Life in the Minors

By Brendan Segara

Sunday, June 2, 2002

A delay to the long-
awaited opening day

If there is one certainty in this world, it is that the baseball gods have a sense of humor.

As if the eight months away from real, actual professional baseball weren't enough, the powers that be saw it fit Thursday to make a certain pitching coach wait just one more day to participate in his first minor-league game of the season. Well, his first complete game at least.

After two weeks of whittling down our spring training invite list from 34 to 24, and watching our guys play intrasquad after intrasquad, I was just about ready to see our guys play someone in a different uniform.

My eyes and my energy were weary after charting and assessing what had to be about 80 total pitcher innings of spring-training action.

I was ready to play ball.

Arriving at League Stadium on opening day Wednesday was a long-awaited event. Our uniforms in hand, we checked in at the souvenir shop, where we received our game caps and our batting practice caps.

Our gold sanitary socks were handed out, stirrups were placed in our hands, the position players picked out some new wood for the season. It was like Christmas in May.

The field was primed and primped, the chalk was pristine white, the gold "D" painted behind home plate was immaculate, the diamond seemed to glow in the Midwestern afternoon sun. Don Henley's "Boys of Summer" slamming over the PA system -- I was getting downright giddy.

Pre-game festivities seemed to fly by. Batting practice, pre-game infield and outfield, took no time at all.

Before I knew it I was in the clubhouse dressing in my home white uniform on the way to warming up the night's starting pitcher.

Right about when I began to put the finishing touches on, weaving my green leather belt through the belt loops of my white Rawlings pants, it felt like everything was right. Getting paid to go to the ballpark and put a uniform on everyday -- I like it very much.

As I headed down the tunnel toward our home dugout I heard a few storm clouds checking in a few miles down the road. Coming to see the ballgame I thought.

Well, as pregame introductions were winding down, and Dragon booster club member John Kendall belted out our national anthem, it became more apparent that Mother Nature was ready to participate in this ballgame.

By the time the first inning wrapped up, the grounds crew had already taken their places at the side of our field tarp down the third-base line.

Needless to say, an inning and a half into the action, the game got banged. Postponed until the next day.

Well, OK. Eight months of offseason gone by -- what's another day?

A funny thing happened on the way to the ballpark the next day. The Dragon Dog I had gulped down on "opening night" apparently did not sit well in my stomach. Or something else I had ingested that night perhaps.

A few moments after returning home to my host mother Viola Scherry's house, I was on a direct course for the bathroom.

No it wasn't time to do the whole nightly brush my teeth thing, I apparently had become the victim of a rather vicious case of food poisoning -- or maybe an allergic reaction to something I had eaten. I can't figure that out, nor do I really care.

All I know is that I was sick something fierce.

Projectile vomiting completed, a good two hours later I was ready to sleep. Right there on the bathroom floor where I passed out.

Luckily our team trainer Michelle Landis and my roommate and good buddy Rick Kuwahara were there to, well, clean up after me. Sorry, guys.

Waking the next morning was an ordeal in itself. As I stumbled back to my bedroom from the bathroom floor, I felt like I had taken a hundred Mike Tyson body shots to the ribcage -- one of which would have had to struck me square in the throat to account for the discomfort I felt that morning.

Everything I tried to drink or eat just would not cooperate. So at about 2 p.m., when I should have been headed for the ballpark, I was flat on my back.

I was going to miss our real opening day, a makeup double-header with the Gateway Grizzlies.

Apparently at about 6 p.m., right about when the first pitch of the evening was hurled plateward by one of our right-handers, Jeremiah Tipton, the baseball gods saw it fit to at least let me enjoy the game over the radio.

A can of soup prepared by the ever pleasant Ms. Scherry, a retired schoolteacher and grandmother of many, and I was back in business. The soup stuck. I was on the road to recovery. Finally.

After an episode like that I was ready to go when I hopped out of bed today. Although the wait for "my" opening day was long and, well, painful for one night, it may have been worth the wait. Maybe the baseball gods just wanted me to appreciate the beauty of tonight's game a little more.

One of our rookie pitchers made his first Frontier League performance a memorable one, working the first seven innings of our team's first shutout of the year. It was pretty and, thankfully, painless.

Maybe the baseball gods just wanted me to slow down a bit, you know, let the anticipation build a bit. Maybe they just wanted me to appreciate the opportunities I've been given.

Note to baseball gods: I got the memo. A flat tire would have been plenty. No illness required.

Brendan Sagara, a former University of Hawaii-Hilo
pitcher, is in his second year as pitching coach for
the Dubois County (Ind.) Dragons.

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