Eric completed his first season of Juniors in NOLL SOLL baseball, the next level up from Majors where games are played on a larger diamond. It is truly an understatement that the season had its ups and downs, the second game of the year saw one of our impactful veteran players go down with a season-ending injury, and another was injured to a lesser degree the same day. To their credit, this group never gave up – through good times and bad, including one of the worst drubbings you could imagine.
I’ll hold on to certain memories of the season that involve my son. In the very first game, with the Padres in the field in the top of the first inning, the Angel’s leadoff batter hit a line drive to the right side that Eric handled easily. His other chances on defense were handled with equal aplomb as well that day, in spite of an opening day loss. In their first meeting against the Reds, Eric stroked a two-run double down the left field line in another losing effort.
Also important, this season witnessed the fact that the post season provides a new set of opportunities, and what sometimes matters is when you get hot. In their first playoff game, they jumped ahead of the Angels in the first inning and never looked back. They also staked an early lead against the Diamondbacks which held up for their second improbable win. The championship game of the double-elimination tournament took place on a Wednesday evening, facing a well-rested and powerful Reds team. Again, the Padres jumped out to an early lead in the first, only to see their opponents chip away and take the lead midway through the game. The comeback started immediately, aided by some incredible defense, and they earned a berth in the regional TOCs.
The Padres coaching staff provides a contrast to that of some of the other teams in the league. Head coach Larry is somewhat soft spoken when compared to some of the younger, more intense coaches of other teams. The manner in which he ran the team sometimes took getting used to, but even if his style may have come into question, there’s no way anyone would dispute his dedication and devotion. Now that we’re sitting in the stands at a larger diamond, a bit further from the action, it’s not always clear to a spectator why a move is being made at a particular time. Now it all makes sense, Larry had a great handle on pitch count, any one pitcher’s effectiveness, and strategy relative not only to the current game, but juggling things effectively in order to make sense for upcoming games.