By Daniel Dunaief
With sports on hold during the pandemic, I would like to borrow from the sports channels and share a collection of sports memories.
The singing pitcher
My daughter was pitching against a heavily favored team. In the first inning, she walked in two runs. As the coach, I raced out to the mound to check on her. She was quietly singing a song to herself. I knew there was nothing I could say that would top whatever song was entertaining her. In the final play of the game, the batter hit a ground ball to her and she raced over to first base, where she placed the ball in the glove of her teammate, starting an unlikely victory celebration.
The basketball game where we almost covered the spread
Knowing from the standings that the basketball team I coached would struggle against a team that should have been in a different league, I told my team that if they kept the other team under 50 points and we scored 30, we would have a pizza party. At the end of the game, the other team scored 49 points. We had a chance, with one last shot, to reach 30. We didn’t make it, but the referees congratulated each player on our team for fighting till the end. If they only knew …
The stampede game
In Cooperstown, I coached a town team of 12-year-olds against a team aptly named the Stampede. Hoping to confuse their 6-foot tall hitters, I chose our softest throwing pitchers. It worked early, as they only scored one run in the first inning. In the second inning, my son hit a home run, giving us a 2-1 lead. We lost 11-4, but our players and their parents couldn’t have been happier, as we were the first team to score more than one run in an entire game and were also the first team the Stampede didn’t mercy.
Tough as nails
Even with a face mask on her softball helmet, the fastball that hit my daughter caused the mask to give her a bloody lip. The umpire said she could come out and return later. She refused help or attention and ran to first base. She stole second, third and home, and returned to the bench with a triumphant smile.
The tiny team that did
My daughter was on a vastly undersized volleyball team that made it to the finals against a team that, in warm ups, pummeled balls into the ground. With my daughter anchoring the back row, the other team became frustrated that their hard hits didn’t win points. They tried hitting at different angles and further away from the defense, crushing balls just out. When my daughter served the last five points for the win, I joined a collection of elated parents as we screamed and threw our arms in the air. I briefly turned my head to hide the tears of pride welling in my eyes.
The kid who was way ahead of his time
When my son was in pee wee ball, he watched a lot of baseball my fault. He played shortstop in a station-to-station game, in which each player moved up one base, regardless of where the ball went and whether someone got out. With the bases loaded, a player hit a line drive to my son at shortstop. He caught the ball, ran to third to get the runner who was jogging home and tagged the runner who approached him. After his unassisted triple play, he jogged off the field and dropped the ball near the pitcher’s mound. I had to explain to him that he didn’t play that way yet, but that he would, and hopefully will again, soon.