The Dauntless Dozen

Teams in the Grip ‘N’ Rip Baseball League consist of 14 players. Relief pitchers and pinch runners and back-up catchers are all necessary, especially so during the hottest September in Springfield history. Seventeen days with high temperatures in the 90s. Equal parts incredible and ridiculous. Due to attrition and injury, the CY Sports Cyclones were down a couple players in a must-win game to keep playoff hopes alive. On Kids Day at the Park, I was thoroughly entertained listening to younger voices join Rance in the broadcast booth for the first two games as well as announce and accompany players during the starting line-ups of my game. I laced up my high-top P.F. Flyers, knowing that no shoes were going to make me run faster, and took my responsibility as a catch-partner for Jared’s son and in-between-inning fist-bumper and high-fiver seriously.

Coach Ryan Wolfe was up to the challenge of getting the most out of this great group, this determined, dauntless dozen. Under the lights, the “that what speed do” lineup stole bases and played fantastic defense.

Skylar – Our starting pitcher threw four strong, shutout innings to start the game, plus snagged a comebacker barehanded. Later in the game, he also got a hit, stolen base, and scored a run as back-up right fielder.

Jared — Started the game with a hit and scored the first run. A couple walks, a couple steals, and a couple great plays in center.

Tyler – Quick, sure-handed second baseman drove in a run and went first to third on a passed ball. Too bad he wasn’t wearing PF Flyers; he could’ve scored from first.

RJ – Our starting catcher who drove in the first run and made a great play at third to end the game.

Layn – Besides making a couple great plays at short and stealing a base after a walk, his gap-splitting, rocket-shot, stand up triple was a blast to watch.  

Rob – Our back-up catcher with Dancing Queen for a walk-up song is all heart and hustle. He made it to first on a dropped third strike, which led to our final run. Thankfully, he found his missing bat for next week’s game. I’m expecting big things at the plate from him.

Nick – The lefty slugger sacrificed a bat for a single and walked, as well as secured first base for the last few innings.   

Brandon – His two-hit game was accompanied by great stretches at first base alongside comic relief in the dugout.  

Jake – Pitched three shutout innings and pinch ran, as well as proffered vocal support, shouting every conceivable baseball mantra along with several I’m certain were completely fabricated on the spot. He must be learning from Rob.

Zach – Along with a hit and two solid plays at third, he pitched two innings and made a great defensive play as pitcher in the bottom of the 9th.

Scott – In the bottom of the third, as skies were graying and sun was setting and lights were coming on, he made a great play on a sinking line drive.

Loren – Drew a walk and got an RBI while manning left field on quads and hamstrings less than 100%.

The Cyclones started 0 – 4 and still have a chance to make it to the playoffs. With a victory in extra innings last week and a 4 – 1 win this week, this 2 – 4 team is just now finding its groove. We were the first game of the regular season and will be the last game as well, facing the Rangers under the lights.

Five years ago, the Royals played in one of the best postseason games ever, coming from behind to beat the Oakland A’s 9 – 8 in 12 innings. I’m convinced it’s the best game I’ve ever seen. I’ve even written a poem about it (scroll down if you’re interested).

Here’s hoping that the Cyclones can capture a little of that magic and keep playing ball for a few more weeks.

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KC at the Bat

More than a tip of the hat to Ernest Thayer’s “Casey at the Bat,” almost every stanza ends with the same rhyming words as the original in this Royals-centric re-telling of the 2014 AL Wild Card game.

The fountains looked quite brilliant at the stadium that day:

The city was a-buzz with playoff baseball soon to play;

And then the anthem filled the air, flyover did the same,

A raucous roar arose from all the patrons of the game.

A leadoff hit against Big Game, no nerves were put to rest,

When with two outs Moss touched them all, hope sunk throughout my breast.

But Butler, human hit machine, he got a whack at that,

And cut the deficit to one, his first playoff at bat.

“Thank God the game is nine innings,” texted my friend Blake,

In contrast to the first, the second inning was a cake;

No runs the A’s scored in the third, I paced and then I sat,

And flipped around my rally cap to watch the Royals bat.

And Moose let loose a single, to the wonderment of all

Esky bunted him to second, not playing Moneyball

And with two outs, thank Cain and Hoz, a miracle occurred,

The Royals took the lead before Jon Lester got the third.

Three up, three down, Shields shut the door, the crowd began to yell

This just might be the Royals year, my hope began to swell;

No hits, no runs, the boys in blue appeared a little flat

As Lester’s wicked curveball seemed to dance around each bat.

The fifth was quick, we’re rolling now, Shields put them in their place

Though Lester matched him — one, two, three — a smile lit cross my face

The game is now official length, I grabbed my rally hat

No rain forecast, onto the sixth, the A’s now up to bat.

A single followed by a walk and Big Game left the dirt

Yost motioned for Ventura, I began to eat my shirt.

The air was tense, Moss at the plate, he loaded in his hip,

A mighty swing, a Ruth-like blast, a sigh escaped my lip.

The A’s from Oakland tallied five, a melancholy air

Fell hard upon the stadium and Lester kept it there.

The seventh passed without a score, the outs unheeded sped

“Thirty years for this?” I thought. “Let’s go Royals!” someone said.

Wade Davis came into the game, shouts from the A’s did roar

But only seven pitches threw, the Royals still trailed four.

An Esky hit, a stolen base, the crowd began to stand

Lorenzo Cain soon brought him home, Aoki raised his hand.

Then Hosmer walked and Billy hit, and Gore his speed sure shone,

We felt hope rising deep within, we bade the game go on;

And Gordon stepped up to the plate, a pitch quite untamed flew

The deficit — one meager run! — my ulcers numbered two.

Thousands bellowed passionately, and cheered their KC squad

The ninth is dark and terror filled, and Holland left us awed.

Josh Willingham pinch hit for Moose, we saw his muscles strain

A luck-filled fly into right field, hope on the rise again.

Then Dyson took the place of Josh, his feet quite blessed with speed

A bunt and then a stolen base, and dancing at his deed.

And now the pitcher holds the ball, and now he lets it go,

And now the air is shattered by the force of Nori’s blow.

The game is tied — a miracle! — free baseball comes tonight

Two innings passed without a score, the twelfth would end the plight.

The A’s struck first and took the lead, and with it took my breath

Three outs remain, then Cain grounds out, what felt like baseball death.

Yet Hosmer tripled to left field and split the defense gap

And tied the game on Christian’s hit, these Royals full of scrap.

Then Salvy stepped up to the dish, and two strikes in the hole

Something crooked his way came, he pulled it toward the pole.

He ran to first, his arms held high, his face was shining bright

Colón then scored, this comeback team, who never gave up sight.

For now the men are laughing, and now the children shout

There is great joy across KC, we knocked the A’s right out.