Monday, July 31, 2006
I was in Finsbury Park to witness a great Irish performance against Team GB and to think last week I didn't even know that Ireland had a National Baseball Team. I was a bit disappointed not to have won fan of the match - I thought I deserved it for wearing my green Irish National Team Baseball cap in among all the Team GB supporters. Definitely a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon and my boyf won second prize in the raffle - a Pittsburg (I think) Pirates t-shirt.
Sunday, July 30, 2006
I’ve put some photo’s up on Flickr.
I had never seen a baseball match before so I wasn't entirely sure what to expect but I ended up really enjoying myself. The play was fast and furious but at times confusing as there are some major rules differences between softball and baseball. I wasn't always entirely sure what was happening and why, but I was happy to go along with the ride! I particularly enjoyed the rule on base stealing. In baseball you can begin to edge away from the base that you are on before the pitch is made, and as soon as the ball is pitched, you can make a run for the next base. However, if the pitcher see you doing this, he can throw the ball to the base you have just left. If the baseman cathes it before you get back, you are out. Cue lots of comedy creeping and wild dives into bases. GB did well to get one of the Irish runners out this way. You gotta be quick! The pitcher really did need to have eyes in the back of his head.
It was good being able to appreciate the double-plays and fantasic catches and throws. They made them look so easy. There was one home run, hit out the park, but other than that it proved difficult for either team to score runs. The fielding on both sides was strong and accurate (most of the time - it's not just wolves that wobble) and the batters struggled to find holes. There were quite a few foul balls hit. We had to keep alert as many of them got hit in our direction, but the gathered kids loved it, running after every ball. The only ones that got away were the ball that was hit out the park down a side street and the one that got stuck in the tree!
The pitchers came under lots of pressure during the match. There was several walks and pitcher substitutions, but also lots of strike outs. The speed of the pitches was amazing.
Best thing of all?... The crazy American commentator who called the names of each batter as they stepped up to the plate in the way that only Americans can. I'll demostrate the best that it can in print. Please imagine the next bit said in an American accent and with much gusto:
"and stepping up to the plate next it's Vic-tooor-eeeee-a Eeeeeee-ves"
definitely something we should have next season.
Oh yes - the result. A tie. It was a double header. GB won the first (sorry can't remember the score), Ireland won the second 6-5. I'll leave it to someone else actually talk about the match. I'm not really a sports commentator :-)
Saturday, July 29, 2006
For all who doubted me and my commitment to the team, I am definately back to my peppy hyper self (although a limping and hobbling one) - hence the barrage of emails this afternoon.
During the past couple of weeks I have neglected my treasury duties, messed up in outfield, not been an active participant in recent games, and in general have not been my normal enthusiastic self. I blame the heatwave :)
Tonight's pub night proves that I am back, hopefully stronger than ever (please please ignore the limp) and full of ideas for the remaining season and of course - our winter training programme! Personally, I can't wait for the cold wintery sessions to begin once again - why on earth is softball not played in the autumn/winter seasons? The Wolves are well equipped for it!
My only question arising from tonight is.....how can a pack of wolves get together for over 6 hours and only talk softball (allowing 10 minutes for a Big Brother discussion of course).
p.s. this late night blogging is due to the Gobfather who claimed I was not in a position to debate on the issue of the "blog/BSUK link" debate as I had also neglected my contributory duties to the blog.
p.p.s the girls are going to watch the boys play baseball tomorrow at Finsbury, so come along Wolves!
Friday, July 28, 2006
12.1 We only need 9 Wolves.
The best fielding display of the season and quite possibly the best performance of the season. We ran, we covered, we formed chains, we backed up, we caught, we were a team with a psychic connection and all this without the need for some big loud mouth know it all idiot shouting instructions at everyone :-) The fact we played the with 9 wolves seemed to help as everyone knew they had to play with 111% effort and everyone did. Go Wolves Go!
