“Wanna come out and practice with us?” Chandler (Day #19) asked.
Chandler works with Coach Chappell and the middle school baseball team in Clever. On a day the Royals were up north playing the Toronto Blue Jays, I headed south to practice with the Clever Blue Jays. The sky was high, the sun was out, and the wind was a million miles an hour. As soon as I pulled up to the field, Chandler introduced me to the team and paired me with Carson and Dylan to warm-up.
Carson’s a southpaw and a Royals fan. His favorite current player, Whit Merrifield, hit a home run in today’s game as soon as I got back in my van.
Dylan’s not a southpaw and an Angels fan, which is particularly painful as the Angels walloped the Royals at the K last weekend, ice not withstanding. His favorite player, Mike Trout, even hit a Ruth-ian blast of a homerun in the cold and into the wind. Even I thought it was pretty amazing.
After we warmed up, Chandler took charge of the outfielders. I followed Dylan to the outfield as Carson headed with Coach Chappell and the infielders. Dylan and I practiced shagging flies and making good throws to the cutoff man.
Chandler made me run left and right and in and back trying to catch the fly balls and line drives. I slid all over the place and was looking for an oxygen tank after half a dozen catches. None of the other outfielders were breathing anywhere near as hard as I was.
Lesson learned: If I’m going to be doing much shagging of flies this year on a diamond, I need cleats of some sort — 18-month old tennis shoes are a liability. It might be time to go back and talk with Jeff at Play It Again Sports.
While the team ran a couple laps as a transition, Chandler hit me a few ground balls on the gravel infield – which was not snow covered – and then we played a game called Four Corners.
The team was divided up into groups of four. The different members of each group then took a base. We were supposed to make throws all the way around the bases without pulling our foot off the bag or having the ball hit the dirt. And we were timed. Thankfully, I made a good throw and a good stretch to catch the ball, but my team finished in second place, which meant they had to run another lap along with the other non-first place teams. One quarter of a mile.
I figured it was only fitting if I ran with them, but my ego would not settle for last place. Coming down the homestretch, I sprinted. And then I felt guilty when Chandler made all the boys I beat do push-ups.
After push-ups, it was time for batting practice. Everyone got six swings; I was second up to bat.
Coach Chappell is in his second year as the coach of the team, coming from Chadwick. His favorite team is the Cardinals and he’d love the chance to play catch with Yadier Molina.
“He throws so hard, he’d bust your hand,” one of the players said.
“I’m perfectly fine with that. I’d would just love to have a fraction of his knowledge of the game to pass along to you guys.”
So, Yadi, if you ever need a throwing partner, I’ve got a friend who’s interested.
Coach Chappell threw my first round of batting practice this year, I took my six swings and had no whiffs. I skied one ball which the wind blew halfway across the infield. I did hit one ball perfectly square and watched it knuckle into the wind which was hilarious.
The Clever team’s got a game tomorrow and a doubleheader on Saturday. For the first time ever, I can say with all sincerity that I’m pulling for the Blue Jays.