I made it to the Oredocker game against the Spooner Rails! It was a fun game to watch even though the Oredockers won, 12-2, and mercy ruled Spooner, lots of people showed up to support the team. Spooners head coach is Ashland alum Matt Lucious, which helped draw people to the game. I was excited to see everyone, Rick, Whitney and Zach, Heidi, Anissa (Buffy), Pete, Rodney, Barney, Jon, Barb, a high school classmate’s daughter that looks exactly like her mother, I knew instantly who it was. A reunion of sorts, along with everyone else that came up and talked to me. I appreciated all the encouragement and I really am blown away by anyone who has ever read one of my posts. I see everyone on Facebook as we have glimpses into each others lives by what we post, but the human factor is far more exciting to see and talk to someone face to face. Anyway enough about that, I want to talk about the best high school baseball team in the country the Ashland Oredockers! (I can see my buddies Bob and Todd in Cape Coral, Bob in Fort Myers, Troy in Louisiana and a few of the parents in John’s Creek roll their eyes right about now.)
My nephew, Eric, was the starting pitcher for the Oredockers. I was excited to see him play. He got himself into an early jam during the first inning when he couldn’t find the strike zone. I was a little nervous for him since the Oredockers went down, 2-0. Even though, I was more interested to see how he faced this adversity and how the team would react. I have talked to a lot of baseball people on this trip and all say that you can be the most talented player with jaw dropping ability; but, if you can’t handle pressure and keep your composure, you won’t go very far. (Between the Ears!)
I have talked very highly of these kids from Ashland and how well they have been coached through the years. I watched them warm up and could see that their talent level was far superior to Spooners. Ashland came back and scored a run in the bottom of the 1st. My nephew came back out in the top of the 2nd and found his groove. He started hitting his spots with his fastball and his curve started dropping in nicely. The Oredockers seemed to have a “short memory” and were not rattled in the least by how the game started. Their bats came alive, especially another kid that I follow closely, catcher Johnny Sechen. He was clutch in two crucial at-bats that put the game away quickly. I was impressed with how relaxed Josh Carlson was at first base as he fielded line shots and the way he instinctively understood the amount of time he had to get the runner out. Mason Mountain executed the perfect bunt when a suicide squeeze was called, which has been used by these kids to produce runs and wins for years. (I personally think it is the most exciting play in baseball)
Yeah, Ashland won on the mercy rule, they were the more talented team. Yet, I have seen teams like Spooner beat teams like Ashland because of being over confident. It had more to do with the talented kids not knowing how to handle pressure and accepting mistakes when they happen. I have said it to Johnny and Eric, so many times that they make fun of me, that the key to success is to have a “short memory”. If the Ashland kids are still celebrating their easy win over Spooner, or replaying a mistake they made in their mind, they will have problems tonight against Hayward. It really doesn’t matter what you did yesterday good or bad, or indifferent.
I joke that I am the resident baseball expert since I have seen all these games this year and met all the baseball people I have. The reality is that I understand the mental make-up of the game more than the mechanics and strategy. I get excited when a player is struggling, when the shortstop muffs a ball, a pitcher walks two straight, a catcher doesn’t block a ball and a run scores. I tend to focus in on how they react. If they hang their head, stomp their feet; or, if they bear down not letting a miss play get the best of them. I love it when a pitcher gives up a home run and then “smartly” comes after the next batter instead of going at him mano to mano, which usually results in a walk or another home run.
Ashland has the talent to win anywhere in the country. They haven’t had the “dirt time” that kids in the South or Southern California have had, but their coaches through the years have used the same techniques the top coaches are using. I really did expect to see this huge talent gap when I went to the South but it isn’t there. I will give credit to the coaches in the South and out West. They work with the kids everyday, give of their time and are passionate about baseball. In Ashland I have seen coaches do the same thing. Coaches who don’t worry about whose kid is who, they just love to coach and give of their time. I hope this continues. Baseball can be a great community event, a coming together, moments where friends can catch up. It isn’t always about the game. I was happy that I could share some hugs with people I haven’t see in awhile. A couple of things need to happen though, the scoreboard should have been working and the concession stand open!
I am excited to drive to Hayward today to see the Oredockers play. I reorganized my schedule and will continue to do so. I believe the talent and desire is there to win it all this year. However, the games need to be played and the kids need to have a “short memory” to make it happen!
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