On the Diamond: By the power of Lilleberg | AspenTimes.com
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On the Diamond: By the power of Lilleberg

Jon Maletz

I’m certain the Messiah Lutheran Church had God on its side in Monday’s rec. league softball game against The Aspen Times. It didn’t hurt to have Matt Lilleberg in the middle of the lineup, either.Lilleberg, Aspen High School’s baseball coach, is tearing up opposing pitching like a Rottweiler let loose in a paper factory. He has been the catalyst behind the church’s 4-0 record and accounted for more than half of the runs scored in his team’s convincing 10-2 victory over the Times. He is also striking fear in the hearts of opposing defenders. No one is safe. Believe me.I made the mistake of attracting Lilleberg’s attention in the top of the first with a runner on third and two out. I called him out, all-but daring him to hit the ball to me at shortstop. And what did he do? Lilleberg wound up and drilled a pitch that locked on me like a heat-seeking missile. I flailed hopelessly for the ball as it bounded past me (my eyes might’ve been closed at the time), picking up speed every time it made contact with the rutted Rotary Field dirt. I didn’t dare get in front of it, mostly because I had less than a second to react; I also wanted to leave open the possibility of having kids one day. What a nice way to pay me back for giving the Skiers some publicity.When he came up a second time, Lilleberg made a point of scanning the field for me as he settled in the batter’s box. I was on the bench, hiding behind some chain-link fencing. I still didn’t feel entirely comfortable. He found a way to pick on me once more, lining a ball that flew over my girlfriend’s head in deep right and likely rolled to the base of Buttermilk. He trotted home with an inside-the-park home run.He wasn’t done. Lilleberg displayed the uncanny ability to dump the ball anywhere on the field he chose. He showcased the precision of a PGA Tour-quality golfer by dropping a ball in the Bermuda Triangle in short center, then cleared the bases after singling and advancing to third on an error. (If he says he tripled, make sure to call him on it.) And he was hardly a slouch in the field.The Times had no more than a handful of players hit the ball beyond the shortstop. When we did, however, Lilleberg would come out of nowhere to snag the fly on the run. At one point, while he was standing on second, I made a point of telling him to take it easy. After all, it’s only the rec. league.I can’t fault a player for being so good. Almost too good. After all, he’s only a few years removed from his stint playing college ball. I’m just happy I came out unscathed.


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