prevailed. Especially since the GM refused to open his door.
It's a good thing he didn't say anything about his mother.
Brendan Sagara, a former University of Hawaii-Hilo pitcher,
is in his first season as a pitching coach for the
Dubois County (Ind.) Dragons