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Going Beyond the Standards
It was an extremely cold day on the last day of March when my baseball team had come together for the first time, and each and every one of us knew that we only had about 20 days to prepare for opening day. None of us knew how good we would be, but I knew that we had enough talent to win the championship. After only a handful of practices, we all agreed to set one ultimate goal for the season: win the championship. It seemed strange to some people that we had set this goal so early on, without even playing a game with each other or against anyone yet. But to me, I felt that we could reach this goal. Something told me we could.
When the practices had started, I set one goal for myself to reach before opening day. That goal was to be announced on opening day as the starting catcher. I had battled so many injuries to my hand and fingers in the previous seasons that people said I had no possible shot at catching at all that season. That didn’t stop me.
As opening day drew closer, I strived harder and harder to get the catching job. About one week before the first game, Coach Dewey had given me the news that I had been waiting to hear.
After every practice, I was always the very last one out of the dugout, and most of the time I walked out with Peter Dewey. As Peter and I walked out, Coach Dewey pulled us aside for a moment. He simply said to us, “Peter, I want you on the hill on opening day. Cam, I want you to put on the gear and catch him.”
I didn’t know how to respond. I just thanked him, and in my mind I said that he would not regret this decision.
After a long wait, opening day finally came. It was the first day to work on reaching our goal of becoming the league champions. As I arrived at the field, I unpacked my things and just took a seat on the bench. I didn’t go out to throw or stretch. I just took a seat and took it all in. I was ready to get to work.
My pregame routine was a little bit strange on game days. I wouldn’t throw with the rest of the team, I would throw with the starting pitcher shortly before the start of the game. Before I did that, Ryan Murphy and I would probably do the strangest thing that could have been done before a game. While the rest of the team was in the dugout preparing for the game, Ryan, who we called Salty, and I would grab our bats and two balls and proceed to the outfield. Then, Salty and I would play a quick round of mini golf with our baseball equipment. We did this so we were relaxed before our games and weren’t over thinking anything. When we finished our quick round on opening day, I jogged back into the dugout and grabbed my mitt and gear, then Peter and I warmed up for opening day.
Now, it was game time.
I can’t remember the score of that first game, but remember that Peter was lights out, I went 3 for 3 at the plate, and we won. After the game, everyone on the team knew that we could reach our goal set earlier in the year. We had the talent and chemistry to accomplish what we intended to.
After our first five games of the season, we were on fire. We were 5-0, and we won those games without a problem. As the season went on, we continued to have practices to get better. I continued to work really hard in practice, but I also had fun with it.
Shortly following a great start, a disaster, at an unlikely moment came up. I was catching during a simulated game during a practice and we were all just having fun. Then, on one play, a ball was hit to the outfield, and Peter tried to score from second base. The ball was thrown to me from center field, and I had it well before Peter arrived to the plate. I caught the ball and dropped down to block the plate. Blocking the plate was probably the best aspect of my catching game. I gave the runners absolutely no room to touch the plate. I actually broke a kid’s leg blocking the plate. As Peter got closer to the plate, I was already down, then he went into a slide. His right cleat went right into my thumb on my glove hand where there is no padding. He made solid contact with my thumb. I instantly shook off the glove in pain. Peter saw the pain I was in and felt terrible. It was such a fluke injury.
I got my thumb checked out by a doctor. He came back with the results and looked me in the eye and said, “Broken.” I left the doctors after he said that.
Two days later, I was at the field on game day and went through my routine with Salty and the pitcher, and I was on the lineup card that day with a “C” next to my name, meaning catcher.
Here I was catching a game only two days after breaking my thumb. I wanted to reach win so bad and become champions that I didn’t want to let a broken thumb on my glove hand get in the way.
After 10 games in the season, we were 10-0. I had caught all but one game up to this point, and we were shutting down every team we had faced. After these games, Peter and I both had batting averages over .600 which led the league. People expected this from Peter, but never from me. I just wanted to prove to people how serious I was about winning the title in my final year in Little League.
We knew the games coming up in the second half of the season wouldn’t be a breeze for us at all. Since we were the best team, every team that played us is the remaining games had their best pitcher face us. Despite that, I kept my batting average up, and it got even higher along with Peter’s.
At the end of the regular season, we had only lost one game. This gave us the number 1 seed in the playoffs, and we earned a first round bye. My stats at the end of the season greatly surprised me. My batting average was .736, trailing only Peter for the league’s best, I only had 2 errors catching, and I didn’t let a single runner steal a base on me for the entire season. I honestly had no clue that I even had the potential to play this well. I set my standards high, but not this high.
Now we were heading into the playoffs. It is an entire new season basically, and every team has a shot to win it. We were now so close to reaching our ultimate goal, and I didn’t want anyone to get in the way from us reaching it.
