“There’s an excitement in the air and a crisp autumn chill in the wind that can mean one thing: It’s time for playoff baseball in the Ozarks,” Rance said.
Rance’s monologue on the first day of the GRBL postseason reminded me of Vin Scully’s World Series speeches from decades past. The first round of the Grip ‘N’ Rip playoffs started at 3 with the High Rollers facing the Yogis, followed by the Shockers and Naturals in the nightcap. For the third time this season, the Cyclones were scheduled to play the Rangers. The game held no real meaning toward league standings, which is why Rance had some difficulty figuring out what to call the game.
“It’s a game that’s been called ‘the consolation,’ jokingly called, ‘the concession.’ It’s more likely to be part blood bath and part three-ring circus. The earth will tremble and the seas will rise as the Rangers meet the Cyclones in a game twice wiped off the map by torrential rain. Pride is the deadliest of all sins and pride is what’s at stake for these two teams — the Cyclones, 2 – 4, the Rangers, 3 – 3. An underlying sense of being short-changed looms over these two clubs in a one-off game with potential to go any number of direction. League organizers have high hopes that a sense of community, fair play, and a spirit of the game will prevail today in this showdown at high noon.”
It could have been called the grit game, as the Rangers had no substitutes or benchwarmers, and players changed positions as arms necessitated. Manager Andy Galle, who once pitched for the Gateway Grizzlies, was the starting catcher, and made multiple great plays at second base, including gobbling my grounder up the middle toward the end of the game.
It could have been called the game where the Cyclones’ bats went absolutely crazy. In only his second at bat of the season, Coach Nasby collected his first hit and RBI. RJ tripled with the bases-loaded to right field, Scott Weis tripled to left field, and pretty much everyone in the lineup hit rope shots — Jared and Brandon and Nick and GRBL hit-leader Zach Yarberry.
In the seventh inning, I only saw one pitch in my first at bat — my best hit of the season, a solid line drive over the third baseman and into the left field corner, deep enough to guarantee that I could make it to first base safely. I’ll be watching that hit over and over through the dreary off-season days and months. (The hit is at the 2:15:30 mark on the 10/13 video of the GRBL live stream.)
It could have been called the chaos game. For the final three innings, the Cyclones lined up in the third base coach’s box and sprinted to their desired defensive positions. A “line-up crash derby,” Rance called it. My teammates were gracious in not making me actually run fast to reach left field. I got my two innings in defensively, with significant help from center fielder Tyler on the singular ball hit my direction — a massive blast by King Owens high off the Green Monster-like wall of U.S. Baseball Park. And all pitchers combined for a shutout victory — hat tips to Skylar and Jake and Brandon and Nick and Scott.
But it should be called the Scott Weis game. Weis, a teacher and softball coach in Republic, played every position, starting in right field and working his way backward numerically to pitcher. Because we only played 8 innings, Weis caught for the first two outs of the last inning, then shed the gear, walked to the mound, and finished the game with a strike out.
Rance interviewed “the player of the game, the 41-year old human Swiss army knife.”
“I didn’t call it breaking the league rules, I called it making league history…for the love of the game,” Scott said. “It couldn’t have been any better…this league is keeping me young. We’ve got a rare opportunity, especially people my age, to go out and play a kid’s game and have fun doing so.”
In the post-game meeting, Coach Nasby celebrated us and thanked us for playing this season. The Cyclones finished with a three-game winning streak. Weis earned the game ball, but before we closed the season, Nasby gave me a gift — an ice cold Dr Pepper.
The Gritty-Crazy-Chaotic-Scott-Weis-Consolation-Concessions game.
The actual GRBL postseason games that followed lived up to the hype. They were both close games coming down to key, late-inning at bats. The High Rollers edged out the Yogis 6 – 4, and the Shockers completed a come-from-behind walk-off win in the bottom of the 9th, defeating the hard-luck Naturals 4 – 3.
Mark is heading to the championship game next Sunday, playing for the Howard Bell Trophy.
The third place game is at 1 and the championship game is at 5:30 with a little league home run derby sandwiched in between.
Hope to see you there.