“Ten, fifteen, and one.”
“We won ten and lost fifteen this year. We tied one too.”
Any which way your say it, a record like 10-15-1 doesn’t exactly sound super impressive. It’s not a winning record by definition. It means we left the field in defeat more often than not. And it means our resolve was tested on more than a dozen separate occasions. Again, on the outside, this record leads one to think our team had a mediocre season.
But they couldn’t be more wrong.
After each one of those losses, our determination was indeed tested. And with every test, each and every Old Fashioned stepped up to the plate (pun intended), stared adversity in the face and declared, “You can’t beat me.” Of those losses, seven were lost in the final inning in gut-wrenching, purely heartbreaking fashion. An unfortunate error here. A potential game-winning hit caught there. There was no doubt that we had a rough run of luck in the first half of the season. But where our luck was lacking, our grit was overflowing. We practiced, we hit the cages, we watched Rocky IV on loop – everything a tested team does to stay in the fight. Quite simply, we never gave up. Not on ourselves and not on each other. And that was a special thing to see.
Then something funny happened. Our determination started paying off, we kicked the struggle stretch to the curb, and we started stringing wins together. Some of which were pretty dominating wins. As one eyewitness in the dugout – me – observed, we were playing hungry. We wanted to win so badly we could taste it. We played with the confidence that we hang with the best in the league. And dammit, we could! And we did.
This lightning bolt of resolve couldn’t have struck at a better time as the playoffs we’re just about to start. As the top four teams competed in the overall championship series, the remaining teams battled it out in the inaugural President’s Tournament. And from game one of that tourney, The Old Fashioneds came out the gates swingin’, slingin’, and singin’. Quite frankly, the ‘Neds got downright nasty. We collected four more wins in truly exciting fashion and came up 90 feet short of taking the championship series to a final game.
It was a truly magical postseason – and regular season – filled with baseball moments that I will never forget for as long as a live…
Coleman McKinney toughing through what should be a season-ending injury to give us some hard-fought innings on the bump.
Patrick O’Keefe delivering a fiery speech that not only got the team pumped up, but also left most of use curiously aroused.
Eric Dzurisin using his loud left arm to shut up one opponent’s loud mouth.
Tre’ Harden hitting a bomb with a broken bat.
Eric Barton stepping up and filling badly needed roles he wasn’t familiar with and doing it in grittily beautiful fashion.
Jake Berman showing leadership behind the plate and at it.
Dan Killilea smoking a baseball and almost recording an in-the-park home run until that sniper picked him off while rounding 3rd.
Mark Shonka somehow finding a way to throw a 1-hit, complete-game shutout in the playoffs.
Chris Corbeille picking balls left and right at 1st like he’s Eric Hosmer.
Jake Martin making amazing plays that would make Ric Flair say “Woooooo!”
Marc Galland returning midseason from a severe injury and promptly hitting .333.
Jacob Ingram sailing in from Navy adventures to be a brick wall behind the plate and give our offense a boost.
Tyler Keever appearing out of nowhere midseason to simultaneously punish the baseball with his stick and throw it like a left-handed Nolan Ryan.
Rob Bush eating tons of food in the dugout and collecting tons of hits at the plate.
Dan Falkin instilling pure confidence in his pitchers and calling an amazing playoff game behind the dish.
Dan Gross making everything from catching well-hit balls in centerfield, hitting line drives, stealing bases, and scoring runs look easy.
Garrett Vascil mowing guys down from the mound by the dozen with beautifully flowing blond hair.
Kirk Williamson sucking up hard-hit ground balls like he was a damn vacuum.
Austin Bazar catching everything hit his way and gunning runners out who thought they could make it home.
Last but not least. In a season filled with Logan Zike making too many great plays to count, he made one that none of us will ever forget. In the semi-final game of the President’s Tournament, the ‘Neds were down by two in the top of the ninth. With two down and the bases loaded, we made a switch in the lineup and told Logan he was pinch hitting at the very last minute. Normally an amazing hitter, he hadn’t had much luck in the previous couple of games. Logan stepped up to the plate and took a deep breath. The pitcher kicked his leg up and delivered the first pitch. Ball one. Then a second pitch was delivered, and it went right past the catcher. The runner on 3rd scrambled home and scored a run while the other two runners advanced. I was on deck at the time and looked right at Logan. I saw pure, unadulterated confidence radiating through him. And I absolutely new he was about to do something special. He didn’t disappoint. A fastball came right down the pipe and Logan beat that baseball’s ass like it owed him money. He lined it up the middle, knocked in two runs, and gave us a lead that we never relinquished. I’ve never seen a dugout more electrified in my whole life.
By the time we looked up at the record book at the end of the season, we had accomplished a lot. In our last 11 games, we emerged victorious 7 times. We collectively hit .315. Our pitching staff was stupid good with a sub-3.00 team ERA. We earned a 2nd place finish in the President’s Tournament. And last but not least, we tallied something that can’t be jotted down in a stat book – we had an unshakeable team bond. We picked each other up when we were down, we remained determined despite long odds, and we never ever quit on each other. None of those measurable stats would have been possible without our immeasurable camaraderie.
So, the next time you run into one of us Old Fashioneds, I encourage you to ask us “What was your record this year?” And you will hear the following reply filled with nothing but hard-earned pride…
“We were 10-15-1.”