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Archive for the ‘Memorable Days’ Category

Reese had two goals this Little League seasons: (1) win the D8 championship; and (2) make the All-Star team.  Thanks to an epic collapse our Laurelhurst Lionettes came up short on the first one, but she easily achieved the second.  So far, however, her All-Star experience has been solid if unmemorable.  Some play in the outfield, a few hits, lots of walks and some wins against some less-than-stellar opposition.

That all changed last night, when her Northeast Seattle Little League All Stars took on Magnolia’s 10U team in a loser-out tournament game.

The game started off well enough and through four innings NESLL had an 8-3 lead.  But things got going a little sideways in the fifth.  NESLL starter (and Reese’s good buddy) Sammie Wright started losing control on the mound and Magnolia closed the gap to 8-4.  Then, with runners on second and third and only one out, coach Damien King gave the ball to Reese.

When the coach brought Reese in to pitch with the game on the line …

I had visions of red meat and a pack of wolves.

Uh, what?

Reese hadn’t pitched much (if at all) over the last month because of a broken finger and she had a dirty little secret — her delivery, during which time her back foot leaves the ground, was illegal.  I had visions of red meat and wolves in my head.  So did some other parents, one of whom was heard to lament “this isn’t fair to Reese.  It’s going to destroy her confidence.”   Nevertheless she gave it a go (as if she had a choice).

It didn’t go too well at first.

Both the inherited runners scored on singles to left field.  And when those hitters scored, the score was tied at 8-8.  Reese struck out two to end the inning, but when Magnolia’s Bella Klinner (Reese’s Spice teammate) struck out the side in the top of the sixth, I thought we were toast.  So did the Magnolia fans.  When Coach King sent Reese out to start the sixth, they actually cheered.

A bit premature, it turned out.

NESLL 10U came up with a dramatic 9-8 win.

Reese walked the first batter and, I’m told, Damien almost pulled her.  But she struck out the next two batters.   She then walked the next batter, threw a few wild pitches, and it was second and third, two outs, score tied.

Season on the line.  All the parents were there as well as several of Reese’s Spice teammates and three of her non-NESLL coaches.

You could cut the tension with a knife.  But Reese came up as big as she ever has.

Next batter: K’ed on three solid pitches.

After that the result seemed a fait accompli.  And when Sammie singled in the winning run with the bases loaded and no outs, a 9-8 victory was ours.

We celebrated afterwards with a nutritious dinner at Richard’s.

The only person more relieved than me was Rhonda, who almost had to leave the game she was so stressed.   Reese’s final line: 1 2/3 innings pitched, two hits, two earned runs, four walks and five K’s.  About average for an eleven-year old Little League pitcher, but good enough to get the W.

Afterwards, the NESLL families celebrated with burgers and shakes at Dick’s Drive In.  I mowed down two Deluxes and an order of fries — after that stress-fest, I thought I’d earned it.

Up next: Woodinville.  The odds are against us: they beat us last week 18-0 and we have to beat them twice to advance to State.  I’m not confident we have that kind of miracle up our collective sleeves.  But for this dad, anyway, it really doesn’t matter.   Last night’s game — and Reese’s clutch performance — will be with me for the rest of my days.

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Yesterday, Finn and his Zeeks Pizza Pumas won the 2018 Northeast Seattle Little League American Division championship with a 4-1 win over the Slalom Consulting Panthers.  It was the second league title in as many years for Finn’s team, both of which I coached.

It wasn’t easy.

At the beginning of the season our team looked terrible — so terrible that my assistant and I feared we’d never win a game.  We did — in fact, we didn’t lose until our sixteenth game.  After we lost two in a row I guaranteed we’d never win another game.  Turns out we never lost another one.

Saturday’s game was a classic.   We were behind 1-0 through the third because we couldn’t get anyone across home plate against Panthers ace Tate Bagley — this, despite getting six runners on.   We rallied for two runs, however, in the bottom of the fourth to take a 2-1 lead.

Then Finn came in.

Our ace all season (final stats), he did not disappoint.  In three innings, he gave up one hit (a double to Bagley), struck out eight, walked two — and gave up no runs.  Dell Geyer added a two-run single in the bottom of the fifth to give us a three-run lead, and when Finn struck out the last batter, a 4-1 victory — and the league championship — were ours.   An emotional Finn; fellow Puma pitcher Sonny Marona, who threw three innings of one-run ball; and Bagley were all named game co-MVP’s.

Truth be told, it wasn’t my best coaching job: probably only 2-3 (at most) of our players actually improved.  And it wasn’t the easiest of seasons: I think we trailed in at least half our games and I think I aged at least five years.  But we found ways to win when we probably didn’t deserve to.

And that’s the stuff of champions.

A few more photos:

 

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Today Reese’s Laurelhurst Lionettes Minors softball team played a team from Ballard.  We won 23-5.  Reese pitched OK — five strikeouts in two innings along with five walks.  But she hit like a champion.  The highlight: her first ever home run, a laced line drive down the left field line that rolled all the way to the wall 200 feet away.  It was a solo shot, but to the two of us it felt like a grand slam.

Unfortunately I didn’t get a photo of that particular hit.  But we did get a few photos of the day, which included her first stint behind the plate.

 

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Two things that can’t be said about Laurelhurst: it has good cell phone coverage; and it’s on a good power grid.

