Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Those Pesky Braves

Sometimes a team can win even in defeat.

Last time we played the Braves, we lost by over ten runs and the game was called early due to the "mercy rule." Tonight, we gave 'em a ballgame, and lost by a much closer score (5-3), and therefore the Diamondbacks "won" in the sense that they improved against this very tough team. What more can you ask for? Third time should be a charm...

Jack caught all but the last inning and went 1-3 at the plate, with a run-scoring double off the Braves pitchter, his very good friend Zach. It was a tough AB (at bat) for me and Zach's mom, sitting next to each other on the bleachers at West Union field. :)

Next up: The Yankees, Thursday, at Sunset Park

Sunday, April 23, 2006

A Sunny Saturday

and noon-time game? What could be more perfect?

After dragging the boys to Bethany School at 7:45am for Team Picture Day, and pancakes at Elmer's, a nap would have have been nice...but alas, it was time to take on the Yankees, a team we had yet to play.

The grass at West Union field was freshly mowed and smelling sweet, and driving everyone's allergies crazy! Jack, who has developed allergies over the years here, after living until he was 5 in foggy, tree-less San Francisco, was having a heck of a time. Coming off "the virus" of last week, and then the sneezing and nose running of a warm, windy, spring day out on the farms of West Union, he valiantly played catcher for most of the game.

The Yankees have several kids who Jack has played various summer or fall leagues with, so it was fun to see parents we know and cheer on ALL the boys. I think that "Little League" often gets a bad reputation when it comes to parents in the stands. Perhaps we are just more fortunate, but in SunCreek, we really don't see too much of the barking and yelling coming from the bleachers. For the most part, we are a well-behaved league. So much of this comes from the friendships that are developing among the boys and their families. It is truly a pleasure to spend an afternoon cheering on your kids and visiting with folks, chomping sunflower seeds, and with various little brothers and sisters darting around in the grass. I know many people who would think that a miserable, boring afternoon. Of them I might ask: "Why did you have kids?"

The Yankees had kid who smashed a two-run homer over the fence at West Union #1! In the end, we lost by one run and look forward to playing them again this Thursday at Sunset Park.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Baby, It's Cold Outside

During baseball months, we are obsessed with the weather. Springtime in Oregon can make you crazy -- 70 degrees and sunny one day, and windy and very cold the next. Tonight, it was a cold wind blowing across Sunset Park as the Diamondbacks played a nonleague game with the A's of Beaverton Area Little League.

This game was a last minute addition to our schedule. The local Little Leagues are trying different things to get the boys more games, different competition, and make it a little more fun by seeing different kids, pitching, and sometimes ballfields. Plus, this kind of a game allows our manager to experiment with defensive positions and batting orders. In addition, the boys got to play under the lights at Sunset Park while their parents cuddled in blankets and drank hot coffee (and so we will all be up too late tonight!)

The Diamondbacks began the game slugging hit after hit and the score quickly became out of reach for BALL. We won, 17-2, in four innings. Jack pitched a solid inning and was 1-3 at the plate. Not bad, considering he had been sick all week, missed school and practice all week, and tonight was the first time he was out of the house in a week!

Jack's Grampie made it to the game and it was so cold, he even wore the official, fitted Diamondbacks hat we got him for his birthday. He hung in there long enough to see his Grandson pitch -- and it was then way past his bedtime (Grampie's, not Jack's :)

Tomorrow morning we have team pictures at 8am and a noon game with the Yankees, the only team in SunCreek Little League that we have not played. Should be a fun one -- AND, it is supposed to be sunny and 70 degrees.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Just Another Rainy Saturday

Another double-header was rained out yesterday, but for Jack, it was a blessing in disguise. He came home from Friday's night practice with a deep, regular cough and "feeling sore all over." He was sick.

So, we figured we could power through the first game of the day. When the phone call came in that the noon game was canceled, but the 5pm game might be played, we were thinking he could power-nap during the rainy, windy afternoon and energize for the second game. But alas, the wind didn't dry up the field enough, and they had to call off the night-cap. Voila, two more games to make-up.

Easter morning was a cough-fest for Jack and he lay on the couch under a blanket instead of heading to his Auntie Katie's for brunch and egg-hunt (actually, he was to be an egg-"hider" for his cousins).

The San Francisco-LA game is on ESPN's "Sunday Night Baseball" and Jack finally gets to watch an entire game with his beloved Giants. I am sitting at his feet on the couch, sharing a blanket, talking baseball, and tapping away on my laptop.

Happy Easter, everyone, and Go Giants!

