The Finals: LET'S GO!
The finals vs Bourne began with us once again relinquishing a late lead only to win on a bases-loaded hit by pitch. Earlier in that game Chandler Taylor charged a ball with two out and fired a strike to Mickey Gasper, who was the teams heartbeat, hung in and made a remarkable tag that essentially saved the game. Kyle Datres would again set a new standard for making the one handed slow roller throw on the run AND Tony Locey would challenge Bourne’s CF at home plate, sending an eloquent message. We were in this to win and if you stand in the way, we go THROUGH you. This was definitely NOT 2016.
Game two started well but the inning from hell made game three necessary.
This would be it. We were going home. Facing elimination for the FIFTH time on the NINTH day, needing to win a SIXTH game. I reflected on all we had done, how good fortune shined on us and now how it all came down to this. We were spent, having gotten all we could out of this summer, no more early work, fungos, hitting drills, no more think tank. We would be separating after today, back to all parts of the country, with this day serving to define us.
I thought of the first time Shev talked about winning it all and I laughed. He was all in before anyone, that’s what leaders do. Now, on this day, August 13, 2017, we could validate.
Will Tribucher would be called upon to one more time, come up big. And he did. Graffanino would score the go ahead run and Hunter Bishop’s home run would give us a wafer thin margin. Chandler Taylor would throw out a runner with two outs at the plate to keep the shutout intact. Then came that one epic moment, the one only Hollywood screenwriters could conjure. How else would this script be written?
Two out bases loaded, seventh inning, Bourne’s best player up, we lead 2-0. Nine days of torture, elation, stomach churning anticipation has come down to this one moment. The ball is launched to left field and I immediately think it’s gone. Marty Costes did not. What happens next is simple. Marty Costes would turn, leap, crash into the fence and make the absolute GREATEST, CLUTCHEST play EVER!!!!! That’s right EVER!!! It was better than the Mays catch in ’54, the Jeter flip only got them back into that series in 2001 and although Ozzie Smith’s bad hop, bare hand play is better, it was a regular season game. Marty had, for all intents and purposes, put the nail in the coffin of Bourne’s hopes and leaped his way into Whitecap immortality.
The eighth would be handed over to another wolverine, Troy Miller. After a flawless top of the eighth we failed to score in the bottom and as we were taking the field for the finale, I happened onto a conversation, I will never forget. Hunter Bishop, our immensely talented, very young CF was cursing himself for making the last out when Chandler Taylor, our Wyatt Earp, handed Bishop his glove, looked directly into his eyes and said “hey,” paralyzing the young CF, “I need you to strap it on for just three more outs, THREE MORE OUTS!!!!!, now LET’S GO.” In that instant, I realized the magnitude of what we might be doing in a short time, it hit me like a ton of bricks and I had to keep from being overcome by the emotion. After all, there were still three outs to be gotten.
And the irony of those outs would not be lost on me. After a leadoff single, a smash up the middle was grabbed by Gaffanino behind the bag, flipped, Jeter style, to Dunn and onto Infante…double play, threat erased and we were one excruciating out away. Next hitter bounces one to Nino’s right, tough, in between play, he fields flawlessly and in one motion throws a strike and the circle is complete. The last three outs were made by players returning from 2016. Nothing could have more emphatically declared, this year was NOT 2016, this year WAS different. This year, this year was a reckoning and we would forever be 2017 Cape Cod Baseball League CHAMPIONS.
What ensued was nothing short of bedlam. 9 games 5 elimination games 6 wins. The kind of thing money can’t buy. All I can say is I am grateful I was there.
When we were done a quiet set in, as we were about to leave, I looked to my left and alone on the bench in our dugout, was one of our guys, a player who worked with us every day, head in hands, sobbing. I walked over, hugged him and cried. I knew in that moment why. Early work, bp, extra fungos, the dugout talk, the conversation had all come to an end and we would all be going our separate ways. The exhaustion, emotion and reality were overwhelming.
That night the Brewster brass hosted a party for the coaches and administration. Another party was being thrown by some host families for the players. The choice for me was easy. I was spending whatever time I had left with my guys. I understood they were now looking forward to the great things to come, the future, that’s what they do. But that night, we would hang together, one more time and I would get to violate the few remaining rules I missed up to this point. With my guys. Teammates. CHAMPIONS.
So a heartfelt thanks and may God bless you all. You will forever be part of what we do.