FRIDAY, May 21, 2004
Ira and I pulled up to Blair Field a little after 3:30. From the corner,
we could see the
As ribs, chicken and sausage sizzled on the grill, our conversation focused on the much-anticipated Windsor-Weaver match-up and how it almost didn't happen.
Earlier in the week, the coaches had told the players that they were going
There seemed to be no doubt among the Titan faithful as they began to gather under the waving blue-and-orange "F" flags to munch at the growing smorgasbord. If the Titans played like they had been since the conference games had started, and if Jason pitched the way he'd been pitching as he mowed down the every other team on the conference schedule, they'd have a good chance of beating Weaver and the Dirtbags.
The game had been sold out for two days and some procrastinating Titan fans found themselves at the stadium without tickets. Fortunately, there were others who were more forward-thinking and I don't know of any Titan fans who didn't get a ticket if they stopped by the tailgater and asked. Titan fans take care of their own.
A few yards away, on the other side of the parking lot fence, a Dirtbag tailgater had formed. They were having wine and cheese with a tray of finger sandwiches. Obviously, that crowd was NOT Titan material!
It was with an air of confidence and quiet optimism that the Titan fans,
many well-fortified with apple juice, gathered up their belongings and headed
into the stadium. Ira and I were part of a large group who took over the
third-base picnic area to mingle and consume more apple juice together. We
watched while the Titans had Weaver walking on a tightrope for three innings
With two out in the Dirtbag 4th, John Bowker hit a ball over the right field fence. Ouch!
Still, it seemed like one run wouldn't be so much against Weaver that night.
The 5th, 6th, 7th,
and 8th innings came and went. Titan fans were still buzzing about
a throw from
Clark Hardman in center field that saved a run by nailing Troy Tulowitzki at
the plate after he tried to score from second on a Jason Vargas single in
Sergio Pedroza struck out swinging and P.J. Pilittere popped
up to second base to start the Titan 9th. Titan fans were content,
knowing that their team had given Weaver all he could handle. It had been
a great game, another
Pill worked the count to 2-2 with 2 out. "Oh no," I thought, "they're going
to do that annoying ‘deucez' thing again." I expected to hear dice rolling over
the speakers and see the slot machine reels spinning on the scoreboard as
The rest is history. Prettyman was caught stealing to end the Titan 9th, and Windsor pitched perfect 9th and 10th innings while the Titans made him a winner by getting a run across in their half of the 10th.
When the final out was recorded, amazed Titan fans shot off party poppers and exchanged high-fives and camel toes. We may not have technically beaten Weaver, but this was almost as sweet. Winning the Big West Championship at their house was icing on the cake and sweet payback for last year. Our mission was accomplished and we knew the team could just relax and play for fun the rest of the weekend.
When the players emerged from their dressing room, they appeared tired but extremely satisfied. They took their time getting on the bus, mingling with the fans, signing baseballs, and hugging loved ones.
I'd driven 400 miles that morning and experienced an evening that made the whole trip worthwhile -- many times over.