Pedro Alvarez and my one sports triumph

The Mets are playing the Pirates tonight, but Pedro Alvarez is out of the lineup. Alvarez is the pride of Horace Mann high school up in Riverdale, and was a full fledged phenom by the time I faced him in a game 6 years ago last month. He was an all-city, all-everything third baseman absolutely annihilating the 5'5" Jewish pitchers from Dalton and Trinity. I was really damn good at filling out a scorecard, but picked up a bat maybe 8 times that whole season. Let's say we were on opposite sides of the spectrum.

He was huge; even though he was only a year older than me he looked about 25 and scooped up groundballs with ease and swung an aluminum bat like a weapon. After the game, he picked up a wood bat and crushed batting practice fastballs in front of about a half dozen major league scouts. I will never forget the image of Alvarez, standing in the batter's box at Horace Mann's picturesque baseball field sending moonshots over a 4-story building that served as the right field wall. It was so clear that Alvarez was born to play baseball, I thought, and so clear that I was destined for something more... intellectual, let's say.

But back to the game. It had rained the night before and the field was slick, which worked to my advantage. With the bases clear in the 6th inning and my team down several runs, my coach told me to grab a bat and loosen up. My heart began racing; my father looked on from behind the backstop and smiled as I worked furiously to get my muscles loose. I strode into the batters box and from the corner of my left eye I saw the hulking Alvarez take several steps in towards the infield grass. Clearly, he had less confidence in my hitting ability than even I did.

The details of the at-bat are fuzzy, but the outcome is crystal clear. I swung hard and screwed myself into the ground and pounded the ball into the grass down the third base line. As the ball spun, I pushed off with my back leg and hauled ass down the first base line at my absolute top speed. The first baseman stretched out his arm and I thought I was dead to rights, but no 'out' call ever came. The first baseman stepped off the bag and kicked the dirt a little bit, and as I sped past the base I turned to see Alvarez swearing and looking at the wet ball still stuck in the grass.

The inning ended shortly thereafter and my day was already done, but I returned to the bench to check out the scorecard.

The sweetest play in baseball. E-3.

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