Andrew at the bat

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August 11, 2016 12:00 AM

The force out at second was complete, but turning two didn't go as well as I had hoped. My grip was off and I just couldn't turn the double play.

Power was never part of my baseball game growing up.
I wasn’t the kid who was cranking balls over the fence or to deep centre field, but rather the one that found the hole in the infield, or used my speed to get to first base, beating out a throw from across the diamond.
So even at 31 years old, with a girl half my age throwing fast balls from only a few feet in front of me, I knew if I could just get on base, I had a chance to score.
Last week the Lloydminster Liners U16 girls softball team invited me and NewCap’s Moses Woldu out to the diamond to be part of their intra-squad game, putting us in the lineup both at the plate and on the field.
Moses needs to get the wood off his shoulder, as he went down looking at strikes in his first at bat.
My first at bat, I didn’t swing either, but I’m sure my presence at the plate was enough to make that Liner pitcher pitch away and low, thinking I was going to chase. I watched four straight balls go by and trotted off to first base.
First base coach Aaron DeJong wanted to teach me the sign to steal. “When do I go?” I asked, knowing from my time covering softball that they can’t lead off like baseball players do and they have to wait for a specific moment when the pitchers back foot comes up to run.
He called the sign for the first pitch. Maybe it was smart base running because there wasn’t much thought into thinking I was going to steal right away, or even slide into second base considering my baseball attire was nothing more than a pair of shorts and athletic shirt, not the usual baseball pants.
But I took off and beat the throw to second—standing up might I add.
A real speedster on the base paths.
And there I sat, in scoring position.
And there I remained as the inning came to an end with a perfect opportunity missed.
In the outfield, I made one catch for an out in my two innings of work in right field, but it was my time in the infield at short stop that, well, didn’t gain me a lot of fans.
Growing up with baseball, I played third base.
I was the only player on my team with a set position while everyone else rotated. But softball players play inside the bag as opposed to further back. So I thought my talents better served me playing short stop and further back, giving me a chance to use my range and speed.
It didn’t go as expected, as I haven’t played baseball in ages and my range of throwing was, dare I say, a little off.
The last time I played softball against the Liners was with a media team and I played first base.
And it wasn’t because I’m tall and can stretch out, but because at the time I had not eaten dinner and played the game chewing on a wrap. There I was, scooping ground balls and catching throws to first while eating lettuce.
I made a few fans that day, who didn’t understand how I could actually be playing like this. It will go down in softball lore in Lloydminster.
Back at the plate for my second at bat, I was in the mindset that I was going to swing, no matter what. Moses had made contact with the ball, there wasn’t a chance I was going to let him one-up me.
I took the first pitch to feel out the throw. The second was inside and a swung, about a week late for the first strike. After two balls and a strike, it was a full count, the count where dreams are made of.
The entire time I’m thinking, “I can’t let this U16 player strike me out.” I have no idea what pitch she was throwing or where, so I’m waiting in my stance, my knees a little more bent then my normal, Ken Griffey Jr-ish stance, and wait for the pitch. I’m swinging, aiming for the fence, telling Moses it’s coming right for him at short stop because that’s a free single.
The pitch comes — wide outside, ball four. Expecting me to chase? I’m insulted.
I take first base again and like before, end up on second after another stolen base. I had my eye on home plate.
Our team was down, we needed a run, someone to spark a rally inning. A get a good lead and the batter connects with the ball, but it’s bouncing towards Moses at short stop and right in my direction. I had watched two other players this game get called out for the ball hitting them on the base paths, but I was destined to get to third base.
So I jumped — over the ball and Moses. He’s short, no big deal.
I reach third base where Liners head coach Tracy Blanchard’s mouth is wide open, surprised as many that I’m standing on third base. I’m sure that one is going to be added to the Liners playbook going forward.
A batter later and I cross home plate for our teams first run. I wouldn’t see the plate again in our shortened four inning game, so I officially went down in the score book going 0 for 0, with two stolen bases and a run scored.
Back in the outfield for the last inning, there was talking I should be traded for Moses. My team didn’t want me. Neither did the other team. Although my relentless verbal attacks on Moses did endure me to many players. So for the final inning, I had to prove something.
It wasn’t what should have been a routine ground ball to me by Moses, as that went in the dirt. But it came in the final out of the game. For two innings I was told I was covering second if someone stole from first and for two innings I was told I was either too close or too far away from the bag. So I stuck in the middle, as I would let my speed and range bail me out.
The runner from first takes off and the throw is coming from home plate. Already the third baseman is chirping at me that I am out of position. But as the runner slides, I reach out to snag the ball and apply the tag for the final out. Then I looked right back at the third baseman in a “I got this” kind of way.
My team lost 6-3. I don’t want to talk about it.
Afterwards we asked how we did, considering neither Moses or I have played any real sports in some time.
“For the lack of ball cleats and on this surface, I was real impressed that you held your own, had some lateral movements and were able to catch backhand balls,” said Blanchard. “The speed is something you got to get used to. It seems like it is coming a lot faster. Getting the timing is crucial in this game.”
The U16 Liners are off to nationals next week in Montreal to take on the best teams in Canada as the top team from Alberta.
Just saying, I can make the trip if you need me.

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