My last entry got away from the baseball a bit. At the time, nothing out of the ordinary had happened on the field, and my focus was more on getting acclimated. However, following the debacle of a weekend-series that did little to resemble baseball games, I’m at a point where I should vent.
I honestly don’t know where to start. The club secretary quit, we almost forfeited twice because we didn’t have enough players, we had back to back bench-clearing near-brawls, and I’m stuck in the middle of the worst hitting slump of my career.
I’ll only briefly touch upon myself, because the more I dwell on it, the worse it will get. I don’t know my stats. I haven’t looked, and nor will I. All is I know I have felt lost in the batter’s box. I put too much pressure on myself as the “American” to perform and carry the team, and it has backfired. I’ve unfairly done that to myself all my life, even when I was much younger and didn’t know any better. I know better at this stage of my life, and I am disappointed in myself for letting it get to this point. Now, there is nowhere to go but up, but the good news is that it has only been 6 games and we have 34 to go. Plus for the first time since being here, I went to a batting cage (we don’t have one at Beenleigh) with a teammate from Santa Fe and got in some good work. It felt great to put the effort in again. Putting in the work is fun for me at this point in my career, because I know that preparation breeds confidence, and confidence brings success. I wish I could do it more often. I have a feeling I am going to have a big weekend ... but the real issues are bigger than just me.
I guess I’ll start at the top. Any good organization comes from structure and stability of its main officers. The on-field product always reflects the organization as a whole. I’ve learned that from my experiences in baseball. My host mother (Marita) and host sister (Courtney) are both on the committee for the club, which consists of about six or seven members, including the club president and his wife. As a result, I have heard all of the club gossip and nonsense that has ensued in the last few weeks. Mind you, that Marita and Courtney devote their time to this club unconditionally. Courtney is single-handedly responsible for bringing me here, as the club secretary apparently was not capable or willing to handle the situation. Courtney and Marita are the ones who collect all of the player’s fees, a task which should be simple, but has turned into a wild goose chase, complete with Facebook slandering and straight up lying (classy moves by our A-team players, I know). It upsets me, because every day I see the hard work that my host family (including my host father Keith and host brother Brendan) puts into the club behind the scenes. To me, without this family, nothing would ever get done. And if it did, it would probably be a half-ass job.
This family puts in the work, in addition to the adults working full time jobs and the kids attending Queensland Institute of Technology. However, our club secretary felt she was the victim of under appreciation and verbal abuse by other committee members. She wrote a long resignation email, carbon copying the president of Queensland Baseball, essentially airing the club's dirty laundry for the whole Queensland Baseball Council to hear about. And so the work falls to the Murphy family once again, left to pick up the pieces of an organization that wants to be taken seriously, but hasn’t committed itself to doing so. They won’t complain or fuss, and I know the Murphy family is probably the best chance the club has to survive.
The committee is unsettled, so no wonder the product on the field is just as ugly. That point was proven this weekend, in our series against the Redcliffe Padres. For starters, we really don’t have a coach, and we struggle to get enough players to avoid a forfeit. The guy who is supposed to be our “coach” didn’t show up for the games. Our most senior team member has been left to coach and play. He has made it known that he really does not want the burden of coaching the club and just wants to play, but nevertheless, it’s really his team. We have only been able to field 13 or 14 capable A-grade players this season. It’s fine because most of them are two-way guys (can both pitch and play the field). However, some can’t play because they haven’t paid their fees, some have been playing B-grade games (which makes them essentially ineligible for A-grade games, unless we have nine other players, which we don’t) and others just haven’t shown up. On Friday night, we managed to get nine players, but as I will explain later, nine wasn’t enough.
On Sunday, our Japanese short stop was out of communication and didn’t show up, leaving us with eight. Bare with me here ... in total we had 11 guys at the game, but because three of them had played in the B-grade game (don’t ask me why they did that), league rules mandate that we have to have nine fresh players for A-grade games. And once again, we had eight because our shortstop didn’t show. So what did we do? We took a member of our Masters team (over 35) essentially out of the stands. Here ya go pal. Here’s a glove, here’s some baseball pants. Don’t worry if you don’t have spikes. Go get em!! To me, it’s a joke. Every other team in the league brings 15-20 guys to away games. And we can barely get nine at home games.
Let’s jump back to the actual games themselves. We lost both. Close games, 9-5 and 7-4, but that’s beside the point. On Friday, one of their players slid spikes up into our shortstop, leaving him in agony on the ground and his upper ankle sliced and bruised. Sliding spikes up is a baseball no-no, but it happens sometimes, more often in leagues like this where umpires have no control of the games. As our shortstop is rolling on the ground, our first baseman (who has a reputation of being a, well, hot head would be a nice way to put it…) proceeded to get in the face of the base runner, followed by some shoving, and the benches clearing. Picture guys grabbing each other, getting in each other’s faces, jerseys ripped off, and the umpires sitting back and watching.
I was more interested in that fact than anything. I’ve been involved in bench clearing incidents before at Ithaca, Stockholm, and Santa Fe. This stuff happens in baseball, but usually the umpires take control, separate the teams, and make ejections for instigators. Our first baseman got tossed, as he should have, but to me it seemed as though the umpires didn’t want to get involved. It seemed like they didn’t want to get in the middle of it, and as a result, it went on for 20 minutes.
If you remember what I mentioned earlier, we only had nine guys. So when one got tossed, and the scuffle subsided, we were walking off of the field assuming the game was over. But, as is becoming a routine of the Beenleigh Hawks, we pulled a player from the B-Grade team out of the stands, who suited up for us. I commend his commitment and effort, but it should have never come to this.
Sunday night it was more of the same. The same base runner from the opposing team goes into the same shortstop with an elbow (which I didn’t see). Our first baseman races over, throws the opposing player to the ground, punches are thrown, and the story of the game becomes the fight, not the baseball. I feel bad for our fans who have to remove their kids in the middle of the game, all because of the on-field debauchery. It’s sad. I put my head down in disgust as soon as I saw where things were going. This isn’t fun for me. This is not baseball, folks.
Was that base runner a complete a**hole? Yes. Is he a waste of time? Yes. Should the situation have been handled completely differently? A resounding, YES. The umpires should have gotten involved before anything escalated and warned the base runner. He should have gotten plunked the next game, and that should be the end of it. That’s how this game works. Somebody steps out of line, you send a message, and it's over. But in Beenleigh, Australia, it turns into rugby.
Our first basemen will be suspended for two months minimum, and who knows about the other guy. Beenleigh’s penciled-in reputation for being hotheads and brawlers can now be erased and written in ink. I’m doing my best to change the culture here. As I told the team after the game, I may have only been here for six games, but I have been in baseball leagues all over the world. This stuff happens. There are guys that take themselves too seriously, who think they are tough, and do stupid things like slide into second base with spikes up. So what guys? This is the baseball culture in Independent-Professional and Semi-Pro leagues. It’s not pretty, but the ones who win are the ones who rise above it. And right now we are 1-5, a joke, and looking up at all the teams who see at us as the rabid dog that needs to be put down.
I’m fed up. I feel riled up just re-reading this blog entry. But it’s a story that has to be told. This is why I’m here. It’s an experience. And I am an ambassador of the game that is America’s pastime. Enough is enough.
Sorry if I rambled, but my main goal was to get all of my thoughts onto the page the best I could. Hopefully the situation gets better this weekend and we put this ugly episode behind us. Until next time, it’s g’day mate from down undah, rugby style....