Everybody's Got One
A blog. An opinion. An elimination orifice. A dream. An agenda. A past. A hidden talent. A conceptual filter. A cross. A charism (often the same). A task. A wound. A destiny. A lost love. A blind spot. A bad habit. A secret. A passion. A soul ... okay, maybe not everybody ...
Thursday, June 17, 2004

23 up, 21 down ...  

This evening in Winston-Salem I saw an astonishing thing: Hayden Penn, the pitcher for the Frederick (Md.) Keys – the class A Carolina League Orioles affiliate – mowed through the hometown Warthogs lineup with ease – no hits, only three balls into the outfield, two baserunners (the seven hitter, walked on four pitches twice) - and was pulled from the game at the end of the seventh inning. He'd thrown 74 pitches, and that was his pitch count. Pulled from a once-in-a-lifetime no-hitter. I couldn't believe it; neither could anyone else in the stands who was paying attention. Astonishing.

The college-age crowd was more interested in $1 beer night than the game; the kids in chasing after the mascots and the occasional foul ball; but some of us had begun to sense that something special was happening. Even the Keys infielders started to tense up on ground balls, not wanting to be the one to mess up, concentrating first on knocking the ball down and then on making the play. And then he stayed in the dugout for the bottom of the 8th inning.

Yeah, I know, the guy’s only nineteen and his arm is young. He’s a lanky right-hander, all joints and ligaments and leverage and hope. But his record after a year in pro ball – a cumulative 6-5, with an ERA of 3.70 in 109 total innings – doesn’t promise a lot more nights like this one. How can you so concentrate on tending his arm that you break his heart and crush his spirit? How can you teach him mechanics, and not how to recognize and ride a hot streak?

For what it's worth – the second Keys reliever (Keefer pitched the 8th, McCurdy the 9th) gave up a bloop single to right just over the second baseman's outstretched glove to the 29th batter of the night - with 2 out in the 9th. The crowd, long distracted and unimpressed by the more-than-normally-hapless Warthogs, cheered. My disgust was complete.

You see some amazing things in the minor leagues – two years ago, on the last game of the season, I saw a guy steal home to win the game – but I've never seen anything to compare with this. Hayden Penn, in the Orioles organization. I hope I hear from him again. I hope he has another chance somewhere at the triumph that a rule-ridden manager snatched away from him tonight.

posted by Kelly | 10:10 PM link
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