It is Tuesday, March 6, 2012 in Tucson, Arizona at roughly 5:30p.m. Somewhere at the Kino Sports Park, the Concordia Golden Bears are taking on the Jamestown Jimmies in a college baseball game. With the Golden Bears down 6-3 in the top of the ninth, senior left-hander Cody Wilcoxson enters the game to pitch.
Wilcoxson walked the only batter he faced in his first outing, so this is probably a test appearance to see how he handles himself out there this season. See how he handles the elements, the unknown of the game. See how he handles the unexpected.
Alright, that is enough third person typing about myself. I take the mound, throw my warm-up pitches and get ready for my second appearance of the year.
Strike one. Alright, I’m in the zone. Let’s roll through this inning and get the boys off the field and win it in the bottom of the ninth. Nothing like a good pirated win. I come set with the next pitch. I kick my leg high and drive towards the plate. A fastball on the outer half of the plate. The hitter swings and hits it on the ground toward short. Our shortstop fields it coming in and makes an off balance throw. E6. Well, if they wanted to see how I would handle myself out here, this is a good opportunity.
I come set to face the next hitter. I eye the runner at first. Kick my leg, drive towards the plate. Ball one. Shake it off. I come set again. Look to first. Look home. Look to first. Slide step to home. Strike one. Back on track, a ground ball double play would look real nice right here. I come set again. Slide step. Strike two. Did I say double play? I meant strike out. I come set for my fourth pitch with the batter down 1-2. I kick my leg high and snap off a slider. It starts down the middle of the plate and breaks towards the inside corner. Ball two. Mr. Umpire, debatable, I’d say that was strike three. I’m trying to make a good impression here. Whatever. Here comes another slider. I get my sign, knowing the catcher will call for another slider. I come set. This time I eye up the runner for three seconds before my leg kick. The runner breaks for second. I snap off the slider. The batter takes a giant cut. Swing and a miss. Strike three.
Our third baseman argues that the hitter interfered with the catcher’s ability to throw the runner out at second. I turn and watch Lippy as he aims his argument at the field umpire. When I finally wheel around towards home plate to retrieve the ball to face the next hitter I see the umpire down on a knee. Is this guy Tebowing? Everyone can see his face turning white as our trainer and coaches come to his aid. They lay him on his back. What just happened? We all look at each other not knowing what to do. We can hear bits and pieces of the conversation going on. He is diabetic. His blood sugar must be low.
The coaches give him some water and pop tarts. But, he doesn’t seem to be getting any better. They call 9-1-1. Our coaches and trainer are attending to the umpire as we all clear off the field and into the dugout. It seems like an eternity, but Tucson Fire first responders finally appear at the field. They rush to his aid. As they start to poke, prod, and prepare him to be moved it becomes glaringly obvious, this guy might have low blood sugar, but he is also having a heart attack.
He is finally taken away on a stretcher after a delay of almost a half an hour. I have the opportunity to warm-up again, and they bring in a replacement umpire so we can finish the game with a two-man crew.
After almost 45 minutes, the game resumes, but it definitely has a different feeling now.
I come set to throw the first pitch. I check the runner at second. I throw a fastball on the outer half and the left-handed hitter slaps it through the hole between third base and shortstop. Runners on first and third and one out. Sounds familiar. The next hitter hits a 0-1 slider weakly towards center field. I rush behind the plate to back up the throw to home. Larpy catches it, crow hops, and fires a strike to home plate. The throw hits the glove with the runner still a few steps away. Dead to rights. Jared lunges to tag the runner, who makes an awkward attempt to leap over him. Jared sticks his mitt right into the runners stomach. Safe. What? Safe? He tagged him five feet from the plate. I still don’t even think he has touched the plate.
Everyone is screaming at the umpire who can’t make a simple call right before his eyes. Guess we are back to a normal baseball game. Now I’m mad. We should have been out of this inning a solid hour ago.
Strike one. Strike two. Ball one. Fastball fouled off into the dugout off the shoulder of an assistant coach. “Should’ve been out of this before someone get’s hurt, blue,” comes from the dugout. Fastball, 82-by-you, strike three. Inning over.
How is that for an audition? An hour-long inning that included a heart attack, a clearly blown call, and a scorching line drive into the dugout, oh, and two strikeouts, just saying.
I’m assuming that is a standard Tuesday in Tucson.
We found out the next morning that our umpire had to be revived twice on his way to the hospital, had open heart surgery to add more stints to the five he already had in his heart, and was placed into an induced coma. I have not heard any news since.
We left the trip 6-2 having dealt with more than our fair share of ‘stuff.” As our coach said to us on the first day of the trip, “Succeeding in baseball is mostly about how well you handle all the ‘stuff’ this game throws at you.” So good, so far.
See you Thursday in the Metrodome.
-Go Golden Bears-