Brendan Sagara

Life In The Minors

By Brendan Sagara

Sunday, September 9, 2001

Dragons fall 1
comeback short

AS THE Dubois County Dragons came in from defense to take their swings in the bottom of the ninth inning Monday, I felt a little chill travel up my spine.

As we entered what would be our final at-bats of the 2001 season, trailing the Richmond Roosters 9-3, I envisioned all the come-from-behind wins we manufactured this season.

A couple of walk-off homers, and a bunch of game-winning RBI singles in the bottom of many a ninth inning made us a dangerous squad all season long.

But as our guys walked up to the plate for the final three outs of our semifinal series, the feeling was different. The 15-yard walk to the batter's box seemed like the runway to the electric chair -- a somber stroll to face Richmond's hard-throwing closer Mike Ziroli, who had not surrendered a run in over a dozen ball games.

Although we have given no fewer than five opposing closers losses due to late inning rallies this year, we all sensed that there would be no dramatic come-from-behind win for the Dragons on this night.

It had been four months, 87 games, 50 wins, thousands of bus miles, a little indigestion from a steady diet of fast food and a Frontier League West Division championship since I had arrived with the rest of the coaching staff and 30-some players for spring training in May.

The reality of the loss was that it was now time for the four coaches and 24 players to exit the magic capsule we have had the privilege of occupying during the three-and-a-half month season to go back to our various home ports -- California, Texas, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Arkansas, England and, of course, Hawaii. Our day of reckoning was here.

No more getting paid to put on a baseball uniform and play a man's game with a young boy's passion . It was now time to get back to life, at least for the off-season.

The goodbyes were extra emotional for our team. Besides the fact that we had to fight an uphill battle to create a new image for the Dragons franchise, a club that had become the doormat of the Frontier League in recent years, we had the worst attendance in the league.

This year's team was exceptionally close-knit by design. Manager Greg Tagert assembled a spring training invite list that included players as strong in character as they were in body.

So there were very few roster moves during the season, While some teams went through 50 players this year, we made only about five moves. We stuck with a handful of players whose struggles would have cost them a job with most other teams.

Our second baseman, Randy Morey, ended with a season batting average around .200, thanks to a two-month batting slump to start the year. But during our stretch run, he rewarded our patience by playing Gold Glove-caliber defense while stealing 30 bases.

Our center fielder, Kurt Fillmore, survived a devastating tailspin after getting hit by a retaliatory beaning early in the year. Patience was a worthwhile price to pay with Kurt too. He hit over .600 during our playoff run.

The result was a scrappy, loyal team that played as much for each other as they did for their personal glory, a rarity at this level, where players are hungry for a shot to move up the ranks.

When our all-star third baseman left the team to return to school a month ago, we coped. As our all-star closer, Brian Partenheimer, endured shoulder pain and a fractured left foot, the team refused to crumble and fall out of the race.

So when the skipper got choked up at the season-ending team meeting at League Stadium, he wasn't the only one getting emotional. This season had been a long emotional roller coaster ride for us all, and now it was over.

For some players it was back to school, back to their wives and girlfriends, back to their moms and dads.

For others it was back to that bellboy job in Dallas, back to the job at the phone company in Wilmington. For others, it was time to find a job or settle down and get hitched.

For our manager, it was back to California and his wife and four children.

For me, it is back to the University of Hawaii, where my boss, Lois Manin, has been kind enough to let me return to my job. And back home for some of my mom's pot roast and a cigar with my dad.

For all of us, it is time to look back and appreciate what we did and what we had this summer.

Thanks for coming along for the ride.

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

E-mail to Sports Editor

Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]

© 2001 Honolulu Star-Bulletin