12.2 Mercy isn't always Mercy
It wasn’t mercy. They won. The rule is actually known as the 'run ahead' rule and after 5 innings they just managed to get enough runs ahead to scrape past the winning post :-)
12.3 It's tricky choosing the Most Valuable Player
Excellent to find that every player on the team was a contender for MVP. There was no clear leader until Vic shouted out and as you know if you want it, you call for it and you get it! So Vic is this weeks MVP for her usual sterling work on second plus getting to 3rd for the first time ever and for wanting it most!
12.4 We can catch in the outfield
Yes we’ve proved it, we may drop the ball but if you go for it, it will eventually stick. Well done Peter and great job Michael and Kate… "9 wolves, we only need 9 wolves"
12.5 We can hit the ball
Good hitting from everyone, forcing the fielders to make the plays which they annoyingly did 99% of the time. The team was let down by the lack of bats. In future we need to ensure the heavy and light bats are available for league games. And the keys to the club house would be handy to!
12.6 We look good in Orange
But wearing Orange in a very Irish area of London during the Marching Season did raise an eye brow or two!!
12.7 The Finsbury pub closes really late
and then they carry on serving!
Thursday, July 27, 2006
Everybody please feel free (nay, compelled!) to add yours as comments to this post. A few ground rules:
- Each person is only allowed one low point and one high point. No more, no less. The purpose of this is to acknowledge our mistakes without dwelling on them, and force us to draw a positive from each match.
- The low point must be covered first - we must finish on a high.
- Each point must involve the author - i.e. you can't say, 'my high point was watching Peter take that great catch!' ... (unless you are Peter and you had some sort of out-of-body-experience.)
So, here is mine:
Low point: Fumbling my attempt to back-up an overthrow - which resulted in an extra base being stolen by a cheeky wanderer!
High point: Stopping a very fast ground ball and fielding it in to hold their captain at 1st - setting up the force so he was out at 2nd next play.
Now you all go!
Wednesday, July 26, 2006
Although we didnt get any runs this was an encouraging performance as we fielded well to prevent a skilled opposition from running away with the game.
There was some stalwart out-field play from Kate and Michael and Peter made a superb catch. Alison played nobly at 1st base. Ben made some good catches and Paul was his usual livewire self. I think the fielding is really coming together well. We came close to getting a run when Vic was on 3rd - Julian unfortunately hit a dead ball and we were doomed to nil runs.
It was a very good effort - the Wanderers didnt give us any slack on the fielding when we were in bat
Saturday, July 22, 2006
Regent's Park looked lovely in the evening sunshine, and our game attracted a few casual spectators. It's funny, but I think going out and running around playing sport a couple of times during this heatwave has been better than staying indoors, wilting next to an electric fan. Psychologically, at least, knowing that the heat hasn't beaten you gives you a bit of a boost.
Went on to a succession of pubs in Camden afterwards. The Edinboro Castle was too packed to get served, next place (the Camden Mixer, I think) turfed us out on the stroke of eleven, and a few of us went on somewhere for one more after that. Good bar, but I can't remember what it was called.
Paul had got Kate a birthday present T shirt, with her "real men don't walk" pitching motto on it. We discussed variations on the theme for the rest of us. My suggestion for my one was; "real women dig scars".
Wednesday, July 19, 2006
Well we know we look good in orange but what else did we learn this week....
11.1 Wolves don't like the sun either
Anybody would think we don't like going outdoors but yesterday's blistering temperature (it must have been at least 110 in the outfield), combined with a nuclear furnace hanging low in the sky shining directly into our eyes and the rock hard lunar surface South Clapham folk call a pitch, made fielding a bit of a struggle!
11.2 Finding our legs
Just like Bambi we're getting the hang of this running malarkey.
Both Andy and Jane A impressively "stole" bases to get our two runs. (Of course none of that would have been possible without me sacrificing myself hitting the ball towards first and getting myself out creating two unforced runners :-)
11.3 Tagging and Unforced runners
A picture paints a thousand words and even drawing a thousand pictures isn't going to help us improve in this area. As Julian says a practice is needed and we'll come up with some drills.
