Tuesday, July 20, 2010
My Favourite Hit!
There are always great moments in every baseball game. You may witness a wonderful pitching duel, a slugfest, an extra inning nail-biter. But every game is different, every play is a little bit different.
As a personal preference, I believe that a triple is the most exciting event in any baseball game. Any base hit, especially for the home team, should bring you to the edge of your seat. If the batter happens to get to second base with a double, all the better. Home runs are critical, because that means that the batter, and those who were on base, touch home plate and put runs on the score sheet.
There is a sudden finality to a home run. Most of the time, it either clears the fence, or it doesn’t. If the umpire whirls his hand above his head, the batter can decelerate his stride and jog around the bases. Occasionally, there is some doubt about home runs. If the ball hits the foul pole, it is supposed to count as a four-bagger. The powers that be in the Major Leagues have adopted video replay to determine the legitimacy of a long ball. Good for them. It’s a step in the right direction.
The triple, on the other hand, usually comes as a result of speed, and power, and a little luck. Sometimes, the structure of a stadium will bring about a situation where a batter can be standing on third base after hitting a ball, because of a fortunate ricochet, or a poor fielding play.
Many of us became familiar with Bengie Molina when he played for the Toronto Blue Jays in 2006. The Puerto Rico native comes from a family of baseball players. He has two brothers now playing in the Major Leagues. None of the Molina boys are giants, but they are all big boys. Bengie stands at five feet, eleven inches, and tips the scales at around two hundred and thirty pounds.
Bengie is the oldest of the three brothers, and has been playing professional baseball for seventeen years.
Bengie is not known as a triples hitter. He does not possess great speed. He has been in the game a long time, and has seen a lot of pitches, (which takes its toll, but especially on a catcher). In his last at bat on July 16, 2010, he was in a rather unique position. He had hit a grand slam, a double, and a single. One of the most difficult feats to accomplish in baseball as a hitter is to hit “for the cycle”, reaching each base on a hit in one game. As Bengie dug in at the plate, the triple was on everyone’s mind; however, it seemed quite unlikely, as Bengie is notoriously slow.
Teammate Michael Young talked to his fellow Texas Rangers about the situation in Fenway Park. “We tried to map out what he could do to get a triple,” he related after the game.
Molina struck the ball and headed for first. As luck would have it, the ball glanced off centre fielder Eric Patterson’s glove, and Molina was off to the races. He rounded second, and chugged into third base with a triple, only the sixth of his entire career. He is only the eighth player in the history of the game to hit a grand slam as part of his cycle. Another Ranger, Josh Hamilton described the event as a “once in a lifetime thing”.
Molina had recently been traded to the Rangers from the San Francisco Giants. He was playing his tenth game as a Ranger. But when he rounded second base, the entire bench rose to root him on in his quest for the cycle.
Even the opposition applauded his effort. David Ortiz, another big man who wears the Boston Red Sox cap, summed up his feelings after the game. “Nothing is predictable in this game. Things just happen. I’d have put my head in a tree trimmer betting that he wouldn’t hit a triple.”
Almost a month before Molina’s remarkable night, Denard Span of the Minnesota Twins had his name etched in the record books by hitting three triples in one game, tying the record. Span has lightning speed, and was able to accomplish his feat by virtue of his wheels. He had a leadoff triple, drove in two runs with his second three-bagger, and cleared the bases with his final blow.
He is the second Twin to hit a “triple triple”, as Ken Landreaux did the same in 1980.
Yet another tid bit from the great game of baseball.
July 20, 2010