So there we were, in a field view room at the Renaissance Hotel at Rogers Centre in Toronto, looking down on a glorious green field populated by the 25-man roster of the best team in baseball, my beloved Cleveland Indians.
They were taking batting practice, playing catch, running wind sprints in the outfield and all that stuff players do to get ready for a ballgame when I opened the sliding glass window and yelled.
Some of the guys in the outfield looked up. One pointed at our room and another waved. I waved back. A small crowd of them, a half dozen, congregated below my window, pointing and waving. I laughed out loud and shook my fist.
"GO TRIBE!" I yelled again.
Then one of them -- I believe it was the great Indians closer Chris Perez -- threw a ball at my window.
The actual window opening is quite small, perhaps three feet by four feet, and the ball hit off to the side of that, striking the glass, which must be bulletproof, with great force.
"That was so cool," said the Redhead, and Perez shrugged and I stretched my arms out the window and shrugged myself.
Maybe that's a kind of signal like coaches use on the field because soon a veritable barrage of thrown balls was unleashed at our window. The open window was perhaps 50 feet above the centerfield wall and another 150 feet back, and hitting the tiny opening seemed like an impossibility. But soon balls were bouncing off the windows like hail in a bad windstorm.
The Redhead and I were both laughing like children, watching as a given throw seemed about to accomplish the impossible, only to have it arc wide at the last second and hit the window a foot or two away from the opening.
The fine young centerfielder, Michael Brantley, got the closest, hitting one just out of reach above the opening that bounced down into an unused television camera pit outside the room.
I eyed the ball greedily. Maybe later, in the wee hours of the morning, I would climb out the opening and get it, I thought. What a disaster that would have been.
Anyway, after a while, maybe 30 or 40 throws, the guys kind of gave up and went back to doing what they were supposed to be doing, running wind sprints and playing catch and taking BP.
The Redhead and I settled back in our chairs, grinning in the wake of all the excitement.
Michael Brantley, though, didn't want to give up. He's known for having a cannon for an arm, throwing runners out at the plate from deep in centerfield on sacrifice flies, and has been getting a lot more playing time this year because Cleveland's regular centerfielder, Grady Sizemore, has been hurt.
On that particular evening, Manager Manny Acta played him to give Sizemore's knees a rest from playing on the notorious Astroturf at Rogers Centre.
The 24-year-old Brantley has risen to the occasion, batting a fine .281 with four homers and 24 RBI in 203 at bats so far this season.
He stayed beneath the window at his natural position for a few moments, until a batting practice ball dribbled out to him. Then he whirled and fired and the ball came sailing through the tiny opening, right over my head, and traveled the 50 feet to the steel front door of the hotel room before stopping.
The Redhead scampered to pick it up and I pumped my fist out the window.
"YEAH!" I bellowed. "BRANTLEY!"
The other guys looked up again and Brantley dropped his head like "Oh shucks, it wasn't nothing," and the Redhead handed me the ball and I held it out the window. They patted their teammate on the back and he waved at me, head still down, as they walked off.
I've been going to baseball games for the better part of a half-century now and seen a lot of things. In fact, that's what I love about baseball. You could go to a hundred games and then something will happen that not only you've never seen before, but maybe hasn't even happened before.
After seeing Mickey Mantle play, Rocky Colavito hit a home run, a stunning, bench-clearing brawl involving Dennis Eckersley, Bert Blyleven, Kirby Puckett, Mark McGuire and Jose Canseco, and a no hitter tossed by the great one-handed pitcher Jim Abbot, I was pretty convinced that there wasn't anything new under the sun.
But one night last week, in a plush Toronto hotel room, a 24-year-old kid named Michael Brantley showed me otherwise.
|Niagara Falls Reporter||www.niagarafallsreporter.com||June 7, 2011|