When I played high school baseball our team would travel down to Florida every spring. Parents often thought this was a nice trip for their sons to enjoy the weather and to fondly look back at after their paying careers were over.
That was a ruse.
This trip was a 168-hour opportunity for our coaches to get their hands on us and pound into us the fundamentals and hard work that would come to be the foundation of our season. Bloody hands, dehydration, and yelling…lots of yelling…became our world.
Now I don’t know how they teach it in Maracaibo, but in Virginia coach Grove taught us to get the suicide squeeze down at all costs. It’s a curve ball? Get it down. Pitch outside of the strike zone? Get it down. Pitch thrown at your head? GET IT DOWN! GET IT DOWN! GET IT DOWN!
This fundamental was lost on Alberto Gonzalez in the sixth innings of today’s contest. Down 4-3, with one out and a runner on third, skipper Jim Riggleman made a gutsy call to try and squeeze in the tying run with the back of the order coming up.
Willingham stole on the pitchers first motion and was on an island all by himself, relying on only Alex Gonzalez keep him from being stranded.
Reds starting pitcher Justin Lehr saw Willingham was making his move towards home, and that Gonzalez had squared to bunt, so he did what they’ve taught pitchers to do at a young age since baseball first began; throw at the batters head. A ball thrown at your head of course is the hardest location of a pitch to bunt. However anyone who has gotten outside of Little League knows that the batter will not simply avoid the pitch, he’ll just be forced to try his absolute best to not strand his teammate by either staying in on the pitch and laying the bunt down in fair territory or by get hit by it.
This is what happened:
(You may be thinking it looked like he tried to get his bat on the ball, which to be fair he did try. But look where his head is, looking away from the ball. Look where his knees are, on the ground. Look at the angle of his bat. Nothing here implies staying in on the ball.)
I wonder what coach Grove would have done to Gonzalez?