Saturday, June 16, 2007

Last Primer Before All-Star Weekend

Kailey's big All-Star tournament is next weekend, and her team has been practicing HARD the past few weeks to get ready. They're taking this thing very seriously. I love it. What I don't love is their lack of a team name. They simply call themselves "Southeast" or "Eastside", which has nowhere near the ring of the Blue (Balls) Bandits. Even their All-Star jerseys are boring. They're white. We may as well call ourselves the Southeast Eastside Boring White Jersey All-Stars. I understand the practicality of the choice of white for their jerseys. They're playing in a weekend tournament in 100+ degree heat, and white jerseys will keep them as cool as can be under those circumstances. But it's still boring.

Fortunately, the Southeast All-Stars' play is anything BUT boring. This morning they had a scrimmage game against another local All-Star team in as a kind of last minute primer before the tournament. They won 6-2, and I saw several positives going into All-Star weekend.

As is true for any baseball/softball team, the key to having a great team is pitching. If you've got great pitching, you're on your way. In Kailey's league, the girls pitch. When they pitch four balls, the opposing team's coach comes in and pitches. The common batting strategy is to wait for the opposing team's pitcher, who usually sucks, to throw her four balls, and then swing away when the coach comes in to serve big fat meatballs. This strategy takes great fortitude as the batter has absolutely no idea where those four pitches are going to end up. At least one of them always goes over the backstop, and you can all but guarantee that another one is coming for her head. But if your team has a pitcher that can actually throw STRIKES, the batter gets frazzled. At best, or worst depending on your team, she'll watch two strikes go by before striking out swinging at a pitch two miles over her head. Otherwise she'll have one or two strikes on her before the coach comes in to pitch, making the odds in favor of a strikeout. Keep the coach off the mound and your chance of winning greatly increase. The Southeast Eastside Boring White Jersey All-Stars have several girls who can throw strikes consistently.

After pitching comes offense, and Eastside can hit from the top to the bottom of the order. The question is will they swing at the strikes thrown by the other teams' pitchers? I don't know. The opposing teams' pitching this morning was pretty atrocious. I think they can.

Defense at this age group is pretty much a non-factor. Every team's defense sucks, with the exception of a couple good plays per game. These girls are still working to refine the motor skills required to field, throw, and catch. If they knock a ball down, you encourage them with a "good job!" If they field the ball cleanly and make a good throw, the encouragement grows in excitement. But if the 1st baseman catches the ball or if they catch a pop up, everyone pees themselves with excitement. You'd think the Cubs won the Series. Eastside managed to make a few key, pee-inducing defensive plays, including a couple of caught fly balls. If they keep it up, they'll go far into the tournament.

One last note concerning the sad state of affairs surrounding modern sport. This morning before the game, as the parents were lounging around sucking down water and trying not to die of heat stroke, one of the coach's wives surprised us with a last minute tournament requirement: birth certificates. We already submitted a copy of Kailey's birth certificate with her original softball registration. But apparently the pressure to excel is so great, even at this young age, that coaches are tempted to cheat and recruit older girls to their rosters. So we have to submit another copy of her birth certificate to tournament organizers so they can verify her age. She'll pass that test, and then it will be tournament time. They face a stiff opponent in their first game Saturday morning: the Amazon Women of Sahuaro. Can't wait.


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