Gentlemen- I've been fortunate, over the years, to have coached my son in his various summer leagues after school baseball has ended. From 10 and under through American Legion, I've been involved, generally as a first base coach. This year is the first year my son has played in a men's league. We have a real good hitting team, but lack depth on the mound. And, as the following will show, we have problems getting players to the game.

A few nights ago, we knew our catcher and an infielder, both starters, would not be there as they are involved in a club team world series in Florida- they both play for Central Michigan University. My son has a job with a moving company and cannot leave for the game until the particular move he is involved with is finished. Another starter on our team also works for the same company. Finally, a fifth starter had a late class and was absent.

When I got to the park, I knew that at least 3 guys, (the 2 in Fla and my son) would not be there. I did not know that the 2 other guys would not arrive. The bottom line is that we had 8 players. The head coach and I looked at one another and quickly decided that I would be 'rostered' and play until someone else showed up. We were on the phone to the other 2 guys to try to explain the situation, but to no avail.

Anyway, as the game approached, I had to find some cleats. Fortunately, one kid has shoes for me that come close to fitting (they're a little tight) so I put them on. It's about 5 minutes before game time now, so I decide I'd better loosen up. I stretch a bit, but it's not doing any good. I grab one of the guys to play catch and after about 10 throws, realize my arm is starting to hurt, so I discontinue this.

All of the sudden, I start to panic. I look over to the opponents 'bullpen' and am relieved to see a righthander warming up. (I bat lefthanded and did not need to see any curveballs starting at my head).

Anyway, we as coaches decide that I can do the least harm at first base. Our normal 1bman offers his firstbasemens glove. It just didn't feel right so I used another regular fielders glove. Having grown up as a catcher, no glove really feels 'right'. But, I'm still enough of an athlete to be able to catch throws from the infield. Rightfield was another possibility.

This league is a pretty competitive league. It's dotted with former minor leaguers, college players and local 'heroes' who still love playing. Our team is 2-0 having beaten 2 of the weaker teams. We are playing one of the better teams. We are the home team.

We have our best pitcher on the mound. Unfortunately, only the shortstop is playing his natural position. Catching is another pitcher who does not normally start. Our 1bman is playing 3b. At 2b is another pitcher who is also a utility man. In left is a real athlete who will close for us if the stater gets in trouble. He's usually an infielder. In CF is our weakest hitter, who, dispite being an athlete and a pitcher, can't hit a lick. In rightfield is our DH and leadoff hitter who is fast, but a lousy fielder.

The other team scores 2 in the top of the first. We answer with 2 in the bottom half. In the bottom of the 2nd, I get up with no one on and 1 out. For those of you that only know me as the guy who owns ULO and MFM, I'm a fifty year old guy, a former athlete that is in decent shape- for a fifty year old guy. It has been 29 years since I played in the very same league. 29 years since I have faced live pitching! I'm batting 8th in the lineup. The 9th hitter can't hit at all, but if he gets on base, he's fast, so he's like the 'pre-leadoff man'.

Anyway, as you can guess, I'm a bit nervous. The first pitch comes in- at the letters- ball 1. This used to be a strike when I played. The 2nd pitch is also a ball. On 2-0 the guy grooves one. I am way ahead of it and catch it right at the end of the bat. It's fairly well hit, right down the 1b line- foul by about a foot. I was that close to a potential double, though I probably would have held up at first. Our kids in the dugout are oohing and aahing. Really hooting on me. On 2-1 the 4th fastball is low and outside. Strike 2. I tell the kids not to argue balls and strikes with the ump so I say nothing. The next pitch is in the same spot so I throw my bat at it and hit a slow roller to 3b. I run my ass off. As I'm running I hear my wife laughing. I get thrown out by a step. Not a bad AB for a 29 year lay off.

In the 4th I'm the 2nd batter of the inning. We're down 3-2 and the leadoff batter gets to 1b on an error. Before I'm anywhere near the batters box, our coach and I make eye contact. It is an obvious bunt situation. Both of us know this. So do our opponents. The bunt sign is given. The first pich comes in low- almost in the dirt. I try to bunt it and foul it off. Stupid. Bunt strikes, asshole. The next pitch is a perfect pitch to bunt, belt high, a bit inside. The 3b, by the way, is playing like it's a softball game- about 40 feet away from me. I catch the ball right on the sweet spot and lay down a good bunt about 1/2 way between the pitcher and the 1b line. He has only the play at first. I'm thrown out easily. But, I did my job. The players high-five me coming back to the dugout. A GREAT feeling. Unfortunately, we don't score.

In the field, I've had nothing but routine catches. Our infielders did a great job. No throws in the dirt. Nothing wild. Somewhere in the middle innings, a lefty nubs one that is a slow roller past the pitcher in the direction of our 2nd baseman. To me, it seemed like I made an instantaneous decision to go cut the ball off. It was the right move. The ball was traveling much too slow for the 2bman to get there in time. Anyway, I field it cleanly. Our pitcher see this and is over covering 1b like he should. I overhand the ball to him- a mistake, it should have been underhanded. The throw was high. I thought he could have caught it, but it was definitely my error. Fortunately, it doesn't cost us as we get out of the inning.

I'm leading off the 6th inning. We're still down, now 4-3. Each team has homered to get to that score. Our opponents bring in their closer. Shit, this guy throws hard. But, at least, he's right handed. So far, I have just seen fastballs. Good thing. By this time in the game (a 6:15 start), the sun is low in the sky and the background for lefties is a bunch of old trucks past the centerfield fence. There's a bit of a glare. I decide to take the first pitch no matter where it is. A mistake. He lays a fastball right down the middle. Best pitch I saw all night. Fuck! The next pitch is also a fastball, inside. I swing and hit a weak popup to the 2bman.

This closer gets the next 5 guys in order and we lose.

It was a lot of fun, and I didn't embarrass myself. But, as I laid in bed, I was still thinking of that first pitch. What if I got a hit? Man, it was a good pitch. Getting on base could have changed the outcome. I guess that's why I coach. I think about things like that.

Baseball is such a great game. So many things can affect the outcome. My son, Eric, says that those who don't like baseball, don't understand baseball. He's right. People who say that it's 'too slow' are just plain wrong. They have no clue.