|ABL: Aces vs Perth Heat|
We just completed our first homestands of the year. The first against the defending champion Pert and the second against Brisbane. I started the last game of the series against Perth. It was my first time on the mound against real competition in over 14th months. I was nervous to say the least and unsure as to how many pitches to throw and how it was going to feel. You can only simulate so much in bullpens or even live batting practice. Nothing compares to real game speed and real game adrenaline. Before stepping up to the mound to throw my first pitch, I closed my eyes and did a quick reflection and thanks to everyone on my journey. To all the people that played catch with me, to my rehab trainers to my wife and kids, to my family and to anyone else who had a hand in this moment that was about to happen. I took a deep breath, exhaled, stepped on the mound and looked in to my sign. A single finger went down pointing to a fastball away. The wind up, the pitch….ball one. There it was, my first pitch in competition in over 14 months and it was low and away. The rest of the first inning was unexciting to say the least. I walked the first batter, who then stole second. The next batter got a single to score the run from second. A few hits and a stolen base later I was already down 3-0. I settled down to finally record three outs and head back to the dugout. After high fiving the team and sitting down several guys came over to cheer me up. Its not how Hollywood would have portrayed it but it was a step in the right direction. The second inning I ran out there and tried to be a bit looser. I was quite tight in the first inning. With a flurry of emotions and expectation I forgot to be loose and have fun. The 2nd inning was much better than the 1st. I got three quick ground balls and before I knew it I was walking back to the dugout with a smile on my face and pressure relieved. I tried the same tactic the 3rd inning and after getting a quick 1st out, struggled to find the elusive 2nd and 3rd outs. I ended up giving up a hit and a homerun (which is nothing special in our park, but that’s something I can talk about at a later date.) before getting out of the inning. It was in the books. My 1st outing in more than 14 motnhs and I was down 5-0 on 6 hits, 1 walk and no strikeouts. My velocity on the radar gun was very promising. I sat 84-87mph which I was really stoked about because it had been months since I last knew my readings. Overall I was glad to get the first one out of the way even though it was not what I was hoping for. I threw 60 pitches in 3 innings and I felt every single one of them when the game was over. I had almost forgotten that pitching during the season causes constant aches and pains in the body, such is the life of a baseball player.
We ended up getting swept by Perth 4-0, they have yet to lose a game in the month of November. The next team to come in was the Brisbane Bandits and the Aces were hungry for some more wins. We took 3 out of 4 games including a sweep of a double header on Sunday, spearheaded by fellow American Nic Ungs who took a perfect game into the 7th before surrendering a hit and a run. I started the second game and felt great for 3 innings. I was throwing strikes commanding the zone getting ground balls and pitching effectively. I started to tire late in the 3rd and was missing my spots, flying open and getting winded. I had a long sit between the 3rd and 4th innings and when I finally went out for the 4th couldn’t get as loose as I was hoping. I ended up giving up 3 runs before getting out of the inning was with a ground ball double play. 4 innings, 3 runs, 1 strikeout, 1 walk on 64 pitches, another stepping stone in the right direction. With each outing I feel like my arm is getting stronger and my stuff is getting sharper. Im remembering the pace of the game and how to do the little things like hold runners, vary my looks, pitch in and out and change speeds. I recovered much more quickly after my second outing which to me is a sign that my body is adjusting the rigors of the game.
We ended the homestand on a positive note by taking 3 out of 4 from Brisbane but overall we were 3 and 5 at home. Not a great start but as a team we are starting to heat up, pitch well and swing the bat.