We faced the best player on the grounds this week. Denis Dunlap, 38, from Irwin, Pa. played Division 1 college baseball at East Carolina and he’s not only one of the youngest in camp he’s also the most talented. He was the Blass-Mazeroski choice to pitch this morning, one they figured they need to quality for Thursday’s playoffs.
I got to hit against him in the first inning. Throwing in the mid to high 60′s, the ball is a different looking object than you see regularly at this level. I got ahead of him 2 balls and a strike and threw TheBat at a fastball and poked it into center for a legitimate base hit against a legit pitcher. That was the highlight of my day.
A walk and putout later, the game moved to the seventh inning tied 2-2. You don’t see many camp games with only four runs scored in six innings. After a leadoff walk for us in the top of the seventh, Blass put Dunlap back in after pitching him only the first two innings. Campers are maxed at three innings pitched in a game. He gets the first guy he sees out and our shortstop Todd Rowley, 48, gets a clean hit to left to put runners on first and third with one out. The potential game winning run is on TB and after falling behind 0-2 with the odds stacked against me, giving up 20 + years, I was able to foul off the next two. By this time Dunlap was the hardest thrower I’ve ever faced including the ex-major leagues in the respective legends games.
Someone in the know told me afterwards he was throwing in the high 70′s, low 80′s and frankly that’s out of my league. On the next pitch he throws the hardest fastball I’ve ever seen, clearly inside, but became one of those fantasy camp fantasy strikes and I got punched out. I caught myself before I said something to the umpire I might have regretted.
With nine guys and everyone having to play every inning there was no room for back talk.
We stranded the runner at third and now had to try and escape the heart of the Blass-Maz batting order in the bottom of the seventh. Their leadoff hitter gets a wind blown, adult little league double sliding into second and breaking his arm. The next hitter, Dean Kajouras,50, had already doubled and tripled earlier. I pleaded with our coach Don Robinson to walk him but Donnie paid no attention. Clint Hurdle is standing close by first base and laughing. Not sure what he was doing there but clearly wasn’t scouting. Of course our pitcher proceeded to strike Kajouras out. Hurdle smiles at me. I said “what would you have done?” He said “doesn’t matter what I would have done, I told you guys you know more than me.” Ouch!
Our undefeated string lasted one more batter as a clean hit past third by Eddie Morganstein, 54, bought in the winning run and we went as far as we could on fumes getting beat 3-2 and now being among a couple of teams at 3-1 but still our division leader.
Despite another very clean day in the field, I was disappointed in myself for not moving in the runner as I should have. For the life of me at my age I can’t understand why I feel that way? At 60 everyday is a winning run. However with the afternoon free and guys scattered to the beaches and bars and card games I was thinking about heading downstairs to the batting cage. My legs said otherwise and I’ll just do it early in the morning.
We are all beat up by now. With a doubleheader on Wednesday and at least one playoff round on Thursday (and maybe two) if I don’t see a baseball field again until next year that will be fine. Last night and this morning I literally had to pick my legs up with my arms to get in and out of bed. It compounds when you realize you can’t even sit out an inning or two because there’s nobody to replace you. Then reality sets in- you are paying big bucks for this experience so shut up, take the pain and have fun.