Thursday, July 29, 2010

Magical Flying Unicorns fly away with the Lord Grant Park trophy

The Magical Flying Unicorns fly away with the Lord Grant Park trophy in a tense 9 inning affair that had the Unicorn nation hearts fluttering. Speaking of the Unicorn nation, it was great to see an actual Unicorn nation at the game. The fan turnout was incredible. It was a small sea of pink gathered together to root on our lovable team.

Photo caption: The Unicorn nation replete with pink, beautiful girls, and even banners

We had mothers, fathers, daughters, husbands, friends, boyfriends, girlfriends, ex-co-workers, ex cons, ex wives, landlords, former Unicorns, mistresses, and of course we had Javi the #1 fan of course. There was a time when #1 fan was because he was our only fan, but we now have a significant following live, on facebook, and even twitter.

Photo caption: #1 fan Javi with trophy, T-Bear and Smores

Special thanks to Morgan for the awesome photos (she is our official Unicorn photographer), and Gene Bass for being official Unicorn score keeper. We even had banners and several hot chicks that turned out to watch. We are becoming as popular as the Cubs, but we actually win.

Photo caption: Our official score keeper Gene Bass with Legend and the trophy

T-Bear was uncharacteristically tardy and got there just in time to open up a beer take a swill and head over to hear the ground rules. I am so tired of listening to the dumb ground rules. We are made to hear the same boring speech 18 times a year. I feel like a bored kid in class as my eyes wander around the field. I usually use this time as an opportunity to check out if the other team has any hotties. What was great about today is we had great eye candy in our cheering corner. Yay Unicorn nation.

Photo caption: the hotties of the unicorn nation and Bauer's boyfriend

The game began with a bang from the Unicorns with three straight hits from T-Bear (don’t forget to give T-Bear some love and click on him (don’t worry it is no virus)), Jackie O, and Turk. Legend followed with a hit and gave the Unicorns a two run lead after the first frame.

Photo caption: Jackie O gets another early hit to lead on the Unicorn attack

In the second, Juice induced a walk and took Bauer with him on the automatic walk rule, and it looked like we were in business. Smores got a hit and the Unicorns were up 3-0. Unfortunately, Bauer ran us out of the inning at 3rd base. I take some of the blame as I waived Juice home and was preoccupied with him scoring. Then I looked up and I saw Bauer and her massive mammaries barreling toward me and I did what I always do when this happens and stared in wonderment. I should have snapped out of it and held her at second, but that is easier said than done. Anyways, it was beginning to look like the past two games where we tacked on runs in almost every inning and shut down the opponent enough to win.

Photo caption: Smores with another RBI

It was not to be that easy however as after that we did not score again until the 9th inning. Inning 3-8 was a mirror of our season from week 2 to week 6 minus the forfeits. The score card through the middle to late innings were a wasteland of GOs and FOs, which is scorecard jargon for ground outs and fly outs. We had one inning we went 1,2,3 and three other innings only four Unicorns batted.

We lost 3-2 in the finals to Risky Business two years ago, and I felt pleased that we outdid our offensive effort in that game by the third inning, but without more runs it was inevitable that they would score and they eventually tied it up. A few Unicorn miscues helped them out. Despite our errors, we stayed poised and made quick work of most of their females and even some of their males.

Photo caption: The Legend at third base

Special shout out must go out to Agent Bauer at first base whom might eventually lose her nickname in favor of the name “stretch.” First base is one of the most important positions in softball. Many outs are recorded there and it is also important for first base to stop bad throws from going out of play in order to keep the runner at first in order to maintain a force option at second.

Photo caption: Bauer at first

She did her job with panache this year and I felt that any ball in her vicinity was an automatic out. This was apparent in this game as she even came off the bag a couple of times to either stop the ball and on one play catch it and tag the runner. She also caught one scoop.

Photo caption: Bauer coming off the bag at first

I believe it is the first basewoman’s job to catch everything from the knees to maybe a foot over the top of the head. It is the job of the fielder to throw the ball in that vicinity. Any throws made outside this area are not expected to be caught and when they are it is a bonus. Bauer made all the catches within the zone and exceeded expectations with a few outside of it.

