On the Diamond: A long walk

Jon MaletzAspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN On at least one occasion Monday, I mistook our rec softball game for a cakewalk, although it was more painful than watching an old lady march off with your lemon meringue. For one week I watched Rick Carroll strut through the office with his chin pointing toward the ductwork, spouting off about his exploits on the mound to anyone in close vicinity. He was so preoccupied with his scoreless-innings streak and ERA that I didn’t bother reminding him we lost, 6-0. I didn’t bother telling him to hold off penning that Hall of Fame speech.Now I won’t have to. Carroll lost all semblance of control Monday in the midst of a 14-4 loss. He faded as fast as Rick Ankiel or Mark “The Bird” Fydrich. If you haven’t heard of either of these two pitchers, then you’ve helped illustrate my point.In one at-bat, Carroll tossed two lame ducks that landed behind a woman in the batter’s box. One guy mockingly swung at a pitch that nearly clipped his shoe tops to speed the game up. Sadly, Carroll’s best pitch of the game came when the umpire had his back turned.Where did it all go wrong? What it overconfidence? Arm fatigue? Did his quirky mechanics – Carroll looks like he’s having a seizure or treading water when he delivers a pitch – finally break down? Things started so well – Carroll lined the game’s first pitch into the outfield and came all the way around to score our first run since June’s runoff election. We took a 2-0 lead into the second inning after he induced a strikeout, then a lazy flyout to wiggle out of trouble in the first. Then reality sunk in. As I watched from center field, glove idling at my side, Carroll proceeded to walk six batters in the next three innings. After he loaded the bases in the fourth, I had no choice but to go to the bullpen. If I hadn’t, the game would’ve been called because of darkness one inning later. In Carroll’s defense, our offense didn’t generate much support. We stranded runners in scoring position all game, I grounded to third in both my at-bats and Nate Peterson’s two base running blunders (he got caught in a pickle in between third and home and fell on the ground, then got doubled up at first after straying too far off the bag) squashed any hopes of a rally.In the end, however, Carroll unraveled. I could see his confidence was waning, so I told him I was just as embarrassed as he was that I had to make a change in middle of the inning. It was a lie, but I sounded sincere. Shake it off, boss. Carroll spent the rest of the game standing in the outfield, beer in hand, bemoaning the fact that I yanked him before his wife showed up. They should both thank me.


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