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Life sweeps away the dreams we have planned
You are young and you are the future
Suck it up and tough it
out, be the best you can
It has been a week since the
Wisconsin Timber Rattlers returned home from Fort Wayne, Indiana after winning
the 2012 Midwest League pennant. There
were plenty of memories that stand out from the playoff run - I will probably
be milking them for all they are worth during the offseason - and I thought
that I would get a few of them down in a column before they started to fade.
The story will be told by a Timber Rattlers team historian in 30 years
and it may not be believed. The
Rattlers lost the first game of their first round 2012 playoff series 4-0 in
Burlington. They return home and get
a complete-game, three-hit shutout from Chad Pierce in Game Two to even the
series. Then, David Goforth pitches
a complete-game, four-hit shutout with nine strikeouts in Game Three to move the
Rattlers on in the playoffs. I have seen a
lot of great pitching performances in my time with the Timber Rattlers, but
consecutive complete game shutouts by the Rattlers? I have not seen the
Different back-to-back: Game
Three against Burlington was scoreless until Ben McMahan and Nick Ramirez hit
consecutive homers off Drew Granier in the fourth inning.
In Game One of the Western Division Finals at Clinton, the Rattlers were
down 1-0 in the fourth inning and Yadiel Rivera hit a three-run home run.
Mike Garza was next and hit another homer for back-to-back home runs in
back-to-back games. consecutive home runs are a bit rare, but they do
happen. It should have shocked no one that a team with over 100 home runs
during the regular season did something like this.
Neda, base runner: The Rattlers catcher is not a fast runner.
But, he is a smart base runner. The
Rattlers have a 3-2 lead in Game Two of the Western Division Finals.
Neda singles and moves to second on a sacrifice bunt.
Brandon Macias singles to shallow right and Neda was the only person in
the stadium that didn't see the stop sign Matt Erickson had up in the third
base coaching box. He
surprised everyone in the ballpark and just kept running to score an important
insurance run. I kidded him a bit the next
day asking if he believed in stop signs. He said that he didn't see it and
knew that he was going to score. In Game One of the Championship
Series, Neda was on third with the bases loaded and two outs in the tenth inning
with the game tied 2-2. It should
have surprised no one that he raced for home on a wild pitch to score the run
that put the Rattlers up in the series.
Williams, RBI man: Williams had seven RBI for the Timber Rattlers during the
regular season. But, he had two very
important RBI in two of the games he played during the playoffs.
The first came in Game Two of the Western Division Finals.
It's the fourth inning and the game is tied 2-2.
Williams is up with two outs and two on base.
Clinton pitching coach Andrew Lorraine had just gone out to talk things
over with pitcher Seon-Gi Kim. Williams
cracks the first pitch back through the middle to drive in the go ahead run. He
wasn't done. Wisconsin trailed
Fort Wayne 3-2 in the fourth inning of Game Three of the Championship Series.
There are two outs with Neda at second and Lance Roenicke at first base.
Williams singled into left and Neda scored to tie the game.
Nick Ramirez & the accidental home
run: I mentioned this one on the
blog, but it's worth a mention here, too.
Ramirez was hitting some tape-measure home runs to right field during
batting practice before Game Three of the Championship Series.
Someone said, "Opposite field home runs are okay, too."
Ramirez responded with, "Opposite field home runs are accidents."
Of course, the left-handed Ramirez would hit an opposite field home run
that night to get the Rattlers to within 3-2 in the fourth inning.
And why wouldn't he? He had
four home runs in the postseason, including two in the Finals.
One was bound to be an accident.
Macias crushes: Adrian Williams had just tied Game Three of the Championship
Series with his RBI single in the fourth inning.
Fort Wayne brought in a new pitcher and Macias, who had last homered on
August 6, railed a 3-2 pitch out of the park for a three-run home run and a 6-3
lead on the way to the 10-8 win. That
homer, plus a pair of big doubles that led to runs in Game Four, put a big
exclamation point at the end of a breakout season for a non-drafted free agent
out of the University of Kansas.
appearance of the president: I
happened to look down at the seats next to the tunnel by the Fort Wayne dugout
in during the top of the ninth inning. League
president George Spelius had just walked out to a seat near the entrance to the
field. It was at that point - with
the Rattlers up 4-2 and only three more outs to go - that my thoughts went
from "This Championship might happen" to "This Championship will
knows what to do...then, doesn't know what to do:
If you watch the final
three outs video you will see Brent Suter dropping in curves for strikes and
peppering the zone against the three batters he retired in that inning. He was
like that over all three of his frames in Game five as he set down all nine
TinCaps batters he faced. And Suter
did that with an economy of pitches. Eleven
pitches in a perfect seventh, eleven pitches in a perfect eighth, and fourteen
pitches in a perfect ninth. Now, watch
the video shot by the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette.
After the final strike was called and the Rattlers won the pennant, Suter
drops his glove starts hopping around while pulling at his cap as if he was
deciding whether he had time to toss it in the air before his teammates got to
him for the celebration. Then, as
Neda was approaching, Suter looks as if he either wants to jump and be caught by
Neda or wants to catch the Rattlers catcher who looks like he wants to jump.
The spontaneity of the celebration was one of those moments of joy in
sports that keeps people coming back for more.
"You've got to be kidding me":
The team celebrated in the hotel bar on Sunday night and had a ride home
on Monday morning that would put them in the Time Warner Cable Field at Fox
Cities Stadium parking lot around 4:30pm. The
weather as the bus started on the way home was sunny and warm, but as the team
bus reached Milwaukee the rain started falling.
The word was that the weather was even worse.
The last thing the players were expecting was a reception committee.
The bus turned into the driveway and saw between 50 and 100 fans waiting
in the cold drizzle for the return
of the champions. That's when
someone from the back of the bus said, "You've got to be kidding me."
They couldn't wait inside because of the construction already underway
at the stadium, but their welcome was much appreciated.
Neda preserves history:
I have mentioned Rafael Neda quite a bit in this column.
Truth be told, the starting pitchers mentioned him a lot more during the
playoffs and gave him plenty of credit for their performances.
So, I'll save this last memory for something that happened in the
weight room as the players were in line to get sized for their rings.
I was on the way back in to the clubhouse from where the media interviews
were being held on the concourse. Neda
stopped me, pulled out a baseball, and said, "Here's the ball from the last
out." Somehow, he got the ball
into the back pocket of his pants on his way to the mound after the final strike
and held on to it for the next two days. He
planned on doing something with the team for the ball.
I'll need to ask him about it when we restart The
Interrogation Room for the offseason.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.