High IQs don't always mean baseball smarts


POSTED: Sunday, June 28, 2009

If there were ever a year in which I'd like to have our players tested for intelligence, this would be the one.

It's not that I haven't had teammates in past years who walked around with high IQs, but I think we have the market cornered on smart guys this season. Our starting third baseman, Randy Molina, and one of our bullpen arms, David Stringer, were teammates at Stanford, and helped the Cardinal to a College World Series berth last season. Our fourth outfielder, Tom Stack-Babich, recently joined us after completing his Ivy League career at Harvard.

Word is that Molina has, on occasion, finished entire novels on bus trips this year, a major accomplishment considering that Sports Illustrated and Maxim are more likely to be on our team bus than “;War and Peace.”;

But in our series opener at home against the Gateway Grizzlies this past week, there was a little lack of smarts and a bit of bad luck in the top of the ninth inning.

With a 9-5 lead and our closer Mike Phelps heading out to the mound to wrap up the game, all seemed well. Mike has been among league leaders all season in saves, a year after posting a 0.40 ERA here in a month of work.

But someone forgot to hand a copy of the script to the Grizzlies. After watching Gateway rally for four runs to tie the game, we were all pretty steamed. No one apparently was more upset than Phelps. He was so angry, in fact, that he stormed off the field and made a beeline to the bathroom in our dugout.

He planned to let off some steam in an area that could pass for a vault at the Federal Reserve. With cement walls about 2 feet thick on each side and a sturdy steel door sealing it off, the bathroom is actually darn near soundproof.

After a huge door slam that ripped our dugout lineup card off the wall, there were a few moments of muzzled screams, which I could only assume was a fine version of the French language.

Standing in my usual spot at the left corner of the dugout, I didn't witness any of the antics myself, but was well within earshot to hear all the happenings. After a few moments, we could all hear a clicking sound from the other side of the door.

With our ballclub trying to rally to win the game in the bottom of the ninth, our closer was locked inside our dugout bathroom. Mike had slammed the door so hard that the lock on the solid steel door broke.

At this point, a few of our players and our clubbie Jeff Pink moved toward the door and tried to talk Mike through the process of trying to get the door open. Soon, our grounds crew chief sprang into action, with power drill in hand.

But even after removing the screws from the hinges, they could not work Mike out of the bathroom. Turns out, that solid steel door is really heavy, and pretty hard for one man to push off the hinges.

By this point, there were a few sly smiles going around the dugout. But no one was grinning ear to ear, after all, we had just blown a four-run lead. The restraint was mostly out of respect for our manger, Mike Pinto, who was not at all amused by the commotion.

Right about the time our team returned to the field for the top of the 10th inning, Mike emerged from the bathroom after countless efforts to pry the door off the hinges, dripping in sweat and flushed beet red.

The weather in this part of the country has been near 100 degrees lately, and the temperature on our surface has been measured at 130 degrees in the afternoon. Once Mike completed his escape from the bathroom, he was covered in ice towels from the bucket we keep in the dugout during games.

We ended up winning the game in the bottom of the 10th when our leadoff hitter Kevin Koski was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded. So we did our usual victory handshakes on the field and then headed up to the clubhouse.

Finally able to cut loose, our guys exploded into laughter. We all had a good laugh and got a good story to tell in the end.


Brendan Sagara, who played baseball for Leilehua and UH-Hilo, is pitching coach for the Southern Illinois Miners.