Tree Leaves Falling But Baseball Still Calling

Park Forest, IL-(ENEWSPF)- When you woke up on Sunday morning you probably saw some rain coming down and thought how chilly and dreary the day looked. But when eleven members of the Park Forest Mustang Fall Ball team woke up Sunday, they looked outside and prayed that the rain would stop and the sun would come out. Sure enough, those prayers were answered and the sun came out to warm things up. By three o’clock those eleven players took the field and had one thought in mind: give 110% and leave it all on the field.

That’s just what they did. But let me take you back eight weeks ago and tell you where these  young men began. A handful of young men love the game so very much that they wanted to continue to play. While many of their friends and summer teammates were off playing football and soccer, they still wanted to play more baseball. So a team was formed to play in the Mustang Division of the Chicago Land Sunday Ball league. The Mustang division is comprised of 9 and 10 year olds. So any player who would be playing in that division next season could play on this team. But this team even had two players on the team who will still be in the 7-8 year old Pinto division next season; one of them playing soccer and baseball with us at the same time. Talk about love of the game…

So with just two weeks break between the end of the summer tournament team and the fall season, these young men laced up their spikes and began working together. As this was a very young team, it was clear that this would be an uphill battle. Many teams in the fall league were made up of primarily 10 year olds who had played many games together. But what a surprise we got when we won our very first game. However, the competition began getting tougher. The team found themselves keeping games close until around the fourth inning or so. The lack of seasoned pitchers caught up with us around that point of the game and for the next six games we found ourselves on the losing end.

The great thing about this league, though, is that everyone is seeded into a 2-game pool play playoff to finish the season. PF’s first game in the playoffs was on Saturday against Lemont Gold. Our young men had a lead for five of the six innings, but a few mistakes and the home field advantage kicked in and we lost 8-7. What an improvement over the game we had played against them earlier in the year, getting soundly beaten.

Youth, however, is an amazing thing. Most things are “Here today, gone tomorrow!” For our team that was a great thing. The young men came out this afternoon with smiles on their faces and an eagerness to play. And play they did!

Our guys gave up one run in the first inning, but the end of that half-inning would be the only time PF was behind. The bats of PF took over and in their half of the first inning they sent 10 men up to the plate and ended up with 5 runs scoring. Timely hitting, heads-up base running, and stolen bases gave PF the early lead and they would never look back. In this league a pitcher can only pitch two consecutive innings. Unfortunately, one of our three pitchers could not make it to the game. So Malachi held the Lemont Blue team to only 1 run after two innings. Donovan came in for the third inning and gave up only one run. PF heated up their bats again and scored three additional runs. But after having pitched two innings on Saturday, Donovan was beginning to tire. In the bottom half of the third our guys again took advantage of the good pitches some received and the others drew walks, chalking up another three runs.

Donovan began the inning but was tiring quickly. So after one out, Wesley came in and got the final two outs. However, a few good hits coupled with a few errors gave Lemont 4 runs. Wes took the mound again in the fifth inning and kept Lemont to only one run and PF went down quietly in their half of the fifth inning. So we now had a score of PF 11, Lemont Blue 7.

The final inning was the one that showed us how incredible these young men are and how much heart they had. With having run out of our regular pitchers, AJ (my son) was sent in to pitch. I don’t know if I have EVER been so nervous watching my son play or coaching him as that inning.  The first batter in the inning received a walk. The second batter got a hit and we now had men on 1st and 2nd with no outs. Should we leave AJ in or try another pitcher? If so, who? We decided to give him one more batter. A few pitches later a ground ball was hit to Malachi at short, who turned and got the force at third with a throw to Miles.  PF now had one out. The next batter came up and popped up to AJ. As I held my breath and time seemed to stop, AJ caught the ball. Two outs for PF. But Lemont sent the next batter up to the plate and he scorched on down the 1st base line. Out of nowhere, Stanford stretched and got his glove on the ball, keeping it from being a sure triple. He almost caught it, but it dropped out of his glove and the runner was safe. A run scored but if Stanford had not made that stop, the entire complexion of the game would have changed. PF 11, Lemont 8. The next batter stepped in the box and hit a ground ball to second. Lucas centered himself in front of the ball, fielded it perfectly, and made a perfect throw to Stanford at first. Out three!

With the out, the team realized that they had won the game and began to “hoop” and holler and hug one another. What a way to finish up a tough season! These boys made terrific defensive plays today and the bats came alive today like I had not seen all season. Lemont saw the sharp long hit that Malachi had in the first inning, so they decided to intentionally walk him the next time up. AJ laid a bunt down today that he had been working on all fall. Miles legged out an infield hit that set him up to score one of PF’s runs. Stanford drew a couple of timely walks so that he scored two runs. Donovan broke out of his shell and, with his new glasses, ripped a single, double, and a homerun. Lucas drew a walk, got a single, and scored two runs. Wesley found the groove this weekend, and in each game hit several outfield singles. Eric, Kevon, William, and Austin all drew walks and had several stolen bases.

My husband and I talked about this game on the way to dinner and we both agreed: all of the hard work paid off. The boys not only won the game, but more importantly, they began to be in the correct places when they needed to be, they made good defensive plays along with good throws, and they did many of the little, seemingly insignificant things, that are needed to make a team win. What a terrific way to end a season. Words cannot express how proud my husband and I, as well as the parents who have encouraged their players thoughout this learning process, are. A lot of heart was shown today and these young men can be truly proud of themselves.


Coach Alan and Mary Kay and the PF Thunderhead Parents