We recently switched from the terrible Sprint to Verizon and found it’s even worse.

As for the power — when the wind is up the power goes out.  It’s happened half a dozen times (at least) in the past several years, the most recent last night:

 

With no refrigerator or light, we did dinner at Ihop for the first time.  Kids under twelve ate free, so it worked out well.

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As a fairly present parent/coach, I have ample opportunities to watch the neighborhood kids accomplish great things.

Today was another such occasion.

The event was the 2017 Pineapple Classic, a 5k-or-so obstacle run that raises money for leukemia and lymphoma research.

But this was no ordinary morning.

It was raining.  And snowing.  And it was about 35 degrees.

And still, the four dads, Finn, Reese and five of their friends ran that race.  Complaints were minimal, fears were left in the dust.

A morning none of us will soon forget.

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For the last four years I’ve coached a Zeeks Pizza baseball team.  We started in tee ball, first as the Pirates then the Penguins.  In 2016 we graduated to “Farm” (coach pitch), first as the Pilots and this year as the Panthers.

Through all this time we never lost a game.  Sure, we didn’t keep score in tee ball, but in the two seasons we did, we never lost a game.

Pretty good.

We put all that on the line yesterday in the Farm Division final against the Metier Bombers.  Christian Shewey’s Bombers came as the no. 2 seed and, next to us, by far the best team in the league.

We got the job done.

Barely.

Things started out well enough.  We had a 4-0 lead after one inning and a 4-1 lead through two.  But the Bombers rallied for five runs in the third to take a 6-4 lead.  I thought we were in big trouble and I think most of the Panthers did, too.

But we rallied big time.  After the game was interrupted for a “4th inning stretch” featuring Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline,” we rallied for five in the fourth to take a 9-6 lead.   Thanks to some base running blunders on the Bombers’ part we shut them down in the top of the fifth, which meant that three runs — and a 12-6 lead — would seal the deal.  (A five-run limit per inning would make a six-run lead insurmountable in the last inning.)

Three runs is exactly what we got.

What made the victory so sweet was that everyone, from the top of the order to the bottom, contributed.  As for Finn, he went 1-for-3 batting at the top of the order.  He scored a run with a nice slide at home plate and made two nice plays at third base, one on a towering pop up and another with a bullet throw to throw the runner out at first.

All in all, a fantastic finish to an incredible run of little league baseball.

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Last night was one of those nights that was just — well, cool.

On Monday morning I received an email about some sort of open Husky softball practice around of this weekend’s NCAA regionals.  It included a t-shirt giveaway.  Sounded pretty cool, Reese can always use a free t-shirt, so I sent out an email to the Models parents and by yesterday afternoon I had five players and my assistant coach, HT, committed to join us.

A signature pyramid attempt before practice began. (Clockwise from the top: Maddie, Emerson, Gracie, Emily, Sammie and Reese.)

We headed to the softball stadium in the early evening.   I was expecting to see fans by the hundreds.  To my surprise and dismay, there weren’t any more than a dozen more.  (I’ll leave my rant about the short shrift women’s sports get for another post.)  Because of this, our access was front row — literally.  When the Huskies concluded their stretching routine inside Dempsey Indoor — a routine we copied (I’m still sore) — they invited the girls over for some high fives and gave them a cheer.

In the middle of those Huskies are our Models, including Reese.

It got better from there.

The Huskies then moved over to the softball stadium.  We joined — and literally sat in the front row.  Like fifteen feet from the players, if the crow flew through the net.  And as we were pretty much the only ones in the building, we weren’t unnoticed.  Perhaps most noticed was Finn’s Panther teammate Isaac Couch.  At one point he was dancing in the outfield bleachers, and shaking her groove thing with him from a distance was none other than Husky 3B Taylor Van Zee.

World class athletes, all.

It gets even better.

After a few hours of watching practice, we decided to call it a night.  It turned out that in the course of their evening shenanigans, all the girls got balls.

All but one.

Emily.

We started to walk home on that back east road, near the lake.  Everyone was happy as clams but there was a tinge of melancholy because one of our Models hadn’t collected a ball.

The Models with their souvenirs.

For some reason Reese looked back south.  Just then — and I am not making this up — someone at Husky batting practice laced one clear out of the stadium.  “Look!” she yelled.  The ball was headed for its permanent resting place in Lake Washington, took a huge hop — and hit the guard rail between the road and the lake.  It bounced back in and stopped in the road. Reese chased it down and VOILE! — Emily had her ball.
We continued our walk back, with me and HT commenting on what had just happened.  “Dude, that was WEIRD!” was the general gist of it.
Reese opined “that was karma.”
She was right.
Either Emily had something good coming to her from the universe, or the Huskies have something good coming to them (NCAA championship?) or a little of both.  But it was a pretty darn cool moment and one I won’t soon forget.

Post-practice we did dinner at Din Tai Fung — and got out of there for $90.

The girls were so wound up from their experience that they refused to go home.  We ended up eating dinner at Din Tai Fung, where we escaped for $90, and then grabbed a quick dessert at Menchies.
Home by 10:30, on a school night.
Pretty sure a few of the Models were tired at school today.
I’m certain of this because from all the texts I received from parents, their Models couldn’t stop talking about what a great night they had.
They weren’t the only ones.

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