Friday, September 14, 2012

Once an asshole...

As I watched the Phillies lose to the lowly Astros last night, two things came to mind. One was how am I going to pull off my nude walk from my house to CBP and at one time I was Lucas Harrell.

If you did not see Harrell's antics last night, he was an arrogant and pompous asshole jerk. Throwing equipment, pissing and moaning over every ball call, and eventually got tossed from the game as he was walking to the dugout after being removed.

My antics were well known and as widely unappreciated. I cannot remember when it all started, but I felt like I had a chip on my shoulder when I pitched. Often I felt like there were two sets of strike zones. One for the other team and one the size of a tea cup saucer for me. I was better than the other players. Part of that was natural talent, but a large part was because I worked my ass off, even at a young age. While other kids were drinking or chasing broads, I was refining my art of pitching by throwing the ball from morning til night (I didn't need to chase broads, they chased me). I even talked my parents into putting a bright halogen light outside my house so I could play late into the night. I oozed baseball. Completely. When I stepped onto the field and you were the opposition, don't look at me, don't talk to me...well this went for my team sometimes too.

Once I felt squeezed, I would turn into instant asshole. I wouldn't ask the ump if it was a strike. I would tell them it was. It would then get uglier as I came to bat. I would ask what strike zone was I going to get. The one I had to pitch to, or would anything inside the cage be a strike. The first questionable pitch and the ump would hear a "Bear down back there blue. I know you want to get to the bar, but get in the game". Ejection.

The leagues I played in used the same umps over and over. I knew them and hated them. They knew me and hated me more. My coach would tell me before each outing to keep my mouth shut and I would nod and say yes, but immediately go into my asshole routine. For instance, I did not like when the ump would throw the ball back to me. So I would not catch it and just let it go by me. In one instance, my coach called for an intentional walk (which pissed me off), so I plunked the guy. In my head, I just saved myself 3 pitches. Another time during an intentional walk, I threw one right down the middle at that fat walrus of an umpire, hitting him dead center in the chest protector. I got ejected. While walking of the mound, I asked if it was a ball or strike. I got thrown out of a game for throwing a strike. I was 14 at this time.

As my reputation began to grow, so did the hatred from the other teams. I loved every moment of it. In one instance, I was pitching a gem through 4, and was up to bat first in the bottom of the inning. The other coach went for a mound visit and the next pitch hit me on the back of my neck. I got a stinger and when I got up, I went after the coach as I was running down to first. I did not get tossed and neither did the coach or pitcher. I came up next time and switched to left handed, just to be a pompous asshole. I hit a bomb and did the one flap down, talking shit while rounding the bases, a la Jeffrey Leonard. I think it took me 25 seconds to round the bases. The epitome of asshole behaviour.

My ire wasn't only against the opposition unfortunately. I was pitching a perfect game into the sixth against the supposedly next best team in the league. A slow dribbler was hit to the right of the first baseman and I hurried up the line to cover first. Our 1B bobbled it a bit, but got it to me just in time to record the out. He told me years later what I said to him: "Get your head out of fucking ass out here. I am pitching gem. Catch the fucking ball cleanly." Hate to play against me and sometimes hate to play with me.

As I went into HS, I actually tried to be on my best behavior in the Catholic League, but the asshole had to come out of me, so in my other out. Speed on the basepaths was NOT my thing, but I ran hard all the time. I recall getting called out on a bang bang play at first and just stood in front of the ump and said, " That was a cocksucking call. You may hate me, but don't violate the integrity of the game just to screw me." I then told him to go home and beat his husband. One thing you need to know is: You cannot get thrown out twice.

