Serious biz in the tournament!
During the Florida Marlins' 3-4 grade team's mainstream season outings, they didn't worry too much about how many innings they pitched a kid or how many runs they scored or where they stacked up in the league standings. I certainly did not. I know one of their games even ended in a tie. Since Q was one of the 3rd graders on a 3-4 grade program, it didn't seem to matter that much. The emphasis was where it should be: on learning the fundamentals of the game, and for Quinton learning to swing the bat-- especially with two strikes -- protect the plate. He got a little bit of an earful from some random mother in the stand who temporarily went insane because he wouldn't swing. Those sunflower seed spitting kids had no idea that the league they were in sent five teams to the state tournament. They had no idea there was such a thing as a state tournament. The top four teams were automatically chosen based on their standings in league play. The bottom eight teams were placed in a single-elimination tourney to vie for the bottom seeded state tournament berth. We have no idea where the Florida Marlins, Quinton's team, stood in relation, but we thought it very unlikely they would win the three games in a row required to advance to the state tournament. But, they did it, and this is their story:
The first game in the city tourney was more tense than league play, and the game was close, but we won. The second game was an extra-innings, strategy packed, nailbiting, heart stopper. The opposing team was coached by an intense guy, who kept calling, "blue, time out" to go talk to one player or another, creating an imposing sense of drama these kids had never witnessed, except maybe in the local theatrical troupe's latest rendition of "High School Musical." This self-same self-aggrandizing dramatic strategy would be their team's undoing. Our coach out-maneuvered him using an obscure rule about how many times a coach can talk to his pitcher on the mound without having to remove him. We were down by one run, runners in scoring position, two outs. We were doomed. The tiny, wide-eyed kid at the plate thought that swinging the bat meant throwing a punch at batman in dramatic play time at recess. Their pitcher was pretty consistently throwing strikes. Did I mention we were doomed? Then, having seen that the opposing coach had already gone out to the mound once, our coach incited a frenzy by calling time, to talk to his batter. This little trap lured the over-coaching coach to go talk to his pitcher, thus having to remove him. He put in his own son, who walked that batter and another. The game went on. The agonizing game was finally put to bed with a home run hit by our star player,Villi, a large Tongan boy who runs circles around everyone else in every aspect of the game. I'm not sure, but I think our coach may have said, "check mate," to the opposing coach while smiling and shaking his hand afterward. Not really, but that would have been cute. Incidentally, Quinton also got his second hit of the season in this game. The third game was a blow-out -- we were hitting our stride by that point.
We lost all three state tournament games, but we didn't care a lick. It was a good experience for them all to see how exciting baseball can be. I was pretty happy about my little boy being part of a big-league experience.