The rally cups featured in my recent post came out in the bottom of the tenth at Veterans Field about a week ago.
It was still early in the season, but the Chatham Anglers of the Cape Cod Baseball League had already offered us three exciting wins. On Monday evening in Brewster, Chatham defeated the Whitecaps 3-1 in extra innings. Back at home on Wednesday, the Anglers beat the Orleans Firebirds 5-2 on a walk-off 3-run homer in the 13th. Chatham won again on Sunday, June 20, defeating the Falmouth Commodores 4-1 on a game-tying single followed by a walk-off 2-run homer in the bottom of the ninth.
I've never seen a season begin this way - three late-inning victories (including two walk-offs) in such close succession. And now, here we were again, score tied in the bottom of the tenth just three days later.
After listening all afternoon to World Cup horns buzzing like swarms of locusts on my television, it was downright refreshing to sit outdoors and enjoy baseball's relative silence on a mild summer evening. I love the quiet of a game early in the season. No huge crowds of tourists; no t-shirt tosses; no strangers sitting in "our" seats; not a whole lot of yakking going on around us. That high season energy is fun in its own way, but I still love a quiet game, when voices are a bit more hushed, when you can hear the coach say hey Bobby whatddaya say, loud and clear, when baseball attains a level of purity that just can't be matched.
That's when all the ruckus started.
It was at this point that our own players started in with the paper cups. They hollowed out the waxy bottoms and stuck the openings over their ears. They didn't draw a whole lot of attention to themselves, just leaned on the dugout railing unobtrusively, quietly stood there as if it was a perfectly normal thing to do while watching the game. The look of it was hysterical. One guy had cups tucked inside his cozy hoodie. As I watched the players' antics, I got to thinking about how I was stupid to be cynical about athletes and their superstitions. I was beginning to sense that these cups might actually work.
Bottom of the tenth. Score tied 3-3. Middle of the order. First-baseman Aaron Westlake flies out to left. One out. Dan Paolini, 6'0" 195 lb senior out of Siena, rips a one-out double up the middle. Game-winning run on second. Tarheel Jacob Stillings strikes out swinging. Two outs. Left-handed batter Riley Reynolds, 6' 1" 200 lb infielder from Vanderbilt, comes to the plate and drives a single the opposite way to win the game.
We all stand up and loudly applaud another walk-off victory. I get to do my four-finger whistle. The rally cups fall out of all the players' ears as they jump up the dugout steps and charge the field, while the pitchers run in from the bullpen in a nice neat line. By now they're all pretty hungry for team dinner. I whistle one more time, and then we gather our damp blankets and head home.
The idea of rally cups was clever and well-timed and the ridiculous look of them just so funny. I believe those cups actually made a difference in the game's outcome. And it felt really good to laugh.
Post Script: In yet another walk-off victory, Chatham defeated Cotuit 3-2 last night on Mark Ginther's 1-out RBI double. We missed that game because we were out having a good time at a nearby summer theater production. Back at home, I caught the final three innings of the College World Series, which ended in the bottom of the 11th when Gamecock Whit Merrifield hit a sharp line drive to right field, scoring the triumphant winning run. Coincidentally, Whit played summer ball with the Chatham Anglers at Veterans Field just one year ago.