The Home Runs I’ve Conceded: Part 1, Sanel Field

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.

Sanel Field

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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Carson Cistulli has just published a book of aphorisms called Spirited Ejaculations of a New Enthusiast.


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Jake
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Jake
2 years 6 months ago

Damn

James
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James
2 years 6 months ago

Well that got dark.

August Fagerstrom
Member
Member
2 years 6 months ago

0 home runs allowed and 1 death of a young soul.

Precisely what I expected to read, given the title of this NotGraphs post.

triple_r
Member
2 years 6 months ago

…what?

Phillip McIntyre
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Phillip McIntyre
2 years 6 months ago

Carson, thank you for writing in a tone that suggests the way you speak. It’s refreshing in comparison to the bland tones of hair product I condition and/or restock at Kroger everyday.

david
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david
2 years 6 months ago

wow..wonder if justin dexter had just been thrown out of milton academy….that would be weird…

Lynne Reiner
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Lynne Reiner
2 years 6 months ago

When is the novella coming out?

Wally
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Wally
2 years 6 months ago

Carson, by your probably correct assertion about high schoolers being almost universally dummies, please consider writing an edition of the Dummies series of guides, “High School for Dummies,” as it would surely be a best selling book, considering the totality of the audience number it would target.

Then with the royalties, you could extricate yourself from that awful France. An elegant little plan, really.

Oh wait, high schoolers don’t buy books.

tz
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tz
2 years 6 months ago

Carson, it’s weird to know that our paths nearly crossed. I moved to Bow, NH in 1991 (one year after your gopherball) and left NH in 1996 (right before Shaun Martin died),

Now I’m left wondering if we ever had met. Though, given that I was about 30 years old at the time, our encounter would have been weird. In an unsettling, French kind of way.

dw8
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dw8
2 years 5 months ago

Three trips of the tongue to the back of the teeth, “Cis-tu-li”.

Ace2000
Member
Ace2000
2 years 6 months ago

Boy, this sure brings back some memories. I was growing up in Concord right around the same time, though it sounds like I was a just bit younger. I was plying my trade as CF/2B for G. Colby & Sons and the Elks Club in the early 90s. Definitely played a few games at Sanel Field, though I have much fonder memories of Grappone Park, myself.

I didn’t go off to boarding school, and so I started my time at Concord High the autumn following Shaun Martin’s death. A truly horrific and sad story I hadn’t thought of in many years . . .

BleedingBlue88
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BleedingBlue88
2 years 5 months ago

Carson–unfortunately, the circumstances surrounding Martin’s death sound a lot less “freakish” and a lot more “premeditated” in light of the fact that, in connection with the incident, Dexter was evidently found guilty of possession of two deadly weapons–a couple rolls of pennies.

Maybe that sounds ridiculous at first, but hitting someone while gripping a roll of pennies is a lot like using brass knuckles. Maybe in the 1920s you might bring a roll of pennies to school with you for purposes of buying your entire class matching raccoon coats or something, but in 1997 I really doubt Dexter brought those two rolls of pennies to school with him for any purpose other than hitting someone with them. Of course I could be wrong about that–maybe 50 cent rolls of pennies were just convenient bus fare of something. No one was able to confirm whether Dexter used the rolls of pennies to hit Martin and Dexter himself claimed the pennies were in his locker at the time.

That sounds like a load of bullshit to me. Those rolls of pennies were used to batter Shaun Martin’s face. And of course, it is hardly a “freakish accident” that repeatedly hitting someone in the head like that while gripping a roll of pennies might cause a cerebral hemorrhage due to blunt force trauma.

Of course the whole thing was still totally avoidable. Shaun Martin shouldn’t have provoked Justin Dexter and yeah, he shouldn’t have been coked up at school,* but Shaun Martin is dead now while Justin Dexter evidently spent just 14 days in juvie before going home. His punishment for killing Shaun ultimately boiled down to just one year of probation. Maybe he still feels guilty about having killed Shaun Martin; maybe that’s enough. But if its his own guilt that we hope will ultimately drive Justin Dexter’s rehabilitation or redemption, then it is particularly saddening to see that he was readily relieved from even that small burden by ready-made excuses that he was not to blame for what happened, that the outcome was somehow a “freakish” mishap.

From the last page of that Times article:

“[Justin] is most upset at having to repeat 11th grade in a new school.He insists he is not to blame for what happened to Shaun.”

*I guess he probably shouldn’t have been coked up at home either, or anywhere else really. Maybe that he just shouldn’t have been coked up at all is the better conclusion.

Daneeka
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Daneeka
2 years 5 months ago

woah

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