This used to be the worst time of year for me.
First off, as a sportswriter, things slow down quite a bit during the summer. Leagues like Swampland baseball and E.D. White summer basketball take place along with a steady dose of youth leagues going on, but some take it more seriously than others so things like standings and stats take a backseat to developing the young talent coming up through the ranks.
For instance on Monday I stood in the home dugout at Tiger Field in Morgan City and watched Patterson Pride coach Ryan Jensen at third base try to send a subtle signal to his runner on first base to steal second.
The subtlety was lost as Jensen resorted to waving both arms in a way that was obvious enough for the Skipper’s pitcher to notice it and he turned around and made the pick-off throw.
Jensen and Skipper’s coach Marc Gonzales shared a chuckle about the incident and they seemed to chalk it up to a lack of experience.
Baseball is a funny sport in that sense. Certain situations call for different moves that can only be learned with repeti-tion and coaches approach the game in drastically different ways.
At my first job in Texas I covered Taylor, a Class 3A team, with a coach that had been around forever. His name was Doug Kuhl and he had won a state title at Taylor in the 1970s and always had his team in the playoff hunt. They were the Berwick of that area in baseball, you could say.
One of the things Kuhl did that boggled my mind when I first saw it was call for a bunt whenever he had a runner at first.
It didn’t matter if the high school equivalent of Albert Pujols was at the plate, Kuhl had him bunt the runner over to second. Half of the time the bunts were so well placed the Ducks would usually end up with two runners on.
Kuhl would usually let his hitters swing away once he got a few runners on, but at other times he would stick with the small-ball tactic.
I get the feeling coaches can sometimes tell how much I like or dislike the sport they coach.
Kuhl was on to me from day one about not being a big baseball fan. Over the season he explained to me what a balk was, the difference between a passed ball and a wild pitch, and several other things I was clueless about.
Slowly but surely I’ve been sucked into being a baseball fan. First it was joining a fantasy baseball league, which I’m terrible at, then being out of work for the better part of a year in Houston I was able to watch a lot of Astros games and went to several at Minute Maid Park.
It’s gotten so bad that for the first time ever, I set my DVR to record an Astros game a few weeks back.
Why would I do that?
Astros rookie Jordan Lyles was making his first start on the mound and since I’ve started following baseball closely his name has been thrown around as the next great pitcher for the cellar dwelling Houston club.
He got the call up from Triple-A Oklahoma City to face the Cubs at Wrigley Field.
Not an easy first start by any means, but Wandy Rodriguez was out and the pickings were slim elsewhere in the Astros system.
Lyles did well going seven innings with two earned runs and four strikeouts against the Cubs. He slipped a bit against San Diego in his second start lasting just four innings but he bounced back and threw a solid 61/3 innings against Atlanta with five strikeouts and two earned runs last week.
He hasn’t picked up a win on the mound yet but he earned a spot in the starting rotation and will hopefully continue to impress.
He’s only 20-years old, so it’s amazing what he’s done. He gets another chance on Thursday in a day game against Pitts-burgh, but it won’t be televised locally — unfortunately.
I haven’t quite caught on with college baseball yet, but that may be because I haven’t gone to a game at Alex Box Sta-dium. Next year I will make the trip to see local favorite Grant Dozar as a senior and maybe the college game will pique my interest. It didn’t take long to figure out how important college baseball is in this area, so maybe the local passion for the metal bat brand of baseball will add to my already busy schedule of sports-nerd TV.
Once July hits, preparations will begin for football, volleyball and all the other sports that start up in the fall and I, personally, can’t wait.