As a shortstop when I have confidence in my first basewoman I throw the ball better. I make throwing errors when I question the abilities of the first basewoman because I try too hard to make the perfect throw. This is when I tend to short hand the ball. Thanks to Bauer she has made me a better player, and I hope to throw it to her for years to come.

Photo caption: Bauer at first. This is not a stretch, but a contortion

A softball game is either one hour or seven innings. After six innings the score was knotted at three. This put us in a great disadvantage as we were the away team and the home team always has last ups. All they needed to do was score one measly run in the 7th or 8th inning and the game was over and championship won in walk-off fashion.

Photo caption: Juice makes a nice running catch

The 7th inning went without incident as both teams meekly went down without much of a threat. The 8th inning is when things got interesting. In the top half of the inning Turk led off with a hard grounder to 3rd and I think they made one of the few errors for them in the game and threw it away. Turk was on second with no outs. He advanced to third on a ground out by Pitch and then Legend hit a ball far enough to easily sacrifice Turk.

However, instead of tagging, Turk jumped the gun. I am convinced there is a colony of ants at third base that insert themselves into player’s pants at key junctions of the game. This is the only explanation here. They jumped into Turk's pants at the critical moment and he jumped off the bag prematurely. Turk had to return and then could not advance. This could have proven costly and almost did.

Photo caption: Pitch throwing some deadly arc

The next half-inning will go down in Unicorn lore forever. Tank U got three consecutive hits with well placed balls that barely eluded Unicorn fielders. They had the bases loaded and nobody out. Most times in softball this will lead to three maybe four runs, and all they needed was one and game over. All they needed was a long fly ball, a well placed grounder, or even a swinging bunt would have been sufficient.

Instead they did nothing with the opportunity. First girl up popped out to T-Bear. Then a dude tried to go the opposite way, but popped out to shallow center. Smores fired it home and an alert Bauer corralled the ball and stopped the runner at third from advancing. Then their weakest hitter grounded to T-Bear and the Unicorns magically escaped.

Photo caption: One of those well placed balls eluded the rover

The inning deflated Tank U and sparked the Unicorns. Juice led off the next inning with a hit and was followed by another hit by Smores. First and third with one out and guess who stepped up at the plate? Did I say “the inning ‘sparked’ the Unicorns earlier in this paragraph? Us literary types call that foreshadowing. Up to the plate stepped Sparky, who is becoming as big of a cult figure as the Unicorns themselves. The crowd yelled “Sparky, Sparky, Sparky.”

Photo caption: Juice starts another rally with a base knock

I initially penciled in Sparky to replace Jackie-O in the second hole, but then changed my mind and put her in the ten spot. I did this because I knew she would have an opportunity to influence the game more at the tenth spot than the second spot. Once again, T-Bear’s strategy turned magical and up came Sparky at the time when the Unicorns needed to ignite their offense.

Photo caption: Sparky sits on the bench and patiently waits her chance to change softball and Unicorn history

All she needed to do was place a ball where the speedy Juice could score. She came through and achieved what Tank U failed to do in the 8th. Juice flashed home quicker than T-Bear can squeeze an orange at Big Bowl, which is not saying much because it is kind of a slow tedious process. Let's try that again. Juice flashed home quicker than you could pour a glass of orange juice in a small glass. He touched the plate right as the ball arrived and was called safe in a bang-bang play. The difference in the game was we had a spark and Tank U did not.

Photo caption: Our star Sparky

T-Bear must pause and give a special shout out to our ump. This ump in this game used to hate us. At least it seemed that way. He made a controversial call that ended our championship run two years ago, and he seemed to always give other teams the close calls. He has done a 180 degree turn and given us the magical calls this year. We have worked our magic on him.