11.4 It's a competitive League
As Jane A pointed out we're in a competitive league.
And the middle of the league where the next years split will happen is the most hotly contested area. Perhaps they were a little more competitive than the game required but we have to not let it effect our game or get us down.... then again it was nice to get the pub early :-)
Useful to remember as hopefully one day we may be the experienced team playing a new team!!
Lots of contenders for Most Valuable Piece of Equipment.
A tasteful collection of baseball caps and straw hats kept us from frying.
Shine pads however while very useful didn't get much of look in (as Jane C pointed out the ball hit the back of her leg, quite how we'll never know)
Sun Glasses were a must but didn't actually appear to help much.
I'm going to nominate my Glove. Thanks to its years of abuse it's well worn and regularly treated with leather softener and if I can get my glove to the ball, it normally flops round the ball and sticks firm. Hopefully next season everyone’s gloves will have worn in more and I'm sure those 'oh so close' will turn into outs. If you can get some leather softener, give your gloves a helping hand.
11.6 We came second again
And there’s no shame in that.
well played everyone.... and good cheering from the sidelines Manjiv :-)
Very very hot day and evening - the two teams' home areas were on the same side of the pitch, contrary to the usual rule, as that was the only place with any shade.
We assembled, practised a bit, slapped on the insect-repellant and sunscreen. Due to the weather, the usual array of baseball hats (I found my lost BC cap again, I'm glad to say) was complemented by some natty straw stetsons and suchlike.
Clapham South - a change from the currently insect-infested Finsbury Park.
I got to be lead-off batter, getting a base hit and a run. For the second week in a row, I made it to Home just in time to avoid a tag out. From then on, though, things didn't go too well. The heat made the unforgiving discipline of pitching harder, and we couldn't stem the runs the Barracudas were making. I spent a lot of time chasing after balls in the leftfield, and the heat was really telling. Paul's view on my field placing was; "it doesn't matter where you stand - they're hitting the ball wherever you aren't". Meanwhile, their attacking field stopped us scoring further. At my only other at bat, I made it to First, then got forced out at Second.
The heat didn't suit us. We're Wolves - we belong on the Arctic steppe, or up above the timberline, not baking in this sort of temperature.
Meanwhile, the carnivorous, cold-blooded fishies were doing fine. They were very chatty with the umpire, while acting as if we were beneath their consideration - an irritation to be dealt with as quickly as possible. Sad to say, but they just weren't very nice. They also were in breach of the rules at one point, at least - they had a base coach who was calling to the batters as the ball was in the air whether they should swing or not. The ump had a word with them about that, at least. We've played other good teams who were quite friendly, respecting us for trying at least, and offering encouragement, but these guys just didn't want to know.
Ah, well. We had a good natter at the George afterwards, morale restored by a few beers and some rambling conversation - our idea for a "novelty Disney-themed softball range" would, I'm sure, be a big seller.
[X-posted from my LJ]
Tuesday, July 18, 2006
I think we should practice getting the ball back to home base - it would be good if we could stop a few more people from getting home after leaving 3rd. Having said that there was a good bit of fielding when Kate caught a ball on home base thrown from in-field.
Well played everybody and there is always next week
Saturday, July 15, 2006
A new training tool was in use today, a cheap tennis racket (designed for kids- it was the best I could get at 9.30am in Clapham High Street, on a Saturday morning)! It was used to launch tennis balls high into the air so that we could practice fielding fly balls. I think it proved useful, although it certainly is different catching a (small) tennis ball versus a softball. A few times, people managed to get the ball in their glove, only for it to bounce out again! Each of us had multiple times at bat, and practiced running to first base. I think we all learnt that it is a very bad idea to hit the ball straight back to the pitcher. Next we did some throwing and catching drills basing ourselves on the marked out softball diamond. After a while it seemed to really improve both our throwing accuracy and strength, plus our ability to catch the ball whilst standing on a base.
