Monday, December 5, 2011

The Church of Baseball


On our way Adelaide

My second road trip of the year, and off to Adelaide we go!  Adelaide is known as the City of Churches….because, well….it has lots of Churches.  Unfortunately the only church I got to see was the Church of Baseball.  After our afternoon flight arrived we piled into our EuropCar vans departed for the Arkaba Hotel.  Upon arrival at the Arkaba the first thing you notice when walking inside is the mini casino filled with “Pokies” or slot machines.  Stuff is expensive enough here in Australia so I stayed away from the pokies for the trip.  Our rooms were pleasant, two queen beds, nice bathroom, 42 inch flat screen TV and plenty of entertaining channels.  We grabbed a quick bite to eat then hopped on the vans and off to the field we went.  The home of the Adelaide Bite is also the home of the Norwood Red Legs, a sort of minor league AFL team.  From what I was told they have been playing baseball on this field since the 50’s.  Norwood’s  stadium is definitely an older place.  The grandstands are mostly comprised of old brick construction with built in seats, benches and boxes.  Half the field has stands built in while the other half is a tiered, paved seating area where you would have to bring your chairs or blankets to sit on.  The main field is like your typical footy field, a large grass oval with goal posts positioned at both ends (Side note: If you havnt seen a footy game please find a way to view one, its like a non-stop NFL game with no pads, very entertaining).



Tunnel to the Field
We pulled into the back side of the stadium and made our way to the clubhouse.  It was a small room with a few benches to sit on, a toilet and two showers.  Small by most standards but not terrible.  I quickly put on some sunscreen and tied my cleats and off to the field I went.  To get to the field you have to walk the length of the field down a small brick corridor.  Every 20 feet or so was a cutout window with chain-link fence covering, giving you a sneak peak at the field.  At the end of the tunnel was a small ramp, then a door leading to the field.  As I came out of the tunnel my eyes immediately scanned the stadium and the field.  You could tell right away that this place was unique in its own right.  The field was placed in the corner of the footy stadium.  Homeplate was slightly off-centered to the main grandstand.  Right field was very short, with a 60 foot tall net guarding the houses that lay just beyond the stadium.  Center and left field were boxed in with a temporary metal wall, setup about three quarters the way down the footy field.  Centerfield was fairly deep but left was almost as short as right.  With all that room to work with on the footy field, why would they short the fences so much? 
View From The Dugout
The infield was all grass with dirt cutouts for the bases, mound and homeplate area.  There was a thick layer of sand distributed over the field to help even out the lumps in the field left over from footy.  The dugouts, or what they called dugouts, were small covered areas cut back into the stands.  There was also plenty of plastic patio chairs for everyone to sit on.  The bullpens were as temporary as temporary gets.  Our pen had two portable mounds, a heavy rubber plate and the back net was the cage used for batting practice.  We had to measure out each day the length of the mounds in the bullpen to make sure we were throwing at the correct distance.  It was funny to watch myself and several others, marching back and forth trying to figure out who’s distance was more correct.  The field had two foul areas as well.  The first was your typical foul ball area between the first and third baselines and what should be the stadium or dugouts.  The second area was just beyond that and considered out of bounds.  This second area is where the bullpens, dugouts and equipment were kept during the game and any ball caught in this area was considered a dead ball and not counted as an out.  Several times during the series we had first basemen trying to drag their feet into the “dead zone” ala NFL wideouts.  I jokingly told one of the umpires that he kept both feet in, it should be a catch and he gave me a blank look like he didn’t understand what I was saying.  Overall the field was definitely unique and fun to play on.  It definitely adds to the flavor of the game when you have a unique surface and stadium to play in.


