You could have the best team of the season, but sometimes baseball championships come down to just one game. Does Roy Berger have luck on his side? Find out if the winning streak continues in part five of his adventures at Pittsburgh Pirates Fantasy Camp.
It was all going so well. Much better than the plan. And then it ended. Just like that.
The decision to bring Medjet colleague Thomas Brooks with me to 2014 Pittsburgh Pirates Fantasy Camp looked like a stroke of genius. I needed to win some games after losing 11 of 12 and our 40-year-old Senior Sales Director looked to be just the ticket. And he was. We won our first four games and entered Wednesday’s final day of regular schedule play as one of two unbeaten teams of the eight in camp. While our minds were still on the mess back home in Birmingham, hopefully we were one day closer to the freeze breaking and life getting back to normal.
With today’s schedule accelerated to beat the anticipated Bradenton afternoon rain, we played a morning doubleheader in mid 50 degree temps that started about 10 am and finally got us off the field at 2, right before the rain indeed started falling.
Thomas with a strained quad muscle on Tuesday afternoon, spent the evening getting treatment and returned early Wednesday for more ice and wraps. You get to do this maybe once a year or once in an adult lifetime and he didn’t want to waste the moment.
He was bandaged and ready for game one and took his familiar third base spot on a very gimpy leg. We played a team coached by former catcher Steve Nicosia and pitcher Jim Rooker, who split their first four games, and we layed a 5-1 beating on them. ‘Brooksie’, using a designated runner but still being able to get leverage at the plate, had two hits in two at-bats and a couple of RBI’s, while playing a flawless third base.
We quickly changed with about a half hour between games and at 5-0 we were the only unbeaten team left . Our second game opponent, Team Waner, was beaten in the early game to enter at 4-1. Our division had one unbeaten and two 4-1’s. The other bracket had one squad at 3-2 and nobody else over .500. The top two from each side advance to Thursday’s playoff round with the championship game Thursday night under the lights at downtown McKechnie Field.
Manager Rennie Stennett assumed a playoff berth was wrapped up and decided to play the afternoon game a little more casual than we might with everything on the line. Thomas asked to pitch despite the injury and went three great innings against the Ed Ott-Don Robinson coached team striking out six in three innings. The only runs he gave up were unearned, thanks to me, on my only bumble of the week. A too hot to handle shot down the first base line picked up speed on the artificial turf field and jumped right through my five hole for two runs.
We came back, took the lead, but fell behind again in the fifth inning when we were notified with two innings left to play that the winner of our game would get a playoff spot, the loser was out. If we lost there would have been three teams finishing at 5-1 and we would be odd men out, not scoring as many runs as the other two teams.
Bottom line was we got beat 8-5 and despite being the only team in camp that was perfect 90 minutes earlier, we earned a ticket out of the one-day tournament into the Thursday morning consolation round.
And oh was Stennett hot. He said he would have played the entire game and line-up differently if he knew the final spot was going to be decided on runs scored. He corralled Thomas and me after the game outside the clubhouse and it’s amazing how despite his native Spanish tongue, he knows all the right inflammatory English words. And to add just a little salt to our wound, we not only had the highest batting average of any team in camp but also gave up the least amount of runs. None of that will buy us a ticket to McKechnie on Thursday night.
Thomas, continuing a bat that is on fire, had two hits in three trips in the second game as did I.. However no solace for the defensive play I should have made, but the 61 year old reflexes said differently.
Our team dinner was tonight. We took coaches Stennett and Omar Moreno out to tell them how much we appreciate what they gave us all week and for not laughing at our play. Stennett was still emotional from us being left home from the playoff party.
After going unbeaten, losing one game and eliminated from the four team playoff round despite being arguably the best team in camp, tonight nobody had much of an appetite.
By Roy Berger for PeterGreenberg.com. Get your copy of The Most Wonderful Week of the Year and come back for more Pirates Camp Chronicles.