Game 1: Good as it gets

… The adrenaline rush has run out. The exhaustion and soreness from my weekend of fun is kicking in.

On Friday afternoon I got to interview Aerosmith’s Tom Hamilton. And I spent a part of my Saturday donning full firefighting gear and participating in some training exercises. It’s days like those that make the 5 a.m. days, the never-ending criticism and the high drama all worth it.

But I’m obligated to save those stories for another day.

Yesterday, I played baseball.

(Insert the angel chorus here.)

If you’ve read or listened to any of my commentaries from my last few summers of amateur ball, you know I’ve played on some teams that would’ve made the Bad News Bears look like the ’27 Yankees.

This year, all that changes.

After last season ended, a few other guys and I declared ourselves free agents and broke off from the team we’d played with for the last two years. We formed the foundation of a new team -- called the Pirates -- and started recruiting with the mission of forming a new team of guys who would be committed to our team but hadn’t lost sight of the fact that this is a game and a league meant for adult men who just want to play baseball and have fun doing it. Secondary to that, we wanted a team of guys who could play well together and stay competitive.

Both were qualities our former team sorely lacked.

As we gathered for our first practices in February, the puzzle pieces had started coming together. The team gelled instantly.

Yesterday, it came time to prove ourselves on the field. And everything clicked.

We won our season opener 14-4 … Even sweeter, we did it against our former team.

Our pitcher went seven strong innings, striking out 10. Offensively, we got on the board in the bottom of the first inning when our cleanup-hitting catcher -- who we might as well call “Pudge” -- caked the first pitch he saw for a two-run home run over the fence in left center. We never lost our lead for the remainder of the game.

As for me, I turned in a 3-for-3 day, although that was due in part to the other team … During my first at-bat, I skied a ball that probably should have been caught, but the shortstop let it drop in shallow left center field. I eventually moved to third and scored.

During my second at bat, I took a slider for a strike and missed a nasty curve before slapping the 0-2 pitch back up the middle and beating out the throw at first. … Then, since I was on with a runner on third, two outs and we already had a comfortable lead, I figured it would be a good time to try stealing a base -- so I went on the second pitch. About three quarters of the way there, I took a glance at the shortstop standing a few feet off the bag and guessed by his reaction that there wasn’t to be a throw. But just as I pulled up to the bag, the throw was bouncing into him and I couldn’t stop my momentum. I overran the bag, stumbled and the shortstop put the tag on me as I laid flat on my stomach behind the bag.

My best at-bat of the day came in my final trip to the plate. I slapped the first pitch I saw down the right field line for an easy single. And then successfully stole second and later scored.

I had a slightly tougher time in the field, which could be blamed on first-game jitters, I suppose. After years of playing left field, I was designated as our starting second baseman this season, which is where I’ve wanted to be all along. So I guess you could say the pressure was on to perform well …

During my first chance in the second inning, I booted a ground ball but picked it up in time -- only to make a bad throw that got past the first baseman and allowed the batter to reach second on my throwing error. I came back later in the inning by fielding a ground ball cleanly and making a good throw to get the third out … A couple innings later, an opposing batter hit a fly ball just over my head and into shallow right field. I had a beat on it and could have made the catch, but gave the angle away to the right fielder. The problem was neither of us called for the ball and it dropped between us. … I also allowed a couple more throws from the catcher get by me than I would have liked on base stealing attempts …

In the bottom of the fifth, I got moved to shortstop to fill in for our starter who was battling a sore quadriceps. Unfortunately, I botched the only opportunity I had there by letting a line drive sail just past me on my right side.

So there’s some things to work on yet. Big deal. …

More importantly we got a very gratifying win -- and we had a whole lotta fun doing it.

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