View From The Stands
The aces came away from the first game with a 4-0 shutout.  Our two Japanese pitchers were phenomenal and carried us the whole night.  The next day we had a very strange day/night double header.  The first game started early in the morning so that several local schools could attend.  Fellow American, Nic Ungs started the game and pitched well.  He made one mistake pitch to the Bite’s best hitter and he hit a grand slam, which ended up being the game winner.  The final of the morning game was 9-6 Adelaide.  After that game we packed our bags and headed back to the hotel for 4 hours before returning later for the night game which was scheduled for 7pm.  I started the second game and had revenge on my mind.  I didn’t particularly care for the way several of the Bite’s players carried themselves on the field and I was going to make it my mission to silence their bats and their attitudes.   There have been several players throughout this league sofar that seem to have an air about them.  A holier than thou kind of way they carry themselves.  Maybe it’s the fact that Im older now or that Ive been humbled by this game, but there is no place for showboating and cockiness, especially here in winterball.  Guys are here to get work in and have fun and I feel like several people need to understand that the game is not here for them, they are here for the game.  Sorry about that little rant but it really peeves me when people carry themselves like they are bigger than the game.  Okay, back to the game. 
Visiting Dugout
Warming up in the bullpen before the game I didn’t feel like I was particularly sharp but my arm felt good and I felt like I had pretty good command of my fastball.  Our pregame strategy was to pitch in to everyone and bury breaking balls in the dirt late.  I started the game with a strikeout of the lead off hitter on a 2-2 fastball in at the knees.  That strikeout set the tone for the rest of the game.  I kept their hitters off balance by pitching in and changing speeds with curveballs, sliders and changeups.  I cruised through 5 innings with only one blemish, a homerun to left on  a fastball up and in.  Ive given up homeruns in every game Ive pitched so far down here and I have yet to give up that I felt was a true legitimate homerun.  I went back out for the 6th inning and got the first batter to ground out to third base.  I walked the next batter on a 3-2 changeup, my first walk of the game.  The next hitter was their best bat and I managed to strike him out on a fastball high and in.  I felt like things were going my way now.  The next batter was the 4 hole hitter.  I quickly fell behind him 2-0 on fastballs.  I got a strike on the next pitch then followed that was a hard fastball in.  He fisted it out to right field and now I had runners on second and first with two outs.  Our manager Phil Dale made his way out to the mound and I knew I was probably coming out.  He said I was at 80 pitches for the night and had 2 left handers coming up and he wanted to go with our lefty from the pen.  I came out of the game after going 5 and 2/3 giving up 4 hits, 1 run, while walking 1 and striking out 4.  By far my best game of the year and the best I have felt yet.  Danny McGrath (pronounced McGraw) came in and got the next hitter out to preserve the 3-1 lead and end the 6th inning.  We went on to win the game and silence their bats and their attitudes.  It was an uplifting win for the team and the pitching staff who once again came up big. 

Home Dugout and Stands
The final day in Adelaide we had a chance to take 3 out of 4 games and continue our hot streak as a team.  We started the game off well and held a lead late into the 7th inning.  However we ran into some trouble with a couple of baserunners and only 1 out.  Their best hitter came to the plate and we went to the pen.  Again we went to McGrath and turned hitter to the right side of the plate (he was a switch hitter).  The first pitch from Danny was a fastball and it was quickly turned around and blasted over the left center wall for a 3 run homerun and an eventual win.  A heartbreaker to end our trip for sure, after such strong outings from everyone.  We played with a bunch of young first time players on this trip and they all contributed in their own ways during our four game stint.  They say a split on the road is a win, but we could have had 3 games on this trip.  We’ll take it as a building block for the future and fly home with our heads held high.

5 comments:

  1. Thanks for the awesome post Jason! Luke and I are following and excited to read about your progress down under! Keep up the great work!

    Larry and Luke

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi Jason – good to read about your journey to Adelaide. I was at games 1 and 4, so didn't see you pitch. I think we (the Bite) got a little lucky with those winning hits, so can understand the frustration at the split result. Good luck to you as the season continues!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hello Jason, Good post on Adelaide and for someone who knows the area well you have painted a great picture. Strangely I am a Bite Fan and follow them closely. I was very intrigued about the Bite's attitude towards the game . . . . Is that why the haven't been putting up the results like last year - I wonder .. .

    ReplyDelete
  4. Wonderful reading, Jason. Keep 'em coming.

    Go Aces.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Nice work on the hill! Marc Stout

    ReplyDelete