Yesterday, I pitched my first college varsity inning. We traveled 8 hours to the University of Arkansas-Monticello. Not a great bus ride. The first two games on Saturday were freezing. I doubt if it was 40 out for very long. I did not play, but I did not really expect to on day one. Saturday night it snowed. We traveled 8 hours straight south and it snows. Fortunately, it warmed up on Sunday, however, this is the first time that I have ever arrived to play a baseball game when there was ICE on the field when we arrived. I did not play game one. One game left for me to get in. Coach said that he would do his best to get everyone in game four. But, I have been the only guy on a trip before to not get so I did not have a great feeling about my PT. Our starter went 2 innings. After that, we went with relievers for one inning each. In the fifth, with only two innings left to play, and 4 guys still left to get in, I thought that I would not play. Coach then told me to warm-up; I was pitching the sixth. I threw my warm-ups and stood in the bullpen. I thought about how I had spent two years on JV, rode the bus for 8 hours down here, watched 2 games the day before in the freezing cold, and labored this whole season through countless days of running and ab work that I detested. I also thought about how much this outing would affect my future playing time. I knew that if I messed up I would have an 8 hour bus ride to think about it. I was thinking way too much. When I got on the actual game mound, I noticed the enormous hole at the landing foot spot. I had seen holes before, obviously, and pitched effectively with them, so I did not think that this one was that big of a deal. I threw my first warmup from the game mound. I fell down. After all the importance that I had given to this inning, this hole was going to ruin any chance I had to pitch effectively. I am usually very calm on the mound. Kris Benson possesses my ideal “mound presence.” I have had teammates tell me that I am the most calm player they have ever played with. But, after falling in that hole, I could not stop cursing out that hole. I had no idea where the ball went. I threw again and almost fell down. I managed only one strike in my warmup pitches; they were all going 55 feet because this hole was messing with my landing. Finally, the first batter came up. I threw four pitches; all balls. Great start. Coach came out to talk to me. We have had talks before about how my only real problem is my mind. (I don’t agree with the assessment, but whatever.) He saw me in this wreck of emotion. He told me to calm down and that he would call the pitches from the dugout so that all I would have to worry about is pitching. While he was talking to me the only thing I was thinking was “(bleeping) mound.” I finally got a strike over to the next batter, who laced it for a single through the right side. This did nothing to calm me down. I HATE having runners on second. I have to make sure to get the second sign, or the third sign, or the sign that follows the pinky and get the sign from our SS for how many times to look back at second. Fortunately, the next batter grounded out to third for a double play. Here I was now just one out away from being done with pitching for the day. I threw a fastball for a strike, followed by a gyroball for a strike. Then a fastball off the plate for ball one. After that I went back to the gyro hoping for my first college strikeout. I made a beautiful pitch, low and away, but this guy stuck his bat out and grounded out weakly to first. As I jogged back to the dugout, all I was thinking was “(bleeping) hole.” I was still so upset that in the dugout one of the guys jokingly asked me if I needed to cry. I cannot remember a time that I have been that mad about an outing that I had. (Even in high school when I gave up a grand slam in sectionals which effectively ended my senior year.) There was a silver lining, though. Our catcher told me that he thought I threw harder than our #1 guy, who gets consistently clocked at 88 MPH, meaning by his math, I was throwing 90. A 165 lb. kid who pitching his first varsity inning as a college junior throwing NINETY. I don’t know if it is really true or not, but I think that has to be some truth to the fact that I throw somewhat hard. Our shortstop told me later that the batter I walked told him, while he was on second, that he was afraid to step in the box against me because he thought that I threw hard (and also saw that I could not control the ball at all.) We did not get back onto campus until 2:50 in the morning and I can tell you that the bus ride would have been practically unbearable if I had not been able to adjust to that bleeping hole.
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