It wouldn't be a proper Loan Wolves practice in Clapham if a number of things didn't happen.
1. Like always, the ball managed to roll into the main road by the common a few times today. My softball got run over again (I think that it has as many lives as a cat), but at least it was only a car. Near the end of the practice, the ball rolled in the road again only for it to just miss being run over by a huge 12 wheeler truck. Even after Andy's recent comments about how tough a softball really is, I'm not so sure that it would survive being run over by such a vehicle.
2. As we haven't had huge numbers coming to practice, we usually do without a catcher. This proves problematic, especially when doing batting drills, as when the ball is missed/left it normally at the very least goes way behind the plate, or at the worst (see point 1). We have tried to stop the ball in a number of ways with bags, but it seems however they are positioned the ball always bounces over them. Today I found some spare traffice cones, and so we used those, to make what looked like a makeshift wicket behind the plate. It did actually stop a few balls, so I think that we might have found a solution.
3. Lack of Softball equipment. We had 4 gloves between 5 people today, and only 2 softballs, although we did have 2 bats. I can only stress once again how useful it is to have one's own glove. The phrase 'Beg, borrow or steal' (well maybe not the last one!) comes to mind.
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
So our 10th game and what did we learn this week.
10.1 Not a lot really
We should be pleased with our improvement. Everyone did well with good knowledge of their positions’ responsibilities and some good coverage and backing up. I’m struggling to think of many things to point out!?!
10.2 Wolves don’t like water
That nasty stuff that falls from the sky and makes the ground slippery and accelerates the ball. You have to feel sorry for the Devil Strays who have played nearly all the games in damp and wet conditions while we’ve had the pleasure of sunny dry weather.
10.3 Wolves have good eyes
Well done everyone for keeping cool heads and “good eyeing” a lot of pitches. We took a lot of walks which helped our score despite the desire to hit that pesky ball.
10.4 Tag outs
Trying to get non-forced runners out is tricky. When the Strays really went for some serious base stealing, despite a lot of close calls and good tagging attempts we only managed one tag (well done Jane C, who would also like to apologise after catching a
10.4 Do I need to Tag?
If you’re on a base and the play's in motion how can you remember whether you need to tag or just stand on the base? One way that might help is to remember what “the play was”. If the play was “on first” and you’re fielding second or third base, any runner coming to you must be tagged as we’ve missed the forced tag on first. Or listen to me whispering "tag tag tag"
10.6 Ready Steady Go
A few times we (which includes me) were slow off the blocks and could have made some of the outs a bit tighter and maybe caused some errors or over throws.
If you’re FORCED and;
a) the balls on the ground.... go go go.
b) it’s in the air, you have to think but you can steal a few steps in case it is dropped.
c) we're on two outs, run on any contact.
And if you’re not forced (which we had quite a few this game)
d) you don’t need to run
e) if the fielder commits a throw to first etc you can take off for the next base
f) you need to be tagged :-)
Our sparring partners from last winter's snow covered practices have done well, and are a most friendly bunch. Good luck to them making the top half of the league, of course if not we'll be waiting for them next year :-)
I fielded at right outfield, and made one run. Very satisfying running in and feeling my boot contact the plate just an instant before I was tagged, then hearing the umpire shout "safe at Home!".
Many of the Strays were actually quite friendly. Unlike the footballers who started a game in our outfield, and took against the polite but clear warnings that they weren't allowed there, and that the pitch was booked for softball. Some of the Strays were a little hostile to the footballers, things grew somewhat heated, and in the end the umpire had a quiet word with our captains to suggest that we try not to antagonise them. Even though they were in the wrong, getting two dozen testosterone-fuelled teenagers angry at us might not have been wise. Though admittedly, we did have bats...
