“I love the feeling of being on the mound. Getting that strikeout. And if they hit a homerun…”
Topher then told me the story of pitching to Mike Piazza’s cousin in an unofficial game.
“He was just practicing with a wood bat. We worked the count full and then he connected on a grooved fastball that cleared the light towers. Farthest homer hit off me.”
Topher also had great success on the mound.
In high school, he pitched for Spokane against Gainesville in a district game, throwing all seven innings. The game was tied at 1 going to the bottom of the inning. With two outs and no one on base, Topher stepped up to the plate.
“Two balls and two strikes and the pitcher threw one down the middle. I’m pretty sure I just took strike three, but the umpire called it a ball. I turned and smiled at him.”
On the next pitch, Topher went yard, celebrating a walk-off win. He still has the game ball.
He pitched in college until he hurt his arm, playing his last game at what is now U. S. Ballpark in Ozark. In the 2nd inning, his arm simply gave out.
“I couldn’t get the ball to home plate.”
Fifteen years later, Topher got a chance to go back to that stadium and get back on the mound, playing for the Shockers in the Grip ‘N’ Rip Baseball League. He pitched a few games and played outfield. In his last at bat, Topher was plunked on the knee, and the ball deflected all the way back to the pitcher.
Knees and shoulders and elbows, oh my.
We met at the practice field next to Kickapoo’s baseball field. Topher was accompanied by his 3-year-old daughter who gave Barbie a tour of the field while we played catch. When he told me of his elbow and shoulder injuries, of his need for both Tommy John and rotator cuff surgery, I couldn’t help but grimace. I probably only asked 100 times if his arm was doing alright.
Topher plays on multiple travel softball teams, also, and played nine games on a Saturday before playing baseball on Sunday. Three weeks ago, his team won a tournament at one of his favorite venues in Texas.
A Cardinals fan and a fan of Bryce Harper, Topher appreciates all the lessons that come through the game.
“Ultimately, this game teaches respect for others.”
Twenty minutes of catch.
No tendons tore.
No bruised knees.
Just gorgeous skies and great stories.