A game of catch and en­joy­ing the sim­ple things

The Compass - - SPORTS - BY NICHOLAS MERCER nmercer@cb­n­com­pass.ca Nicholas Mercer Nicholas Mercer is a reporter/pho­tog­ra­pher with The Com­pass. He lives in Bay Roberts and can be reached at nmercer@ cb­n­com­pass.ca

Pla­cen­tia’s Liam Shea wanted to throw some­thing a lit­tle dif­fer­ent at the crowd from Ivan­hoe, Ont., in the fi­nal of the Eastern Cana­dian Cham­pi­onships in CBS.

He’d al­ready reg­is­tered a shutout of the Storm dur­ing the round robin and knew they’d be ex­pect­ing the 16-year-old to fol­low a bit of the same game plan in the fi­nal of the soft­ball tour­na­ment on Aug. 28.

“I fig­ured they’d know what was com­ing and I wanted to throw them off a bit,” said Shea.

In the first meet­ing, he fed On­tario hit­ters a steady stream of rise balls. That led him to uti­lize his drop ball a lit­tle more in the sec­ond game. He also throws a fast­ball, changeup and is work­ing on a curve­ball.

Af­ter al­low­ing a run in the first in­ning, he set­tled in and scat­tered six hits over the next six in­nings while strik­ing out seven to help his team pick up the 4-2 vic­tory.

Af­ter the game, Shea was named the tour­na­ment’s most valu­able player.

De­spite adding some high per­sonal ac­com­plish­ments to his soft­ball resume, Shea was quick to push the spot­light on his team­mates.

He rec­og­nized his squad showed “a lot of heart” and “good char­ac­ter “hav­ing to come back twice in the fi­nal to seal the deal.

“It was a to­tal team win. It was a great at­mos­phere and we all came to play,” said Shea.

Mem­bers of the cham­pi­onship team in­clude Shea, Dou­glas Cheese­man, Mar­cus Pittman, Joey Sweeney, Liam Costello, Ri­ley Furey, Ja­cob Gill, Bren­dan Houi­han, Ryan Kelly, Ryan Ma­her, Joseph Squires, Luke Strick­land, Wil­liams and coaches Loy­ola Power and Chris Ma­her. See­ing the ball well Shea car­ried a hot stick for the New­found­land team for the en­tire tour­na­ment. Dur­ing the pre­lim­i­nary round, the short­stop couldn’t get out.

He picked up the award as the tour­na­ment’s top hit­ter af­ter go­ing 7-for-11 (.638 av­er­age) at the plate.

Shea’s ap­proached was sim­ple — try and hit the ball hard ev­ery time and let the game take care of it­self.

“I felt con­fi­dent hit­ting the ball,” he said. “All I was look­ing for was solid con­tact. It all worked out.” Pittman named top pitcher Shea was not the only Pla­cen­tia ath­lete to have an im­pres­sive week­end. Across the six games, Mar­cus Pittman was rolling on the rub­ber.

The young­ster was named the tour­na­ment’s top pitcher af­ter putting up some re­mark­able num­bers. In a pair of stars, Pittman de­liv­ered two wins and was near un­hit­table.

Through 11 in­nings of work, he didn’t al­low a run, scat­tered just two hits and gave up one free pass while av­er­ag­ing 10 strike­outs a game. On a win­ning streak The tour­na­ment also fea­tured the West Hants Thunder of Nova Sco­tia, Cobourg Dodgers of On­tario and New­found­land No. 2.

In the round robin, the Se­lects started with a 4-0 vic­tory over West Hants, be­fore blank­ing Ivan­hoe 4-0.

Next up was a 15-0 drub­bing of Cobourg be­fore thump­ing NL No. 2 10-3.

The Se­lects fol­lowed their round robin with a 9-2 de­feat of the Storm in the 1-2 Page Play­off game to ad­vance di­rectly to the fi­nal. Ivan­hoe had to beat West Hants in the semi­fi­nal to get a sec­ond chance at beat­ing the Se­lects.