Talking of batting, a bonus Wolf Point must surely go to Paul, for hitting a big foul ball which came close to beaning the Devil Strays' macho "God's gift to Short Stop".
Positives for the game.
Once again the team batted well, getting good contact on the ball, and being extremely patient, taking walks when they were available. It was great to get batters/runners walking in runs, especially with the less than ideal ground conditions. After my comedy slip on homeplate, I was pleased to not have to do much running for my two runs. Needless to say, my (studded) boots will be in my bag for the next game.
Peter did very well at First base, making some solid catches from good accurate throws from Paul and Julian, as well as preventing any overthrows. Paul and Kate covered second base well, getting some important outs there. Julian's pitched very consistently again yesterday, especially considering that the pitch wasn't exactly set up correctly (I thought that the pitching and home plates weren't in line) It was a great effort from Alison to hit it hard enough for her to get to first base. Jane C. got a nice catch in the infield. The outfield was very slippery, meaning that once any ground balls touched the grass they literally rocketed away. Also, we had new part time wolf, Katia, playing her first ever game out there too. Taking those things into account, I thought that we outfield did okay. Andy worked diligently covering the Pavilion in right field (although unfortunately it didn't go out there very often), Katia stopped the ball a couple of times, I made a catch, and Manjiv stopped a few tough ones. I hold my hands up for not covering/backing up left field well enough. I think I was preoccupied with helping Katia get through her first game.
A interesting thing happened yesterday outside of the game. A group of 30 or so youth footballers, started playing a match across the back of pitch two's outfield area. The Wolves asked them to move, the Umpires asked them to move, the Devil Strays asked them to move. The result? We managed to get them to move over a small way, but they were a bit of a menace for the whole game, with them shouting and distracting us outfielders, having some of their players walk (very slowly) across the middle of our pitch and their football came on the pitch during the game too. What with the dodgy home plate, and the litter from the previous weekend's music festival/concert strewn across the ground, it sometimes amazes me how they can charge so much for such a pitch.
Finally, a couple of things (pleasantly) surprised me during the game.
1. Julian's rocket boots that shot him to first base on a number of occasions. Good running.
2. Andy's 'fire in his belly' passion, when he forcefully exclaimed in the affirmative that he had definitely made it home after a close call.
Saturday, July 08, 2006
Five of us got together for a practice this morning at Clapham South, for about three and a half hours. Hot and sunny weather, and no frisbee-throwers to distract us. We practised throwing, catching, hitting, base-running and outfielding. Ben came along at eleven and had some good ideas for drills. It was a fun session, and I think we all benefited from it. Good to see last year's MVW Alison moving steadily towards complete fitness after her injury, and Olivia, a relative novice, improving all the time. Tigger has come on in leaps and bounds due to enlisting her nearest and dearest for throwing/catching practice. For my own part, I'm better than I was, but still pretty dire, except maybe running bases with the wind behind me.
For some reason, at least six balls ended up going out of the park and into the road, leading to various Wolves having to play a kind of real-life Frogger to rescue them from the traffic. One important object lesson from this came when we saw a ball survived being run over by a car with no ill-effects at all. It's no surprise, then, that when one hits you in the hand, or shin, or face, the ball's not going to be the one coming off worse...
The team will still need to be extremely lucky to win any games this season - but then, as Gary Player said, "the more I practise, the luckier I get"....
Thursday, July 06, 2006
9.1 We don’t lose all the time
Sometimes we draw! Well played everyone. And we discovered that a 6 or 7 game innings lasts quite a long time leaving us with less time in the pub. (I guess there's more advatages to the mercy rule than we first realised)
When fielding or pitching remember to wear your glove
9.3 Shin Pads
When buying shin pads for Manjiv remember to give them to her before she gets whacked on the shin, not after. Sorry.
When fielding or pitching really remember to wear your glove.
