There are times in certain situations, we act in a way that is opposite of our nature because it’s what becomes expected in that moment.
For me it was exhilarating and exciting to have for just that moment a perceived freedom, a license to be bad, to act outside the boundaries, outside what was normal approved behavior.
It was a typical cool, breezy, sunny day in Costa Mesa, Orange County CA. October, 1995. I was a freshman pitcher at Southern California College and we were playing a fall league game against Masters college. It was the very first time I was taking the mound as a college pitcher. I was nervous, anxious and excited all at once. The game was already out of hand, we were down by 9 and getting our butts handed to us. Why not bring in this unproven new kid? After I finished my warm up pitches, the batter dug in and I got the sign from the catcher. Fastball, outside. My only thought as I prepared to make the first pitch was: Don’t give up a bomb. Don’t give up a bomb. Don’t give up a bomb.
I rocked back, swung around and delivered the first pitch.
Then, just before the pitch arrived at the plate, the batter dropped the bat head and attempted to bunt. The ball trickled down the third base line vacillating between fair and foul. I was so relieved, I made my first pitch and I didn’t give up a home run. The third baseman, Rich Ramirez fielded the ball foul and walked over to me on the mound. Then, from shortstop, Steve Dolias came running in. He ripped the ball from Rich’s glove and slammed in into my glove and then gave me these marching orders:
“Stick the next one in his earhole.”
I’m not a violent, confrontational person. It’s not my nature. But in this moment, I was told in no uncertain way by a senior and captain on the team, what was expected of me. And why not? The batter broke a rule. It’s not a codified rule of baseball, rather it’s an unwritten rule and equally as important to the integrity of the game. You don’t bunt when you’re up big on another team. It’s disrespecting the other team and ultimately the game itself. I don’t expect people who’ve never played before to understand; just like I don’t understand why soccer players flop on the ground like they’ve been shot if another player touches them. It’s just part of the game.
I toed the rubber for the next pitch. Although there was no one on base, our shortstop Steve Dolias was playing on the grass. I didn’t understand why, it made no sense from a baseball strategy perspective. I took a deep breath and, went into my windup and let it go. The ball indeed sailed high and tight. I’m not sure if it hit exactly on the earhole, but I got him. Before you judge me or write me about throwing up and in, just save it. Understand something. I was not going to hurt the guy; I didn’t throw nearly hard enough. It was never about hurting a guy. It was about righting a wrong.
Before the pitch even got to the plate, Steve Dolias was on a dead sprint toward the other team’s dugout. It was clear, he wanted to fight. The benches cleared and a typical baseball “fight” ensued. A lot of yelling, guys holding their own guys back, a few shoves and grabbing of jerseys, but nothing more than that. I wish I could say that the story ended with the guy rushing the mound and I knocked him around like Nolan Ryan did to Robin Ventura. It didn’t happen that way. What did happen is that the point was made, the teams went back to their dugouts and we finished the game.
And, they didn’t try and bunt anymore.
Leave baseball and it’s unwritten rules alone or you may get one in your earhole!
Have thoughts about this article? Click here to tell us on Twitter!