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Make-Up Game #1

When a Saturday double-header is rained out, there are TWO games that need to be rescheduled and played sometime during the regular season. The Little League season runs roughly from the first week of April to mid-June. With 2-3 games per week PLUS mandatory pitching rules (number of innings per week and limit of 12-year-old pitchers), battery management is key. Truth is, the catcher is as important as the pitcher in LL games. Stealing is commonplace, as are wild pitches, so most runs come from cruising the bases.

Why worry about making up rain-out games? LL has a minimum requirement of regular season games in order to field an all-star team (leading to the LL World Series that you see on ESPN and ABC in August).

So, we made up one of our Saturday games on Tuesday night at Bethany School. We took on the Braves, who were also coming off a big win at Alpenrose. We had to juggle our pitchers because the "pitching week" began on Sunday, so our Alpenrose pitchers couldn't pitch plus we have a doubleheader scheduled for today (Saturday, April 15). Who pitches and who do you save for today?

The best part of baseball is the up and down nature of the game -- as tight and "on" as we looked on Sunday, we looked timid and not quite ready to play against the Braves, and it showed in all aspects of our game that night. We couldn't field, couldn't hit and couldn't find the strike zone. We were blanked in four innings, 10-0.

The backstop at Bethany #1 is close, but stiff. The missed balls pop back out quickly, but with no consistency. It can easily shoot out into area that is "out of play" before the catcher gets a chance to scramble after it.

Jack's LL Majors pitching debut was not memorable. He had a tough time finding the strike zone and walked too many batters. When the ball was hit, the defense was not as sharp as it could be... Jack was in tears when he was pulled for Michael E.

One high point was Jack's batting--he got the bat on the ball twice, flying out in the second inning, and smashing a clean single to left-center in the fourth.

The D-Backs were brought back to earth, tears are dried, and the season moves on. Such is the nature of the game.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Alpenrose Stadium

All Little League programs in Oregon District 4 get to play at beautiful Alpenrose Stadium during their season, and today the skies were kind enough to allow Suncreek LL to get their games in on this sacred field.

And, the Diamondbacks didn't disappoint. They beat the Giants 10-0 in four innings and Jack had a great game. He caught for the first pitcher and then played first base. He snagged a would-be single while fielding at first and made an outstanding play.

At the plate, he walked and singled, and scored twice.

But the best was saved for last, as several of the D-Back families headed to The Raccoon Lodge afterward for burgers and the best tator tots in the Portland area. A great ending to a great day...

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Rain-Outs, Part 1

Normally, I love waking up on a Saturday morning to the patter of rain outside my window. Actually, it is usually the sound of overwhelmed gutters and the neighbor's wind chimes, but not today -- just a patter.

But it is April, and time for Little League, so the rain is like nails across a chalkboard for me. We were scheduled to play a double-header today at Bethany School. The first game was to be against the Braves, and our good friends, and the second game against the Giants, our other good friends.

Huge bummer when the phone rings and the team manager says that all games have been canceled for the day. But there is always tomorrow!

Tomorrow is our game at Alpenrose Stadium, the finest Little League facility on the West Coast. Alpenrose Main Field, where they host the Little League Softball World Series every August that is broadcast live over ESPN. Alpenrose, where my son, in his last year in LL, will set foot on his "Field of Dreams." Alpenrose...it better not rain tonight...

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Opening Day of Little League

The day has finally arrived, and the first game of the Little League season is under our belt. The Diamondbacks hosted the Pirates at West Union field under partly cloudy skies and 60 degree weather.

Jack had been waiting for this game since the schedule came out. He went out around the house circling this date on various calendars in each of the rooms. The folding chairs went back into the Xterra, and will remain there until fall. The boys had to be there early to take some BP and warm up, then the first pitch was thrown at 5:38pm.

Jack did not start the game, but came off the bench to play at First Base and at Catcher. He walked his first time up, and hit into a double play (straight up the middle, but the pitcher snagged it and threw to second) his second time at bat.

The D-backs lost the game 4-1, but looked good doing it :)

Let the games begin...

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Still Counting Down

Rain delays are a big bummer. The family was all settled down from batting practice and field maintenance ready to enjoy "Opening Night" of MLB on ESPN2. The Middle-Schooler could not believe the game was on The Deuce, with "girls" basketball on the mother channel.

Yes, I got tears in my eyes as the season kicked off with the montage of Opening Days Past and realizing that my son is in heaven. All is right with the world -- he was muddy from raking and weeding his precious Major Baseball Field at a local school and had spent 30 minutes batting in a cage with an ex-Major Leaguer. What more could you ask for?