I guess I should start at the end: we lost our second game of the tournament and were eliminated from the championship game. It was a good game and we went into the last inning ahead by one run. But the other team scored 5 and we ended up losing, 9-5. Turned out to be our only loss for the tournament.
Our loss on Friday morning meant we were eliminated from the championship, but we still got to play another game that afternoon. It was another walk-off win and this time it was Scott Foley, our best utility player, who drove in the winning run in the bottom of the 7th. I think we had three wins with walk-off runs scored in the last inning. Without a doubt this is the best way to win a game. Ironically, I also think it was Will Ferriera who ended up the winning run at the plate.
For the record, I had a few plays where everything went right. I fielded a line drive on one bounce in short right field and threw out the runner at first. Had another simple play at second that went so normally that I didn't even think about it. I wouldn't call it redemption, but it certainly was baseball.
At the moment, I'm sitting in the stands, enjoying the mix of warm sunshine and cool morning breeze, watching the championship game. It’s the top of the third inning and its a 1-1 game. There have been two dropped infield popups and one that went through the legs of the second-baseman. It's still a great game and everybody is having fun. There is a lot of laughter on the field.
This is a wonderful camp.
I need to talk for a moment about my post from a few days ago about my worst-performance day at camp. My thought at the time was that if I'm going to write about my on-field successes, then I should also write about my failures and the mental state that results. So I did and boy, did I get pushback. I guess I didn't expect my teammates to read it, but quite a few did.
My teammate Tim Foley, who is a professional tennis coach, talked to me about how he has to deal with these feelings in his players all the time. One of the most interesting things he pointed out what what “choking" means in sports. He said a player chokes when the skills that they have demonstrated and honed fail to show up on any given day or play. Most of us at camp don't have "demonstrated" skills and none of us have honed them for play (at least recently). So, we can't choke.
He also said that we can't control the outcome every time. All we can do is set ourselves up to have the best chance of success. He said that I needed to turn the situation around and look at all the things that went right on that play. First, I was in the right position on the field. I charged the ball nicely, and fielded it perfectly. It was hard hit, so that wasn't a given. I took my time with the throw which was also the right thing to do. Then you throw. It will either work or it won't.
Another teammate, Jeff Huey put it even simpler. He said, "Ever have a bad day at work? Same thing." I shared the duties at second base with Jeff and I can't thank him enough for his support and generosity. There were times that I just wanted to hide in the dugout and he was having none of it. It didn't matter what the game situation was, he pushed me out onto the field. Not bad for a rookie. Thanks, Jeff!
The next day, walking into the clubhouse, I apologized to Will for missing the throw and he wouldn't have any of it. Scott Foley just told me he wanted to post a rebuttal.
The best thing about this camp are the people. There are lawyers, engineers, actors (Benjamin Bratt is a rookie this year), ranchers, builders and retired school teachers who share a love of baseball. We all come to camp to play baseball. But, when you ask any camper what made them return, they all say the same thing: "the people.'
That sentiment says a lot about the atmosphere that Bill Laskey has created at camp. He selects coaches who teach, encourage, and support players. They all want to win, but they will never do it at the expense of the overall experience.
When we get home, we all get asked if we will come back. I will do this again but, next time, I'm bringing at least one son. The only thing that I think could make this week better is having them along. After all, it is about the people!