Coach outlined his strategy.
“We want to take away the suicide squeeze… Runner on 3rd. Less than two outs. If there is any indication that the batter might bunt, I will call for time…”Just to make sure everyone was paying attention, he made a ‘T’ with his hands and bellowed:
“We will bring the leftfielder in the play third base. The centerfielder will shift. The rightfielder will shift. The former to left-center. The latter to right-center.”
I will replace what happened next by saying this strategy was discussed long before computer generated models depicting where a batter most often places batted balls in the field causing the opposing team to create a premeditated shift in their positioning was a glint in a baseball statistician’s eye.
What was really happening in this moment was coach testing whether we knew what he meant by ‘former’ & ‘latter’.
I mentioned the centerfielder first, so he’s the former. I mentioned the leftfielder second, so he’s the latter.
First – former. Second – latter.
“The leftfielder will play third base, to prevent the runner from taking to big of a lead off the bag towards home. The third baseman will be brought in halfway between third and home… This will take away the suicide squeeze.”
I was the third baseman.
“You’re going to take away the suicide squeeze and leave me with the suicide?”
I didn’t actually say that. I didn’t talk back.
Third base is called the ‘hot corner’ for a reason. The ball comes very quickly off the bat of a right handed hitter who can really turn on a pitch with great bat speed.
The term was coined in a game with wooden bats.
This was high school.
We played with aluminum bats.
“Cardillo, if the batter doesn’t show bunt… And he is swinging way… You will have to sprint at break neck speed to the right to avoid being hit by a batted ball from 45 feet away.”
A ball hit off an aluminum bat. Today, the calculation of a ball off a wooden bat is about 120 mph.
And you think paintballs leave welts?
In short, to avoid taking a line drive to the temple or off the old athletic supporter, run for your life towards the cyclone fence – or, as my coach ended the talk with:
“And try not to run like a girl doing it.”