Each day this week, the author is recounting notable home runs he’s conceded during his life as a nearly decent baseball pitcher at various levels.
Date: May, 1990
Level: Little League
Place: Sanel Field in Concord, NH (Link)
Like a liar, is how I’ll begin this series of brief anecdotes — owing, I mean, to how this particular one (i.e. this anecdote) doesn’t concern an actual, but only a would-be, home run. Sue me, is what anyone offended by this is invited to do.
Probably because it’s small, and maybe for other reasons as well, Concord, New Hampshire, hasn’t produced a lot in the way of celebrities. Owing to her involvement with the women’s national ice-hockey team, however, at both the 1998 and 2002 Olympic games, Tara Mounsey rivals Spurs big man Matt Bonner and former Cardinal and Yankee Bob Tewksbury as that tiny city’s most notable and celebrated sporting natives.
It will not surprise anyone to learn that, before her career as a talented adult athlete, Mounsey was a talented child athlete, too. Nor did she excel merely at hockey. In fact, she was one of the very best baseball players in the city, as well.
As a fourth-grader for Hills Sporting Goods, I pitched against the sixth-grade Mounsey and her formidable (and eventually league-winning) Foy’s Insurance side in what probably everyone everywhere stills regards as one of the most compelling games of the Northeast Little League’s 1990 season.
I remember little about the game, and therefore won’t burden the reader with a false account of it for the purposes of drama. What I do remember, however, is facing Mounsey and then Mounsey, promptly, hitting a line drive to center field.
It makes sense that, as a FanGraphs author, I have more than a passing interest in the classification of batted balls — and am aware also of the difficulties inherent to reducing all batted balls to merely three categories (ground ball, line drive, fly ball). I mention this because, to refer to Mounsey’s strike merely a “line drive” doesn’t really do it justice. This is a liner which — as I recall it, at least — ascended no higher than, say, five or six feet above the ground at any point, and yet would have also likely passed over Sanel’s center-field fence with some ease. Formidable, in other words.
Would have passed over, I say. Fortunately, my fifth-grade teammate and entirely competent center-fielder Shaun Martin was able to put his glove between the batted ball and the dumb, scrubby pine trees that abutted the Sanel Field fence. Unfortunately, such was the velocity imparted to that ball by Mounsey that it literally and very cartoonishly knocked Martin’s glove off his hand.
At which base Mounsey eventually found herself, I forget. At what base she ought to have found herself is more obvious. Home plate, is the answer.
Indeed, the experience was a humbling and harrowing one — in the way that sport can always be humbling and harrowing. Ultimately positive, is how I personally regard this. Life is difficult. The more quickly one becomes accustomed to that fact, the better he or she is equipped to contend with the realities of merely being alive.
Somewhat to that same point is the very unfortunate coda by which the above anecdote is accompanied, and which concerns the aforementioned center fielder, Shaun Martin.
Four-plus years after the Mounsey non-homer, I went away to boarding school — happily so, for a number of reasons. During my junior year at same, however, my father informed me that Shaun Martin had died. And not just died, actually, but been killed under sort of freakish circumstances during a fistfight behind Concord High. An account of the story still appears in the electronic pages of the Los Angeles Times — notable, as very few stories regarding Concord appear ever in the Los Angeles Times.
As that Times story indicates, Martin’s death was unlikely. He doesn’t seem to have been entirely free from blame in that particular situation. But high school kids are almost universally dummies. They get in fights — kinda a lot. Much less often does one die from that sort of thing. When my father told me about Shaun, my reaction was a combination of what one might call “emotional nausea” and a sort of exhilaration. Nausea from contemplating, even briefly, how such a turn of events might affect his family. Exhilaration from having once known — of having a home run, for example, saved by — the now newly deceased. Those who’ve passed away are, after all, like celebrities: they know something we don’t — even if that knowledge is ultimately unpleasant.
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