I have been lucky enough to experience a lot of fantastic baseball memories over my career but I would like to talk about my most recent awesome baseball memory that actually occurred a month ago this summer. It was a roller coaster ride of a season. I started my season in Wichita Kansas in the American Association for the Wingnuts out of spring training. I unfortunately got released from there and then got signed by the Alexandria Aces in Louisiana who play in the United League. I only missed the first week and a half of the season and joined the team when we were sitting in 3rd place.
I played with them over the next month and we were having a really solid season. We were now 2nd in the league behind Fort Worth (who are meant to be the force of the United League as the team with the most money) and only a couple of games behind them.
We were one of the poorest teams in the league with a small front office staff, no host families, had our team bus taken away from us and struggling to get our pay checks. We were doing the best we could, with what we had available to us. In all my years of playing, I have never been part of a team that had such a strong team chemistry as what this team had. A group of guys from all over the country that had never met each other before but had the bond of a group that had been playing together for years. Only my Perth Heat team is comparable to the chemistry but even then, that particular group of players had grown up playing in the same team so the chemistry had been built over the years. Then all of a sudden, our world was turned on it’s head.
We had an early meeting the next day which was strange, our manager (retired 10 year veteran big league player Von Hayes) addressed all the players with the sad news that we were folding as a club and it was effective immediately. The league could no longer keep us afloat and the league was now cut down to 4 teams with the McAllen Thunder also folding.
We were in second place and playing great baseball but now 22 players were all without jobs. Some players went home and called it a season, others went to other teams in the league. I had some good numbers as a starter and tried my luck at getting back into the American Association.
I spent the next 2 weeks living in the Aces clubhouse on a blow up mattress. Waking up each morning and walking straight out onto the field to work out and then come back in and shower and watch TV, do emails and make phone calls trying to find a job. Then another team in the United League, the Edinburgh Roadrunners, threw me a lifeline. They were currently in 3rd place but only 2 games behind 1st with 2 weeks to play and needed another starter. Half of my Aces team mates had been signed by the Roadrunners and told me it was a great place. I took the opportunity with both hands and drove down there with one of my other team mates that they also signed that day.
Ten hours later we get there and join the team. We end up finishing the regular season in 2nd place and make the playoffs to play Fort Worth in Fort Worth. In the best of 5 series, we got blown out in the first game to the tune of 10+ runs. I had the start in game 2 and had one of the best games of my life going 6 innings for 0 runs and taking a no hitter into the 6th. I lost my no hitter in the 6th and due to the high amount of pitches I had thrown, my night was done with the score 2-0. We ended up winning that game and tying the series.
We would end up losing the next game in a close one to go down 2 games to 1 and facing elimination. We won game 4 to take it to the final game.
I was asked if I could pitch out of the pen on short rest if necessary. I promptly answered my managers (retired big league play Ozzie Canseco) question before he even finished that “I am good to go”. I found myself coming into relieve with our team down 6-2 in the 6th. I managed to throw 2 1/3 scoreless and keep us in the game.
We kept coming back and brought it back to 6-4 in the 8th inning. I looked at my team mate and pointed out that it was a full moon and said to him “all the crazies come out on full moon nights and very strange things happen”. He looked at me and said “we have got this”.
We got into the 9th and Fort Worth’s closer comes in. He gets the first 2 outs in order and we are down to our last out. Our 9 hole hitter and second baseman, hits a single to right to keep us alive. Our lead off man follows with another single to left to put the tying run on base. There is a wild pitch that moves our runners to second and third. Our 2 hole hitter and 3rd baseman on a 2-2 count hits a chopper in the infield to SS. Charging in to make a play on the run, he runs over the top of the ball and both runners score to tie the game.
Fort Worth look crushed, heads down and we know we have the momentum. We sit them down in order to take it to extras. The 10th started with a walk, then followed by a single and then another walk to load the bases with none out. Our center fielder and 8 hole hits a sac fly to CF giving us a 1 run lead. Then our 2nd baseman that kept the game alive in the 9th comes up and deposits the first pitch he sees into the RF stands for a 3 run HR. We mosh on home plate like it is a walk off win but the job isn’t done. Our closer who threw the 9th goes back out there and slams the door shut by striking out the final batter before all mayhem breaks loose with celebrations on the field.
Was my first ever playoffs in the US and may be my last, who knows but it will certainly be one I will always remember!!
Dan Schmidt is a native of Australia and has played professionally both here in the States and at home in Australia. He was kind enough to do an interview with us earlier this year which you can read here.
You can follow him on Twitter – @big_lefty23
#Blogathon Guest Post
This post was contributed by a guest for our #Blogathon. You can find more information about the author within the actual post. We'd like to thank everyone who contributed in our effort to raise money for The V Foundation.