The summer season has ended, the state tournament is over, and fall ball begins. I write this strictly from memory without consulting the stats of the summer season. I am encouraged. For the fall we have lost our center fielders, Hot Lance Haught due to a nagging injury and the electric Blake Thatcher, who needs to spend more time with his family. As much as I hate not having them, I see the prudence in each of them not being on the field for fall ball. I hope to have them both for years to come and we will survive the fall without them.
To replace them on the roster, we have enlisted Ricky Barlow and Jerry Lee Adkins. While each is limited in the positions they might play, they are players. After a handful of games, Jerry Lee has established himself as the lead off hitter. That is no easy task on a team with the hitters we have. Early indications are that he may lead us in multiple offensive categories. Possessing limited range, Jerry Lee has shown himself to be a solid defender with a good arm and a baseball man's understanding of the game, and is locker room gold.
Ricky Barlow is that guy who goes unnoticed throughout the entire game, only to beat you in a million ways that you don't even see. He has been a thorn in our side for years, and now he is with us. He is not young or fast or powerful, but he is a player. He reminds me of John Kruk telling the reporter, " I'm not an athlete, I'm a ball player!" Ricky is a ball player. He can hit to any field, play virtually any position. He could not be more fundamentally sound. He'll be in the right place EVERY TIME. I don't doubt that he could do a credible job in left center.
Taylor is back at short after a summer of, "Oh, my God, did you see thats?" He hits very hard very often and most frequently to the right side. Never one to not surprise, he is capable of ripping the occasional shot over the bag at third and into the corner. He is an elite short stop in a league with many great ones. Offensively, defensively, in the dugout, I would not trade him for any other player from any other team.
Dean returns as the offensive force that we have come to expect over the past several years. He hits with power, he hits for average, he hits in the clutch. He continues to run the bases far better than a man of his size should be able to run them. Defensively, he may play anywhere. He is versatile and solid wherever he is asked to play, and Kasey loves him.
Justin Walker has begun to evade some of the misfortune that has plagued him throughout the past years. Yes, he still seems to be the occasional victim of someone's "play of their life," but it has not been twice a game as it has been in the past. Behind Superbad, Justin is one of a couple of players who might vy for the honor of "our fastest player." He is a luxury on the mound, but may be called upon to play any number of positions throughout the fall season. Wherever he is assigned, that position will be in good hands.
Superbad Josh. Wow. This guy has grown by leaps and bounds since Dean brought him to us. He is young and fast, very fast. Some other team may have someone as fast, but I haven't seen him. He has good glove and is capable of playing many positions that he will never be asked to play by this team. While he doesn't have that "I dare you arm," he has a good, accurate arm. The area where he has shown the most improvement is at the plate. In only a couple of years, he has gone from batting 8th or 9th to batting 3rd or 4th. A look up and down this line up will show just how remarkable a feat that is.
The Jerm remains at first. He is the anchor of the best infield I have ever put on the field, and I've been doing this for nearly half a century. He recently lamented the drop in his offensive numbers over the past couple of years, and expressed that if he could not produce as he has all of his life, then it may be time to hang up the glove and play more golf. I told him that his defense and leadership were irreplacable, and that he would be important to us if never got a hit at all. We'll work on the stroke, but we MUST keep the Jerm.
Ricky Sovine returns after a schizophenic summer. He probably played more ball this year than ever before, but for the first time ever, we played games without him. Yes, I remember him playing