Dateline: Running Cedar

The Angels took the field against the Orioles to close out their fall campaign on a pleasantly brisk fall morning. The Angels came into the game 3-3-1 and were eager to finish with a winning season. More pressure was on Coach Grossman as he’s never had a losing season (rumor has it that Angels ownership has been quite displeased at even the vaguest prospect of a losing season). A large fan turnout waited nervously for the game to start.

Garrett strolled to the mound and walked the leadoff man, but the second batter was safe on an infield single. The leadoff man then stole third. Garrett settled down and struck out the next batter. With one out and runners at the corners, the cleanup hitter smashed a sharp grounder to Taylor at third who fielded it perfectly and threw a strike to Jonathon at second. The run scored, but the rally had been killed by great defense. Garrett struck out the next batter to end the top of the first. In the bottom half of the inning, the Angels jumped on the O’s starter with two walks and a single by Garrett. With the bases loaded Kevin hit a long shot to left. He had a clean triple and was headed for an in-the-park home run, but the third base coach (a rookie coach just called up from the Angels farm system) accidentally interfered with the third baseman. Kevin was sent back to third, but three runs had scored. The O’s starter struck out the next two and got Taylor to ground out and Kevin was left on third. After one, it was 3-1 Angels.

In the second, Michael took the mound for his first appearance of the year. He gave up a weak single and a walk, but settled down to strike out the next batter. The leadoff man stole third and with runners on the corners, the next batter hit a weak dribbler just to the third base side of the mound and a run scored. The next batter walked to load the bases, and Coach Grossman had seen enough. He went to his active bullpen (Jonathon and Taylor had been warming up) and brought in Jonathon. This reporter will note that Michael looked pretty good on the mound and had a strikeout. One wonders why Coach Grossman lifted Michael, but this column has been known to routinely second-guess the Angels management. Jonathon came on with the bases loaded and walked in the second run of the inning. He settled down and struck out the next batter. He came close, but then walked in the third run of the inning. Coach Grossman, again quick with the hook, summoned Taylor from the bullpen. Taylor came in with the bases loaded and threw two blistering fastballs to strike out the O’s hitter. The Angels offense continued to roll with walks to Jonathon, Robbie, and Eric. Mac got a key infield single to score one run and Garrett grounded out to shortstop for another crucial RBI. After two innings it was a thriller with Angels 5 O’s 4.

The rest of the game went quickly as both teams brought in some great pitchers. Mac struck out six batters in the third and fourth. The Angels bats were fairly quiet (Kevin did smash another double to left) and they did not score in the 3rd, 4th, or 5th and Kevin struck out three in the fifth. The Angels fans held their breath as Kevin walked to the mound in the top of the sixth with only a one run lead. The leadoff batter drilled a shot to left for a clean double. Garret made a nice play in left and threw it right to Jonathon at short to keep the runner at second. The runner then stole third and the O’s were only 60 feet away from a tie. Kevin struck out the next batter and got the first out of the inning. He then hit the next batter and the O’s had the winning run on first. He went to a 3-1 count on the next batter and struck him out. With two outs, Angels fans rose to their feet. The stands were rattling with the noise and Kevin calmly struck out the last batter to preserve the 5-4 win.

Coach Goldstein was quite pleased after the game and said “Coach Grossman and I knew the Orioles have a tough offense and the only way to handle them was to go to the Angels Bull pen and bring in specialized pitchers for each situation arising in the second inning. I must say the bullpen was superb. Michael, Jonathan and Taylor (aka The Bug) each struck out a batter to shut down the side. I am very proud of the rest of the team as a whole. Great season — see you in the Spring!”

We were also fortunate to have Coach Grossman available for a lengthy interview. He said, “We have to work on our third base coaching, but those new coaches always take time to break in. I really liked how Michael, Jonathon, and Taylor looked great on the mound. If we can get them and Garrett in the Spring we’ll have the nucleus of a great rotation. Ben and Robbie looked wonderful behind the plate and if we can grab them as well, we’ll have a very solid setup behind the plate. Ben even made some nice contact with the ball in the last inning. Kevin and Mac, of course, had their usual fantastic performances and their pitching really made the key difference. I was pleased to see our improvements in the field – Taylor’s play was wonderful. The coaching staff is in complete agreement that this group of players and parents has been a true pleasure to work with. I wish everyone well in the off-season and I hope some of these guys give me a call if they want to practice over the long winter months… to tell the truth I wouldn’t mind having this whole team next Spring.

Our record seems like only an average record, but the reality is that we truly only lost one or two games – one game we didn’t have enough players and another game we only got to play two or three innings – the record is truly misleading – this is a solid ball club and we played very well the last five games. Finally, a special thank you goes to the greatest scorekeeper and Coach Emeritus in the world.”

This reporter also wants to thank Angels management, players, coaches, and parents for all of their support. Without the time they take out of their busy schedule for interviews, these wrap-ups just wouldn’t have that authentic feeling. The Fall 2003 Angels finished at 4-3-1 and won four out of their last five to recover from an initial 0-2-1 deficit. It was a tremendous finish. We wish all of you a very pleasant offseason!

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