“We kept get­ting bet­ter ev­ery game in the tour­na­ment,” said Shea.

The tour­na­ment was a spe­cial one for the Pla­cen­tia boys. It’s al­ways an added bonus when you get to win with peo­ple you’ve played the game with since you were young lads.

“We’ve been play­ing ball to­gether since we were young,” said Shea. “It’s a great feel­ing.”

It’s one of my favourite mem­o­ries. Re­ally, it’s a col­lec­tion of mem­o­ries that I hold dear.

It all re­volves around my sum­mers spent in Cor­ner Brook a decade ago. It’s where my fa­ther worked when he left the United Church in Har­bour Grace.

The drive­way of our home in Curl­ing split a hill, di­vid­ing it into a pair of smaller hills on ei­ther side.

The dis­tance be­tween those hills turned out to be the per­fect dis­tance for my brother and I to spend count­less hours throw­ing a base­ball back and forth. In the morn­ing be­fore prac­tice or in the evenings as the set­ting sun turned the mighty Hum­ber River a glow­ing orange, we could prob­a­bly be found play­ing catch.

It’s sim­ple, but it’s some­thing we al­ways did. When ei­ther of us needed to work on pick­ing a short hop, we went to the back­yard and did it for hours.

The back­yard was al­ways the place where you tried to throw dif­fer­ent pitches. Mov­ing your fin­gers around the base­ball, you tried to throw a curve­ball or make the ball drop even a lit­tle bit more than what you do.

When my brother and I played catch, there was never a day when we didn’t throw pop flys and ground balls to each other. Some­times, we’d imag­ine throw­ing a run­ner out at the plate or go­ing into the hole to rob a base hit while get­ting a ghost run­ner at first base.

You did that till your arm hurt. That’s when it was time to go in­side for the night or at least un­til your el­bow started to feel a bit bet­ter.

Then, it was out­side for an­other round.

Plenty al­ways got done dur­ing a catch. It was never just throw­ing the ball back and forth.

You talked about life, you talked about noth­ing and maybe you spoke just a lit­tle about the game it­self.

Play­ing catch was a part of every­thing we did. If we went on a fam­ily va­ca­tion, the gloves had to go with us, es­pe­cially if our grand­fa­ther was along for the ride.

Re­ally he was driv­ing the bus, but don’t tell him that.

If we stopped in Truro, NS., he had to get out and throw a cou­ple of dinky curve­balls to us. In Dieppe, N.B., he prob­a­bly juiced up a cou­ple of fast­balls to make the glove pop just right. If we were in Sum­mer­side, PEI., there were catch­ing ses­sions in be­tween on-ice ac­tiv­i­ties at Andrew’s Hockey School.

This fond­ness for play­ing catch is prob­a­bly why one of my favourite things to watch about base­ball is a bullpen ses­sion in­volv­ing a pitcher and a catcher.

That’s the game in its sim­plest form and its just two guys hav­ing a game of catch. They’re re­liv­ing some­thing they’ve done ev­ery day since they learned how to throw a ball.

Base­ball’s com­plex­ity is found in its em­brace of the ba­sics. The as­pects of the game — hit­ting, pitch­ing, run­ning and field­ing — are plain when pulled out of the fab­ric of base­ball as sep­a­rate parts.

That’s the art of it I guess. Some­times to ap­pre­ci­ate base­ball, you have to en­joy the sim­ple things.

I don’t play catch as much now as I’d like and that’s a shame.

That’s the art of it I guess. Some­times to ap­pre­ci­ate base­ball, you have to en­joy the sim­ple things.


The New­found­land Se­lects de­feated the On­tario Storm 4-2 in the fi­nal of the Eastern Cana­dian Cham­pi­onships held in CBS Aug. 26-28. Pla­cen­tia had a large in­flu­ence on the team with four play­ers help­ing with the ti­tle run.

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