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Maddogs light up summer baseball

Posted by Marcia Dick  July 23, 2009 11:20 AM

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Baseball’s the kind of game where sarcasm can almost trump skill, punchlines grow on trees, and the humor can come more frequently than the hits.

Or at least it’s like that in the movies.

Take ‘‘The Sandlot.’’ When Benny Rodriguez, the kid that could do no wrong on the baseball field, first met Scott Smalls, the kid who barely knew what baseball was, Rodriguez took a look at the plastic glove Smalls was going to use, and asked, ‘‘Got a fireplace?’’

Smalls, all nerves, said, ‘‘Yeah.’’

Rodriguez, all cool, tells him, ‘‘Throw that in there, man.’’

Or ‘‘The Natural’’ when Roy Hobbs, once a 19-year-old baseball prodigy who at 35 magically reconstructs his career after a shooting that nearly ended it, runs into Max Mercy, the sportswriter trying to uncover how such a thing was possible.

Hobbs goes, ‘‘You wanna hear what I think our chances are?’’

Mercy says, ‘‘You read my mind.’’

Hobbs responds, ‘‘That takes all of three seconds.’’

They’re movie lines, but spend a couple hours behind the Medford Maddogs dugout and you believe a lot of that stuff happens. This season hasn’t been the greatest.

Usually, they’re a 20-win team consistently in the thick of things in the Yawkey Baseball League, an adult amateur baseball league. But through Monday the Maddogs had only won eight games with more than half the season over.

But the Maddogs dugout is a factory for one-liners.

Johnny Cunningham was taking his practice cuts and saw some softball teams warming up at the other end of Trum Field.

Talking to no one in particular, he said, ‘‘I’m not good at softball.’’

Buddy Hanley, shortstop and chop-buster, responded: ‘‘You’re not good at baseball either.’’

Cunningham responded, ‘‘Didn’t see that one coming from the audience.’’

At that very second, Joe Pasciucco, the day’s pitcher, had just finished tossing his warm-up throws.

‘‘Got gas?’’ he was asked

‘‘Nope,’’ he said. ‘‘Gonna throw backwards today.’’

They’re the kind of team where the players come to the game with their pants already dirty. They’re the type of team where one of the starters wasn’t actually there for the start of the game, but was still on the lineup card. (‘‘There’s a benefit to being lazy,’’ Hanley told the scorekeeper.) They’re the type to look up talk about old Celtics, Gisele Bundchen, and that couple that married each other after meeting each other on Facebook, just because they had the same name. They’re also the type to place bets over the infield fly rule.

They were in the middle of a win over Chelsea, and the question was whether a ball was still live if a fielder dropped the pop-up, meaning could the runners try to advance? The kid keeping the book for Medford said it wasn’t. Maddogs manager David Hanley knew it was.

‘‘Twenty dollars,’’ Hanley said. ‘‘2-to-1 odds.’’

Of course, if a pop-up falls in fair territory runners can move without having to tag up.

Realizing he’d just lost money, the bookkeeper said, ‘‘What I meant was ...’’

‘‘Now you want to change the parameters,’’ Hanley said.

When Cunningham scored the game’s first run on three straight throwing errors — a throw from the catcher that ended up in centerfield, a throw from the centerfielder that bounced to the fence behind third base, and a throw from third that was air-mailed to the backstop — even he was giggling by the time he crossed the plate.

When Tyler Middleton bounced a ball to short and beat out a bad throw, the debate was whether it was a hit or an error. They settled it the way anyone would.

‘‘Show of hands.’’

On July 15, they were down, 14-1, to the McKay Club Beacons, and looking for arms after pitcher Talal Saleh left the game. Ravaged by injuries and short on pitching, Hanley didn’t have many options on the mound. So he decided to put himself in.

He was 52 years old, and outside of batting practice hadn’t thrown in eight years. Most of the other players are college-aged.

‘‘My biggest worry was reaching the plate,’’ he said.

He didn’t have a fastball. ‘‘I had a curveball, a knuckleball, and a straight ball,’’ he said.

His son, Buddy, started the bets.

‘‘The over/under,’’ Cunningham recalled, ‘‘was when was his shoulder going to actually go with the ball.’’

He threw two innings, struck out one batter, and gave up an unearned run.

‘‘I made an error on purpose just so he could pitch more innings,’’ Cunningham said.

The players look back on it like one of those stories that only come around on the diamond.

‘‘It could be 3-2 in the bottom of the last inning,’’ said Saleh. ‘‘It won’t change. We’ll be cracking jokes. That’s just the way we do it.''

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1 comments so far...
  1. Reading this brings tears to my eyes...Mgr Dave should have called Monbo to assist with the mound duties!

    Posted by Uncle Chuck July 22, 09 04:08 PM