The Easy Way Out? A Personal Narrative. Part 2: The Turning Point
By JD Biagioni
This is part two of a three-part series of stories by me, JD Biagioni, as part of WZBC Sports’ efforts to expand our website content beyond just game stories. Enjoy the story!
If you missed part 1, click here: https://www.wzbcsports.com/the-easy-way-out-a-personal-narrative-part-1-the-low-point/
The Marlins were coached by two older gentlemen Allen and Randy who were enthusiastic about winning, but generally easy-going. They were the coaches in 2013, and they were still there in 2016. But there was a new coach, Coach Kelley a Boston police officer who was the complete opposite. He ran practices like a drill sergeant and once chewed me out for not wearing cleats to practice after I slipped twice on cutoffs. The change of culture from 2013 to 2016 took some getting used to, but Coach Kelley really helped give the team a certain sense of professionalism and discipline.
I got to meet and re-meet coaches new and old at the first practice, and I got the first look at my new teammates. Boy were we an eclectic bunch. I’m pretty sure some of the kids had never played baseball before that day. We had a couple goofballs who looked like they had played baseball before. And we had a power-hitting kid who was on the 2015 team; he never showed up in 2016, like I actually never saw him and to this day have no idea who he is.
We were also the ugliest-looking team in the league. Not looks, of course, although my lack of ever having had a girlfriend may say otherwise. But I digress. What I mean is, we were the Marlins in the years following the rebranding from Florida to Miami, when the Marlins changed from teal to vibrant oranges and blues. The town apparently didn’t want to splurge for all new uniforms, so they bought hats. We had hats with the new logo and uniforms with the old logo. The jerseys were black sleeveless vests with a big black and teal “F” on the right chest. We were the Marlins and our uniforms had a giant “F” on them.
I wanted to return to the infield, but I figured I should move to the left side of the infield where I was older and stronger. I tried third base. During infield practice, I airmailed my first throw into the fence behind first base. I guess the arm still had some gas left in the tank.
By the time the regular season began, I was the starting shortstop and leadoff hitter. We got off to a good enough start: 2-0, 29 runs scored in the first two games.
But, soon enough, we were 2-2. Great, another middle-of-the-road season, just like most of the others. The funny thing is that a lot of my teams started 2-2 before they picked the direction the season would head. Most of the time, the direction was south straight to a last place finish. This time, however, things were a bit different.
We rolled through an 8-1 stretch during the middle of the season as things really started to click. It also turned out that we had a great group of kids on the team. By no means were we the most talented team in town, but we were the best at being a team.
Nobody cared about personal glory, we all just wanted to play ball with each other, for each other. We kept things light and played loose.
There are too many good memories to recount, but let’s just say the fire inside was rekindled. I had fun playing the game again and wanted to win for my teammates.
The end of the win streak highlighted one of my favorite stretches of play during the season. So many kids were leaving baseball for lacrosse, that there weren’t enough in-town teams, forcing the league to schedule regular season games against other towns. One of our matchups was against a team in Lexington, who showed up looking like they’d obliterate us. There was a kid a good foot taller than anyone on our team, a kid who looked like he could snap me in half with one hand and a kid with a full beard and mustache. They didn’t look like an intermediate-level Babe Ruth team.
It rained before the game, and for a while it didn’t look like we were going to play. But the umpires ruled the field playable, and we braced ourselves for the onslaught. There was an onslaught alright, just not the one we expected; we won 19-4.
A few days later, we played an in-town team and batted around in the first inning, putting up double digits before the first Cardinal stepped into the box.
With two games left, we needed one win to get the first seed in the playoffs. I missed the first game, because I was at a Red Sox game, and we lost 12-3. This set up a showdown with the Braves for the division. We actually had two chances against them. If we lost the regular season finale, there’d be a one-game playoff to determine the top seed.
We would need that second chance after we got 2-hit in the final game of the regular season by the Braves star pitcher and eventual league MVP, let’s call him AD. Our version of a Game 163 didn’t go so well either. AD pitched again, this time only for three innings, and K’d most of the batters he faced. We were down 2-1 with one inning left when the skies opened up for a thunderstorm. BC fans should know real well by now that lightning equals no game. Our game was suspended and finished a day or two later.
Each team mustered another run once play resumed, but that still left the Braves on top 3-2. In the bottom of the 7th of that game, we played 7 innings, I had my first ever argument with an umpire. I was up with one out an runners on first and second, and I hit a grounder to third. The third baseman, actually one of my old best friends, fielded the ball, stepped on third and threw to first. The ump called a double play, but there was a problem: the throw to first had rolled by the first basemen and sat a few feet behind the base.
It wasn’t so much an argument as it was me over on first asking how I could be out if the first baseman didn’t catch the ball. Eventually, I was ruled safe, but the game ended the next batter.
We were the two seed and had a date booked with the Athletics, a team that had given us fits all season long.
To be continued…