One time in HS, I was ejected. What I did was necessary, respected, and I would do it again and again. It was a non-league game my senior year against Father Judge. I was not in the game at the time, but a Judge player hit a line drive down the left field line and as our LF went to slide to get the ball, his leg got caught under the fence. He was cut up pretty bad and had to go to the hospital. The Judge player saw this and went into a HR trot. The other team came out to greet him like he just ht a 400 foot bomb. I went ape shit. I went up to my coach and said "Put me in the game next inning to pitch."  I was in full asshole mode. Telling the other team to not even bother bringing a bat to the plate because they weren't going to touch the ball. Stomping around the mound like a maniac. After getting a strike out I would tell the player to go grab some wood. The next inning was the one I wanted in for. The jerkoff who hit the fake HR was up second that inning. I hit the first batter right in the chest and as he was walking down to first I asked him if he knew where his girlfriend was last night. I knew where she was and I pointed to her in the stands and blew her a kiss. You cant make this up folks. The next guy was the one I really wanted to plunk... and I did. Between the numbers as hard as I could. As he was on his knees I told him to get the fuck up and walk around the bases now. Benches cleared. No punches thrown, but I was the only one ejected. Rightfully.

College had a few more ejections, but none funnier or more sad than my final ejection. It was the final game of the season and I was a senior. My parents, friends, and throng of cleat chasers were in attendance. We were up 4-3 going into the 9th and at the time, I was closing games in between starts. The coach told me to go warm up. So let me rewind a bit... I was an asshole from the dugout too. I could change my voice so that even my coach didnt know who was ripping the players or umps. I was not the only one who did this, but I was the ringleader. Earlier this game, the plate ump's strike zone was all over the place, so I mentioned that he should clean his glasses. He approached the dugout and said if he heard one more word about balls and strikes he would start marching players off like it was a parade. I replied, "Everyone loves a parade blue. Just get behind the plate and try not to be brutal." He tossed my teammate. The base ump also had a few blown calls each way, They were just really bad on this day and I let them know it. Bottom of the 9th now and I get the call from the bullpen, my song hits, and I come out. As I go by the base ump I ask "Are you going to be as brutal in this inning as you have the rest of the game?". He tossed me. I replied "That was the best fucking call you made all game". My final game. Ejected. My teammates and fans loved it, my parents, not so much. I am sorry for that.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Sooooo you’re telling me there’s a chance?!?!?!

There hasn’t been much to get excited about during the 2012 Phillies season, but somehow here we are, 6 games back in the Wild Card with 22 to play. Despite most of this season being nearly unbearable, the Phils have turned it around as of late and after a sweep of the Rockies over the weekend, they are in the midst of a playoff race that no one expected a few months ago. Looking at the home stretch of the season, they might realistically have a shot too.

The rest of the season is not that scary, it includes 6 games against the Marlins, 3 against the Mets and 4 against the Astros. Not too bad. It does however include 3 against the Braves and 6 against the division leading (still feels weird to say that) Nationals. Although, the Phils have seemed to play well against both those teams lately.

The toughest part about making this historic run a reality is that there are currently 6 teams battling for the last wild card spot, all within 6.5 games of each other. The good news is that nearly all of those teams, minus the Phillies and Brewers have not been playing great lately. In the past 10 games theses teams are: PHI 8-2, MIL 7-3, ARI 5-5, STL 4-6, LAD 4-6 and PIT 3-7.

Along with the fact that these teams have not been playing well, the Phillies also probably have the biggest advantage in their remaining schedules. The Cards and Dodgers still have a series against each other, St. Louis also has a series against Cincinnati and Washington left and LA still has to play Arizona, St. Louis, Washington, Cincinnati and San Francisco (yikes). The only other team ahead of the Phillies, Pittsburgh, who is sinking fast, has to play Cincinnati twice, Milwaukee and Atlanta.

Obviously the Phils need to keep playing great baseball and get some help for this magic to happen, but the way the schedule plays out definitely helps the Fightin’s. I’m not saying its going to happen, just saying I’ll be keeping the Phaith like I have all year and all I know is that after this miserable season it will be fun to have something to cheer about in September.

Written by: Ben Bernstein (@BenB33)