Photo caption: Tony the once much maligned up now a Unicorn favorite and Bauer making another stretch

Back to the action: Sparky stopped in mid stride to first and threw her hands up and screamed “YES.” “Sparky, “ I yelled, as I was first base coach, get to the bag and then celebrate. Fortunately Tank U was too busy arguing the call to notice Sparky’s solo celebration and she was able to resume her run to first with a game changing play. T-Bear than collected his fourth hit of the game with a well placed ball right down the first base line and the score was now 5-3.

Photo caption: T-Bear drives in the last run of the game for the Unicorns

In the bottom of the ninth they got a base hit to lead off the inning. Then a fly out or pop up made it one out and a runner still at first. Then a line drive was hit to the Legend and he had the runner off the bag and an easy out to end the game. It would not be that easy though as the dreaded third base ants once again made their appearance and jumped into the Legend's pants. Russ got too antsy and fired it outside the range of Stretch (Bauer). The guy got to third and the game continued. Another hit made the score 5-4.

Then a ball was hit to center and if it dropped they would tie the score. The ball seemed to hang in the air forever as it moved in slow motion.

Photo caption: This is how the ball appeared to T-Bear at short as it hung in the air forever

Smores made a beautiful running catch and smothered it with his marshmellowy body. The celebration was on. Go crazy Unicorn nation go crazy. Tank U went home and the Unicorns stayed and partied. After coming so close two years ago and not even making the playoffs last year with a revamped team it was especially gratifying to win it all this year.

Photo caption: Smores that big lug made the game saving catch

Another big shout out needs to go to Pitch. I cannot believe I barely even mentioned her name at all in this write up until now yet her name was behind every word as we are nothing without our Pitch. If Sparky ignites us then Pitch is our engine. Her excellence is so constant that we sometime forget how great she is. Pitch proves with her 570th career win that pitching and defense wins championships, but pitching is the egg and defense is the chicken and offense is the mash potato and gravy, or something like that. Tank U actually out defended us, but we out hit them barely enough to win, and of course we had a secret weapon in our Sparky.

Photo caption: Pitch is our team MVP for every game and every season

Great game by Smores in the outfield and behind the plate as he was on base three times, made the game winning catch, and several other nice plays. Juice is like a second lead-off man. He has great instincts on the base paths and his base running was an integral part of our win. He also made a great running catch late in the game.

Photo caption: When Juice gets on he usually scores

The Vicki/Sparky combo in the tenth hole got on base three out of four times. Sparky yet again got a key hit when we needed it most. In fact, all season Sparky and Jackie O came through with some timely hits.

Photo caption: Jit taking a rip

A question I got asked many times during the night is “did I ever think we would have won the championship?” The answer is "yes, of course." Not only did I think we would win, but I knew we would win. After the first practice Smores and I came across a macabre scene. Three dead squirrels were squashed on Columbus and the sole survivor of the family, one of the babies lay quivering on the shoulder traumatized from witnessing the horrible deaths of mother, father, and brother.

Photo caption: Key mid season acquisition Bassmaster

T-Bear knew right then and there that it was an oracle handed down from the Unicorn gods. The three dead squirrels signified three losses and the squirrel that survived symbolized hope, survival, and staying alive. This is what we did and all we had at certain times during the year when our offense sputtered and we lost close game after close game that we should have won. However, I knew that fate and destiny was on our side and as long as we stayed alive we would eventually succeed.

Photo caption: Victorious Unicorns

The hope was sometimes dim, but we survived and kept fighting and never died. If I would have told of this oracle sooner it may not have come true and others may have thought I was crazy or maybe even drunk, so I am only coming clean now. Congrats Unicorns and thanks for the great season and for being magical.

Photo caption: T-Bear gets a beer cooler shower while holding the magical flask

The celebration was as epic as the game, but I am unfit to be the author of that post as I remember little. Thanks to Turk for the shots at Cactus and thanks Sparky for once again saving the season and being the only one cognizant to take home the trophy.

Photo caption: Turk with a trophy and shots for all

Photo caption: Marie, Legend, and T-Bear doing the Unicorn pose with the trophy

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