My dog died today. Her name was Zoe, she was an Akita a breed used to hunt bears. Some people have cats who bring dead moles or mice to their front door as gifts. One time Zoe broought back half a deer. In her honor, and as an ode to the Blues, the best Pittsburgh travel team on which i’ve ever had the honor of playing, here is Robert Johnson’s Hell Hound Blues.
There is an empty feeling in the pit of my gut. We should be playing today.
It would be much easier to lament the few mistakes we made and view our two narrow losses as an end for a great team ( I know I’m having a hard time getting the vision of a couple at bats from our last game out of my head), than it is too view this tournament loss as a springboard for future success. Pittsburgh has a legit travel team that can compete with anyone. The Florida Rangers can play year-round, and New York has open tryouts for anyone in the city to join their team, they also draw from a much larger pool of players. Neither team overpowered us, a few bounces the other way and we make it to the Championship today with a rested pitching staff against a beatable opponent.
The Blues are a competitive, tight-knit group who take pride in representing their city. I named Craig Boley the captain of this team and he is most certainly a leader, but leadership is ingrained in the dirt and pine tar stains which cover all 15 Blues uniforms. The hustle and the attitude of everyone was phenomenal. This is not the last the NABA tournament circuit has seen of the Blues.
After opening the tournament with a 6-3 win over David Copperfield’s Mennonites, the Blues had to win one of two games on Sunday to advance to Monday’s championship. The Blues lost a 2-1 heart-breaker on the game’s final at-bat to the heavily favored Florida Rangers, and a 9-7 game to the classless New York Metros who tried to cheat and talked more than group of auctioneers on crystal-meth.
The Blues finished 1-2; We beat the Illusion who beat the Metros who beat the Rangers. Pittsburgh allowed 14 runs and scored 14 runs, a far cry from the AC and Phoenix Pittsburgh teams who gave up over nine runs per game.
The pitching and defense was phenomenal for Pittsburgh all weekend, only three errors were committed all tournament. The Blues pitchers threw two complete games, Ashcroft’s game one victory, and Sorosky’s game two gem, in which he allowed a run in the first, and a run in the ninth to bookend seven consecutive scoreless innings. Unfortunately the Rangers second baseman stole at least three hits from Pittsburgh, leading a flawless defensive effort by Florida, in a game in which neither team committed an error. Jaosn Goldie threw a runner out at the plate flatfooted, after bobbling a base hit to center, Gwin threw out runners at second and home, and Vinny Gala played first base with the agility of a young Andres Galaraga. Dustin WInston was tremendous behind the plate, and the infield made all the plays. Despite clawing out a run in the top of the ninth, the Blues fell to a pinch hit walk off home run in the bottom of the ninth that barely cleared the rightfield wall. We just couldn’t string the hits together. Sorosky deserved better.
The Rangers are a classy group of players, they talked and chatted and cheered on their team. Conversely, the Metros taunted, cursed in Spanish, and harassed our guys and our manager when Joe called them out for bending the pinch running rules. That was a hard game to lose. We took a 2-0 lead in the second when Jason Ashcroft singled in two runs, and the game went back and forth Kenny Rayl gave the Blues the lead in the fifth with a ground rule double over the left field wall at the Potomac Nationals, single A stadium. until New York took a 7-6 lead in the 7th, and added two insurance runs in the bottom of the 8th. Rayl hit another double in the ninth to cut the lead to two runs. both those hits would have been home runs at the other park. Kenny had a great two games after missing the first, and played a solid game at third base against NY.
Collectively we started to press a little towards the end of the second two games, I know I did anyway.
Had Kenny made it to game one, and hit in the same manner, he’d get my MVP vote.
I have to give co-MVP honors to Jason Ashcroft and Craig Boley, Ashcroft won us our first tournament game in four years, and had two hits against New York.
Boley led the team in batting, caught two good games and played an error free game at second base against the Rangers.
Despite the sour feeling after coming so close in Virginia, I’m anxious to put on the powder blues again and represent the city.
Players on the current roster will be given the first opportunity to play in future tournaments, any opening will be filled in as necessary. We are definitely playing in the 2009 Memorial Day Tournament in Atlantic City and next year’s Virginia tournament. The Blues are strongly considering a trip to Florida in January for the Palm Beach Citrus Classic, start saving/raising money now.
I’d like to thank everyone who helped make this team and this trip a reality. I had a blast.