Did I ever get to step up to the plate in Fenway Park? No. But I did face a former major league pitcher which is pretty cool no matter where you are.
It was the 100 Innings Baseball Spectacular in the fall of 2011, an annual charity game in Boston from which all the proceeds go to the ALS Foundation to fund research for Lou Gehrig’s disease. All the best amateur leagues in Boston participate, along with numerous casual players so it’s always good competition and good fun.
Back in 2011 I was just a skinny kid out of high school playing alongside guys 5-10 years older than me and all much bigger and faster. It was fun, but a but intimidating to say the least. Imagine my surprise when I dug in at the plate and saw a 64-year-old left handed pitcher on the mound yelling at everyone and everything in sight. I wasn’t fazed though, perturbed but not scared in the least.
I had gotten aboard with an infield single to short, so I was feeling pretty good about myself when I dug in against this “old guy.” And then he dropped a curve for strike one. It was not like the curves I saw in high school, it was sharp and sunk right down to the knee. Then he threw me a hard fastball in the mid-seventies for strike two. Strike three came on a high eephus pitch that improbably dropped down to my knee, strike three looking and I knew it.
It was a humbling experience to say the least, I put up a bit more fight in my second at bat actually swinging at a few pitches but struck out again to which Lee called out after me “Good morning, good afternoon, and good night.”
For those who don’t know, like me at the time, the Spaceman was one of the better lefties for the Sox before getting his shoulder busted in a Yankeees brawl. He ended his MLB career going 119-90 with a 3.64 ERA. After his time in the bigs he bounced around from league to league playing in Cuba for a while and then shifting over to various independent leagues.
It was an amazing day, after all how many people can say they faced a former big league pitcher (just imagine the catcher’s reaction!)? Sure I didn’t do too well, but hey for a kid just out of high school I didn’t expect much. Even since I’ve never seen a curve or change with as much bite or movement, it was something that was very cool to see but also extremely terrifying.
If you have some time check the fundraiser out, it’s really cool and it’s all for a good cause. Even if baseball isn’t your thing check out the ALS foundation and make a donation!