Tournament Game 3: 78 Horowitz 14, Legal Weed 1

The Legal Weed went into our elimination-bracket game vs. 78 Horowitz — who we’d faced only once in the regular season, a game we were winning 1-0 when a giant storm blew in and forced it to be called off — having heard from Coach Horowitz that he might not even be able to field a team, and if he did he would be missing his “five to six best players.” I’m not sure if that was gamesmanship or just a need to juggle schedules on his part, but as it turned out, he had a full team available for our 6 pm start time, including his ace pitcher and leadoff hitter Lucien.

With Dylan having thrown 120 pitches (!) in a one-hitter for his LaGuardia school team the night before, it was again down to Ben M to handle mound duties for the Weed. Things started off poorly, with Lucien cranking a mammoth shot over the head of right fielder Ellis, ending up at third with a triple. Ben M stranded him there, though, mixing a popup, a strikeout, and a flyout to Yates in center to keep Horowitz off the board in the 1st.

With both Jordans absent for the start of the game (Jordan N at his prom, Jordan G at a Stuyvesant game on Randalls Island), it was down to Sam to be leadoff hitter for the day, and he performed admirably, working a walk and then stealing second and third. Unfortunately, Lucien proved just as proficient at working out of jams as Ben M, striking out the side to keep the game scoreless going into the 2nd.

And that, sadly, is where the blow-by-blow play-by-play stops, because the 2nd inning of last night’s game is where the wheels came off, completely and utterly. After striking out the first Horowitz batter, Ben M lost the strike zone — or, to be more accurate, couldn’t find where the somewhat mercurial home-plate ump had hidden it — and delivered a series of walks. Then, with two outs and the score still only 2-0, he got what looked to be an inning-ending fly ball to center field — except that the sun, setting right behind home plate, made it impossible for Yates to see the ball at all, and it landed 20 feet to his left for a bases-clearing double. Finally there was a string of hit batters, and Dylan ended up having to come in with the bases loaded (as I hastily assured his concerned mom that it would only be for one batter) and strike out Lucien to finally put our misery to an end.

We managed to load the bases on two walks and a plunking of Shiloh in the bottom of the inning, at which point Jordan G arrived after his mad dash through traffic from Randalls to pinch-hit. He worked the count full, then watched as a changeup sailed past his chin — and was called, inexplicably, strike three. It was that kind of night.

There isn’t much more worth telling after that. Jordan G gamely went out and pitched an inning, which featured a couple more hard-hit balls and way too many terrible ball-four calls. After that, Yates took the mound for the 4th, and worked a scoreless inning, giving up only a solitary single. We finally pushed across a run in the bottom of the 4th after Dylan singled, Shiloh walked, Sam singled, and Max drew a bases-loaded walk, but Roan went down swinging to end the inning, and given the late hour, the game, and the season. 78 Horowitz 14, Legal Weed 1

As I told the team after the game, they deserved a better sendoff than this: not just a closer game where they could have at least showed off some of the baseball skills they’ve been working on all year — and had more fun than the slog that last night turned into — but one where they didn’t have to fight the sun and a wandering strike zone and the absence of key players thanks to proms and COVID-extended PSAL schedules in addition to the opposing team. But that’s baseball: You can’t plan on when the snakebit games will hit, and unfortunately this one turned out to be a season-ender.

And, for most of our players, and for me as coach, a career-ender. This is the end of the line for youth baseball for most of us — Ben M, Roan, Ryan, and Ellis excepted — so this will be my final recap after 11 years of them. It has been an honor and one of my greatest joys to be able to do this for so long, but especially these past two seasons, when we have had what has been hands-down my favorite team I’ve had the privilege of coaching: As I said after the game, they’re not just great ballplayers, but great people, always there for each other with support and smarts and humor. (So, so much humor. I have never laughed as much in a baseball season as I have last fall and this spring.) Thank you to all the players and parents for making this happen, thank you for the lovely gifts that Coach Joe and I were presented with after the game, and … just thanks. I had a blast, and I hope you all did too.

I’ll be forwarding a link to additional photos from the season that didn’t make the cut for the baseball cards (Jason Gonsky, Mindy Nass, and our other photographers really outdid themselves this year with the camerawork), plus a video of last night’s postgame ceremonies for anyone who had to miss it. I will definitely be picking up on Jordan G’s dad’s suggestion of an annual reunion game next June, and may look to help organize some pickup games this summer as well if people are around. Good luck to everyone who is heading off to college in the fall, as well as to those who will be back out on the fields next spring with different teams. See you all down the road.