I traveled about 30 miles strictly because the atmosphere of a great high school baseball playoff game is incomparable. At least to me it is. I went to see one of the finest pitchers around facing a team that is loaded with outstanding hitters. What a surprising outcome. I prayed that this outstanding game would be rained out yesterday because I had an umpiring assignment and would not be able to see it. My prayers were answered and this game was postponed until today and I will be able to watch it!
I am really looking forward to watching this game, which starts at 3:00. I go to my favorite deli, Anthony’s Deli in Harrison, New York and order a wedge. It is about about 1:45 and I still have plenty of time to attend this matchup between Suffern High School and Mamaroneck High School. At the deli, I see Steve, a fellow umpire and tell him that I’m going to this game, will be sitting under a tree in the shade, eating a fabulous wedge and watching this classic matchup. I asked him what could be better than this. Steve smiled and shook his head and replied, “Larry, nothing is better.” Steve asked me to call him on his cell to give him updates.
The fabulous hitting Mamaroneck team against a very good hitting Suffern team who has the incomparable Robbie Aviles on the hill. Incomparable as in an 0.24 ERA for the year! Are you kidding me? One-quarter of a run per seven innings! It comes as no surprise that he is expected to go high in the MLB draft next week.
Okay, so I make my trip of about 45 minutes and arrive at the park. (Told my wife Wendy that I would drive half way across the country to see this game.) She shook her head, almost insinuating that there is something seriously wrong with me. She very obviously does not share my passion for the game.
I arrive about 2:30 for 3:00 start. I have to get there early to make sure I get to put my chair in one of the best locations at the park to view the game. I enjoy my wedge from Anthony’s and wait about ten minutes for the much anticipated first pitch from Robbie.
It is now show time and I’m really up for this game and so are the three hundred or so in attendance. (Very good crowd considering it’s a 3:00 start on a work day.) Robbie retires the first Mamaroneck batter. He then walks the number two hitter. His pitching coach visits him on the mound and that sends up a red flag. There is no sense in having a mound visit with this guy on the hill. After about a minute or two passes, it is getting clear to all that something may be very wrong here. Another minute passes and it’s now clear that something is definitely wrong. Robbie is removed from the game. Must be an injury, right? Yes it is. I found out later that it was an elbow issue.
My thoughts are that I traveled to see this classic confrontation and I only got to see Robbie face two batters. What a letdown for me and I’m quite sure many others. Right fielder Nick Kulbaba is summoned to the mound. He warms up for about fifteen minutes because he’s allowed as long as he wants because the pitcher was removed due to an injury.
During his warm ups I start to think of how each team will react to this sudden change in plans. I don’t have the answer as to which team it will help. Will the Suffern team who just lost their ace start to hang their heads? Will the Mamaroneck team benefit? I honestly don’t have the answer. But I do know that logic tells me that I would rather face anybody other than Robbie. With all due respect, Robbie is in a class by himself and that’s why sometimes a couple of dozen scouts are in attendance.
Okay, we resume play and Nick calmly strikes out two batters to end the top of the first inning. Nick continues to breeze along and does NOT allow a hit until the sixth inning! Not bad, huh? Suffern scores single runs in the first, fourth and bottom of the sixth and lead 3-0 going into the seventh and final inning.
About the fifth inning, I told a fellow I met at the game to not count out Mamaroneck. These guys can hit! Well so much for my predictions. The Mamaroneck bats never got going. Suffern gets a two out hit to knock in their third run in the bottom of the sixth and that one had to sting. At 2-0 you’re still in the game. At 3-0 in the last inning, I think you have to be thinking that maybe this is not your day.
In the top of the seventh with one out, Mamaroneck gets a ray of hope with a bunt single. That is only their second hit off Nick. But nothing materializes and they lose 3-0. My thoughts after the game are that I tip my hat to Nick. He came into the game with one out in the first inning and he was lights out and pitched himself a gem. I’ll never forget how fabulous he was and hope he never does either. Brilliant performance! And I’m not really bothered that I couldn’t watch Robbie, except for only the two batters he faced. pitched a two hit shutout against the two time defending New York State champions and it doesn’t get much better than that.
And Mamaroneck is a perennial power house and their outstanding achievements should never be overlooked either. I’ve watched them many times as their home field is only fifteen minutes from my home and the reason I attend is to watch great baseball. You would be very hard pressed to find a better program and their coaching staff is second to none.
After the game, in the parking lot, I met up with the three umpires who were assigned this very important game. I asked the plate umpire what made Nick so dominant. He simply told me that Nick had a very good well located fast ball, good curve ball and he mixed in about five or six changeups. That’s pitching isn’t it?
No I didn’t get to see Robbie but this truly was a great game. Hats off to both teams and thanks for a great afternoon at the park. What a pleasure! To me, this is the best deal on earth. No charge to park my car. No charge for tickets. Completely free to watch these two outstanding heavyweights square off.
No losers in this one. Only one winner but no losers!