I have to do some parental bragging and some bitching about youth baseball.
Xander got back into the swing of things with a great showing at the District Tournament. He played three games for the All-Star Nine Year Old Team, with nine plate appearances he had only a single strike out (as usual his patience at the plate allowed him to draw 2 walks). As a team they placed second and qualified for the State tournament next week.
Unfortunately, in the first game, he was only used as a bench outfielder playing the final four innings (pic right), but he was making good contact at the plate and, while in the outfield, he kept several runners who should have advanced to second firmly on first base. However, despite his success, it was one of those frustrating things. The All-Star team was comprised of 11 players (Xander was the lone representative from the Pirates, two from the Braves, two from the Giants and SIX from the Storm). The manager (actually the entire coaching staff) of the All-Star team is from the Storm. He was constantly benching or alternating players from the other teams while never benching his guys. Going even further, his guys were our infield: 1B, 2B, SS, 3B and all three starting pitchers were Storm and none of them sat out. Oddly the manager kept saying that players who hustle and work hard would not be benched. I guess he just left out the team origin qualifier. Anyone who knows Xander, knows his work ethic is unparalleled. Sour grapes? Yeah, a little. But it was bad. Real bad (more on that in a minute).
As usual Xander plays his best the more he is utilized. He caught the complete second game of the series where he hit two singles and an RBI ground out. Even the organizers of the tournament must have noticed his hard work since they named him player of the game and awarded him with a commemorative bat and ball. I highlighted that because it says a lot to me. Outsiders, who don't have a dog in the race, picked him out of both teams as the player of the game. Not the unbenchable infield Storm players. My lone little Pirate. BTW, The All-Star team wins when he catches (pic above). Coincidence? Possibly. But it's worth pointing out we won 20-7.
Sadly, in game 3 he was mainly designated hitter, although he did provide one inning of relief at catcher during the second inning and was sent in to relief pitch in the last inning. He inherited a bases loaded 2 out situation where he worked the batter to a full count before striking him out. As Designated Hitter, he was able to score one of our runs (pic left Xander on second base). He could have done more, but in spite of his great contact, he was ridiculously far down in the batting order and kept getting stranded and I bet you can guess which players had the primo batting spots...
Relief catcher for the second inning? Yea, you read that right. Remember when I said it was "real bad." The manager's son was pitching and our other catcher (from the Braves) was behind the plate. The manager's kid gave up 6 or 8 runs in the first inning (I lost count). Lots of wild pitches. It's not his fault, some days it's just not there, but does our fearless leader yank his kid who (to paraphrase J. Michael Straczynski) could not find the strike zone with a hunting dog and a ouija board?
Hell, no! He yanks the catcher for an inning, because it would never occur to him that HIS player should be the one pulled. I hated to see Xander go in that way, he and the other catcher have become friends. It's kind of a "band of brothers" thing because you gotta be a special kind of nuts to want to get back there in summer heat. Anyhow, the wild pitch parade went on and on and on. For four innings. Then another Storm "star" got his chance, and instead of a wild-pitch-athon it became batting practice. I'd like to say it was an off day for the kid but he did the same thing the day before. But again, it would never occur to them that perhaps, the kid is not right for the mound and if their kid isn't, then the others could never be ready. Until finally they need a scape goat to hang it on, that is. That's when he pulled Xander from DH to get the last elusive out. Xander had only pitched 2/3 of a single inning during the regular season, but now he had to get a bases loaded out. He did get it with six pitches. He struck him out looking on a full count. Xander, is not a pitcher. He can hit the strike zone but he lacks power and speed. It also could also have turned into batting practice, but to his credit, Xander stepped up and got the job done today (again when Storm guys could not) but it was too late with a score of 20-10. I could go on there were other incidents, but I trust I made my point.
Hopefully, he'll be utilized more at the state tournament and the other kids who earned a place on the team will get to play more. I'm so proud of Xander's heart and hustle. He gave it his all and it showed. Now he needs some respect from the coaches. No, strike that, he knows he did well and he doesn't need a damn thing from them. But he sure does deserve it.