Two outs, bottom of the inning, two men on base, a full count to the batter at the plate. You've all seen this situation before. Some in real life, some in movies, some in both.
The crowd is hushed, holding their collective breath, watching two men in a field of green and brown. The pitcher stands alone on the mound, a mitt resting against his left shoulder, a ball sits in his right hand, idly spinning and thumbing the ball as it is cradled against his back. The pitcher nods in agreement to the catcher's signal, then eyes the runners on the bases. He eyes the batter, then locks his gaze on to the catcher's mitt. There's the windup and the delivery. The ball screams toward the plate, the batter swings with all of his might, and the hushed silence is broken with a loud crack of the wooden bat. A hush again washes over the crowd as fans slowly rise to their feet, raise one hand flat to their foreheads to block the sunlight bearing down upon their faces, and watch the center fielder sprint towards the wall deep in the outfield. Hands spread apart and arms thrust upward toward the cloudless blue sky, clenching into fists, shaking just a bit, willing the small sports ball of woven leather over yarn and cork to sail higher and farther in to the distance. The grins breaking in to wide smiles as the ball sails over the fence. The roar of the crowd as the announcer calls “Way back, way back … IT’S OUTTA HERE!” Strangers smile at each other and exchange high-fives and exclamations in regard to the magnitude of the amazing moment.
A three run blast. There is just one bigger moment in baseball and that is the grand-slam, which happens all too rarely.
This moment did not come in a game featuring Babe Ruth or in a movie starring Robert Redford.
No, this moment came in a game at Sckavone Field in SE Portland on May 4th, 2013 between the Bridgetown Thunder and the PBC Tribe of the NWIBL.
Many of you have not heard of the NWIBL. Many of you won't. But for those few (or many, many more if we're lucky) that have or will, they are the lucky ones.
They are the baseball fans or just sports fans in general that seek out sports-related excitement, regardless of the so-called “draw”.
The NWIBL, or NorthWest Independent Baseball League, is a semi-professional league right here in the heart of Portland, and they are just starting their fifth season. And the Thunder, the reigning 2012 City Champions, have left little to be desired in their first two games, accumulating 11 runs and allowing zero.
They don't have any guys on their roster you are likely to have heard of and there isn't one former big leaguer among the managers of the 16 teams in the league. But they have nothing lacking in the excitement department.
For one inning, there was a batting clinic put on by the Thunder as they scored five of their six runs in the first. From then and on, there was a six-inning pitcher's duel (the NWIBL plays seven inning games), as few batters were able to get hits and only one that did ever find home plate. The pitchers on both sides began fanning batters again and again, and both teams made use of just two pitchers a piece after the Thunder had used five in their previous game, also a shutout victory.
The lesson here is that sports and more importantly sports related excitement can come from any game, at any level. Surely you've sat there in the stands, nudged your buddy, smirked, and said, “Wouldn’t it be amazing if they pulled this off?”
I said the same thing on Saturday as Thunder left fielder Travis Hardaker stepped in to a full count low-fastball, swing away, and sent the ball on a journey that ended beyond the center field wall.
You can experience the same thing.
You, too, can experience the NWIBL.
Their games are fun, family-friendly, and best of all, free for all ages.
Check out their schedule at http://nwibl.org/, and be sure to check out a game or several.
You won't be let down.