9.5 Use your Head
Use your head except to field the ball. It is the least effective and most sensitive part of the body to use when trying to stop the ball
We thought we had an impressive injury record with 2 visits to ER and countless injuries. The Raiders B have had 3 broken legs so far this season. Please read the comment for an important safety notice.
9.7 Softball is FUN :-)
A fantastic team performance with very few over throws (The only one I recall was by me!), very few mistakes and nobody getting caught out.
Top marks go to:-
Olivia for practicing leaving the pitches and batting superbly getting to first at least twice.
Mark for two massive home runs and bringing 3 people home to tie the game.
Kate for getting her first run.
Super ‘safe hands’ Ben for catching everything at first base.
Michael for reading last weeks lesson 8.2 and performing a perfect 'crouching tiger spring'.
Alison for standing at bat and not swinging at anything despite every fibre of her body straining to hit out.
Alex for some quality base coaching.
And my nomination for MVP,
Julian who pitched awesomely and still managed time to run people out on first. At one point a batter was 3 balls and no strikes, and Julian produced three great pitches striking them out!
But none of that would have counted without a great team performance
Well played everyone,
We're number 3 (from bottom) we're number 3 (from bottom)
Go Wolves Go
Actually it wasn't - it was a mostly good-spirited fixture. The above is just what I'd been playing to psych myself up for the long-awaited clash with the only other team in the league to have lost all their games so far.
The weather finally settled into warm and not too muggy, after a day of heavy showers alternating with sauna-like humidity. Illness and holidays meant that we only just had enough women to field a legal team, with Alison playing as catcher and stepping up to bat hoping for a walk rather than a strikeout. Scores were close all through, with the Wolves gaining then losing a slight lead, until a great fifth inning for us gave a renewed lead and a real shot at victory. It was at this point that Tigger started jumping up and down, shouting; "we've won! We've won!", until it was pointed out to her that the game wasn't over - our games usually stop after the fifth only because we're losing so badly that "mercy" gets called. We had one more innings (bad light was threatening) to play. A home run with bases loaded for the bad guys left us trailing by three in the middle of the last (see how I unselfconsciously use the technical terms, now?). We scored three. Exactly three. So the ump called "tied ballgame!" and honours were even. And it is no longer true that the Loan Wolves lose all their matches. Also, as the Raiders had forfeited a game earlier, we are still one place above them in the league.
Could easily have been a victory (probably what the opposition were thinking, too). A lot more fun playing a game through to the end with both sides in it.
First mention must go to our pitcher, Julian, who had a brilliant game, not only pitching consistently throughout the match (including a couple of times when he had forgotten to put his glove back on!) but getting multiple strike outs and assists at 1st Base 'outs'. The infield was pretty solid again today, with some good throws and catches being made between Shortstop, and 3rd/2nd and 1st, to get the outs the team needed to quickly put the other side away. The team's outfield was certainly put under pressure by the some of the opposition's heavy hitters, but they did well (perhaps boosted by Paul's kind gesture of buying the team shinpads) Also, with most of the team electing to wear tracksuit bottoms rather than shorts, we didn't get attacked by the Finsbury Mosquitos union as much as last game.
As the score suggests, we managed to get 18 runs in the game, our highest ever total. Much of this credit must go to a certain Mark Davis, who after rushing from football practice, and being subbed straight into to bat (no warm up needed evidently) proceeded to hit two home runs from two at bats, batting in about 4/5 others runs into the bargain. Team wise, it was really pleasing to see everyone contributing to the offensive side of the game, constistently hitting the ball, although being very patient and taking the walks if they were available. I think I am right in saying that Olivia and Kate got around for their first ever runs (well done), and the rest of the team too can be proud of their 'good wheels', running between the bases. A final mention must go to Alison, who continues her Loan Wolves style rehabilitation programme, involving kindly turning up to matches to play catcher, being extremely patient when batting at the plate, and socialising in the Finsbury afterwards. Thanks again to everyone who played for making it such an enjoyable match to be involved in.