After getting some rest not having to play in the first round, the second round, the semi-finals, finally came. We had to face the 2nd best team in the league, the Giants. I was told before the playoffs began that I would be catching every single playoff game, and I was up for the task.
In game 1 of the semi-finals, we had Peter pitching for us, and we had to go up against the league’s top pitcher, the Giants stud, the hard ball throwing Sean Del Valle.
We all knew it would be a tough series, but we also knew it would be a tough season and we succeeded at doing well at that. I still had my eyes on the ultimate goal of winning it all.
Now that it was the playoffs, your last game could be a loss, but for only one team, your last game could be a win. I wanted us to be that team. I didn’t want to end my Little League career with a loss. It was now time to do anything I possibly could to help my team win.
The first game did not end the way that we had planned it end. It came to the last inning and we were down 3-1, and Sean had a no-hitter still intact. I came up with the bases loaded and 2 outs, the situation that every ballplayer goes over in their head, imagining what they would do in this very situation.
I always thought that I would come up clutch in this situation, but here, this wasn’t the case. I ended up striking out to end the game, and Sean got the no-hitter.
This means we had to win the next two games in order to even play for the title. It was going to be a tough challenge that all of us were willing to embrace.
We ended up winning game 2 by a decent amount of runs, and now it was time for an all or nothing game 3. Winner moves on to the championship. Now it was all a matter of who wanted it more.
There was a wild start before game 3 even began. The Giants head coach, Jeff Coleman, thought he could pitch Sean, but our team made sure that didn’t happen. Since Sean threw so many pitches in game 1, he didn’t qualify to pitch in this game. This gave us an advantage in a few ways. One way was that we didn’t have to face the guy who threw a no-hitter against us. The other way was that the Giants had to scramble to find a new starting pitcher, who wouldn’t have much time to mentally and physically prepare for what was now the most important game of the year.
It was a game that we had dominated from the start. Peter and I both had gone 4-4, and we won by what I believe to be a score of 7-0. We were on the the championship!
I had been waiting for this very moment, and I was beyond ready for it now that it was right in front of me. We were facing the Rays in what was another best-of-three series. I was about to play the best baseball of my life.
We started off winning game one by a score of 4-2, and lost in game two by a score of 5-4. This set up for another game 3, but this one being 10x bigger than the last one. I was so ready for game 3 that I showed up to the field 2 hours before the start of the game. I got there and sat in the dugout. All of the thoughts of what people had said of us earlier in the season had went through my mind. I just laughed at those negative things that I remember people had said of me. My last thought that crossed my mind; “This team will not even have a shot this season. What are even talking about.” After that, I laughed and jogged out to the field.
When the rest of my team arrived to the field, I went through my usual pregame routine. I wasn’t going to change it now because it was the championship game. It worked all season. When the game started, it became intense very quickly. Everyone was at the game. The other teams, parents, and friends of ours. All eyes were on us. I lived for this very moment.
We were losing by a run when the 4th inning came around and Salty came to the plate with runners on 2nd and 3rd base. He saw a pitch he liked and pounded down the left field line. It was such a hard hit ball, but it looked like it was going foul. The ball landed so close to the line, and everyone ran the ball out as if it were fair. Both base runners scored, and he got a double. All of the umps huddled up to make the call: fair or foul.
After a good 5 minutes of talking they came back with a call: Fair ball! We took the lead! Now we had to hold it. The smell of winning was in the air for us. We were now way too close to blow this. The bottom of the 6th inning came and we had the lead.
Peter was on to close out the game, and I was behind the plate; a place where people said I wouldn’t be this season. I couldn’t believe the moment.
We were now only half an inning away from achieving our goal that we had set way back in April.
Peter retired the first batter throwing his sinker and getting the batter to pop out to center. He got the second batter to ground out to 3rd base.
One. Batter. Away.
Peter quickly got ahead in the count 0-2, then evened the count out at 2-2 after missing the strike zone on his next 2 pitches. After the Second ball, I asked the ump for time and then walked out to talk to Peter. I got to him and only said two words: “Finish him.”
I got back to the plate, then threw down the number 1 with my fingers for Peter, signaling for him to throw the fastball. He nodded it off, but I insisted that he throw it. He listened to me. He went into his windup and hurled the ball towards my glove.
The batter swung. He missed! We had finally done it!
I threw my glove up what seemed to be about 30 feet in the air, then ran faster than I ever had to Peter at the mound. I got there then picked him up, and then the rest of the team jumped on top of us. I felt like I had just won a gold medal in the Olympics. We just did what people said we couldn’t do, and I had done what not even I thought I could do at certain points.
Going into the season, my goal was winning a championship and proving everyone else wrong. People said that my injuries would prevent me from catching. They said we couldn’t even make it to the championship, let alone win it. I without a doubt, with support and talent from my team, proved each and every one of them wrong. Along with my team, I set my goals high, and at the end, we had come to put a checkmark next to each one of our goals. We had gone beyond the standards.
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