Potomac Nationals vs. Wilmington Blue Rocks, Sunday, August 9, 2009
It's a blistering hot August Sunday.
Top of the eighth inning. Wilmington, in a tie with the P-Nats for first place in the Carolina League, has come back from a 3-0 deficit to rack up six unanswered runs. Things may be out of hand for the home team.
Wilmington puts runners at first and third. Nats reliever Patrick McCoy winds up to pitch. As he does so, the runner on first breaks for a steal. McCoy catches it in time, and concentrates his attention on throwing him out. From our seats in Section E (close enough to home plate that Freddie and I can legitimately contest ball-and-strike calls with the ump -- the $11 seats!) we see the runner on third sneaking down the line to steal home.
Nooooo! we all shriek. Look behind you! Don't make a rookie mistake! Get the lead runner!
But no. McCoy throws to the second baseman, crabwalking for second along with the runner. Immediately, the lead runner on third breaks for home. The second baseman, far more in tune with his baseball instincts and training than those of us in the stands -- who remembers the Double Steal play from high-school ball? Certainly not me -- susses the play immediately. He's been waiting for it. He fires the ball on a smoking rope to the catcher at home, who falls on the miscreant home-stealer like a ton of bricks, and the ump punches the runner out, out, out.
I sometimes forget how much I love this game. Who laid out the bases at 90 feet apart? Such that when a ground ball goes to the shortstop's right, and he snags it and throws to first, it's always an exciting bang-bang call? Eighty-five feet, the runner's invariably safe. Ninety-five feet, he's out by a country mile. And on a tall sacrifice fly to deep center, runner at second gets overconfident and tries for home, centerfielder hits the cutoff man, who does his job and gets the ball on a line to home, the ball and the runner are there at exactly the same time, and only the ump can see through the cloud of dust to make the call?
Baseball oughta be the National Pastime or something. That's what I think.