Camp Runamuck

It’s Thursday, it’s a home stand, which must mean that it is another afternoon game at Chase Field. I always knew that there were a lot of Midwestern fans that had relocated to the Phoenix area. This is evident by how quickly the Chicago Cubs sell out their Spring Training games. I think it’s awesome that the Arizona Diamondbacks have picked up on this and are trying to make these fans feel like they are home by scheduling several of their games similarly to the start times at Wrigley Field. About all that is lacking are the ivy walls, the bleacher bums, Waveland Avenue, drunk Cubs fans, and Lake Michigan. Besides those few things it is exactly the same thing; well almost. Afternoon games in the summer are also “Camp Day” at Chase Field. I’ve mentioned this before but for those who are not aware, the Diamondbacks offer discounted tickets to children’s summer camps to bring the kids to the stadium for a baseball game. You can always tell a “Camp Day” game. As you approach the stadium you will see a long line of school buses that are parked along 7th Street. This will be followed by what seems to be an endless single-file line of children all wearing identically colored shirts. The kids are for the most part very well behaved and all sit together in assigned sections. It’s just great to see the stands a little fuller regardless of the ages of those sitting in the seats. They are also a little more vocal than the normal Phoenix baseball fan so that is a plus too. It’s refreshing to hear the sounds of thousands of children all chanting in unison “Let’s go Diamondbacks!”

These chants were especially needed today as the Diamondbacks played the final game of a four game series against the Milwaukee Brewers. After taking game one the Diamondbacks have lost the next two and desperately need a win today. Looking at the schedule it is somewhat depressing to see that we have yet to win this month. Brandon Webb was on the mound so there was hope that the team would be able to turn things around. That hope was soon dashed as the Brewers put up 5 runs while the Diamondbacks could get no one past second base. The camp kids were clapping and cheering on their team willing them to win. There chants went largely ignored as Arizona continued to struggle offensively. And although Brandon Webb is generally a pitcher whose games last a short time, this one seemed to drag on. It was not so much the time as it was the way the play progressed. I was obviously not the only one to notice this either. Several people in our section commented at how slowly things seem to be going. The family sitting behind us finally gave up and in the seventh inning they left to go find something better to do. The camp counselors also began looking at their watches and by the top of the eighth most of the kids were making their way to the exit to board the buses to go back to their respective camps. To their credit, the rest of the fans decided to stick it out. It was obvious that there was not going to be a Thirstbuster since Diamondbacks pitchers were nowhere near 12 strikeouts. With the score 5-0 in favor of Milwaukee it was highly doubtful there would be a chalupa given tonight either. So that’s what made it even more impressive that so many people remained until the end.

As the bottom of the ninth arrived, Dakota donned his rally cap turning his hat inside out. I had to admire his spirit although I thought he was being naïve to think that there was any way the Diamondbacks were going to come back from this deficit. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that Arizona had not come back from that many runs in a few years. Besides, if Arizona began to make a game of it then Milwaukee would just bring in their closer and that would be that. Solomon Torres had not blown a save since he was made the Brewers closer. He was about as automatic as there was. There wasn’t any reason to tell Dakota that though because it would never get to that point. I mean we had barely gotten 4 hits in the first 8 innings so what are the odds of us getting enough hits to make this a game? No I thought I would just let him bask in his childhood dreams of what might have been. There is always tomorrow’s game.

The inning began with Robby Hammock up. Robby was hitless today and really no one expected much from the Diamondbacks other than being there to record the 3 outs and move on to the next series. Hammock hit a ball that glanced off the mitt of third baseman Russell Branyan and the Diamondbacks had a base runner. Dakota of course claimed it was the rally cap. I smiled and held my tongue not wanting to tell Dakota that the Diamondbacks had stranded 12 runners this game alone and 38 in this series. The next batter was Chris Burke who drew a walk to put runners on first and second. Dakota was even more positive that this was the start of something special all because of the rally cap. It didn’t matter that we had runners on first and second on three occasions during this game and failed to get anyone to third.

Augie Ojeda came to the plate and hit a ground ball to the right side of the infield. I naturally assumed this would be a double play ball leaving us with a runner on third with 2 outs. Instead the ball squirted under the glove of a diving Ricky Weeks and everyone was safe. The bases were loaded and no outs. Dakota was at this point on his feet proudly wearing his rally cap. I just kind of laughed. We were now in a save situation so the Brewers would obviously change pitchers and stop this rally in its tracks. When Chad Tracy was announced as a pinch hitter Ned Yost came to the mound and brought in left-hander Brian Shouse. I again refrained from telling Dakota that this was pretty much over now. Tracy was hitless against left-handed pitching this season so although they may score a run this was going to be done soon enough. Before I could utter one syllable, Tracy laced a ball to the right-center gap clearing the bases with a double. The Diamondbacks had just scored 3 runs and there were still no outs. I was now starting to wonder if perhaps I might have been a little premature with my conclusions. The Brewers made another pitching change and brought in closer Solomon Torres. Well, it was a great effort by the Diamondbacks but now it’s over. Justin Upton was the first to face Torres and hit a single to right moving Tracy to third. When Dakota claimed it was the rally cap I had begun to believe him. Orlando Hudson laced a ball down the left-field line which should have scored the tying run but for some unexplainable reason Upton stopped at third putting runners at second and third still with no outs.

Conor Jackson came to the plate. History would suggest that he would be the first out. The baserunning mistake by Upton may well be the break the Brewers needed to stop the madness. Then Milwaukee manager Ned Yost did something peculiar. He brought his infield in to cut off a ground ball for a play at the plate. I appreciate the situation but that seemed like a very bad idea considering that Jackson is a slap hitter. This gave a distinct advantage to Conor to perhaps drive in the tying run. Now everyone in the stands was on their feet. Their eyes were glued to the plate to see how this was going to unfold. It was eerily reminiscent of the 2001 World Series game 7 when Luis Gonzalez hit a blooper over the outstretched arms of Derek Jeter. Although this game didn’t have nearly the importance of that game in 2001 it did have a very similar feel. Conor Jackson fouled off several pitches then hit a soft ball up the middle that found its way through the infield. Upton scored easily and Hudson rounded third and easily beat the throw from center to score the winning run. The dugout and the stands erupted in jubilation. It was like déjà vu all over again.

The sad part about all of this was that those excited little day campers had left the game an inning too soon. All of their cheering had gone for naught and now they missed out on the greatest comeback of the season. It was amazing and if you ask Dakota it was all because of the rally cap. You don’t mess with the rally cap; it has mojo that will do some serious damage.

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