On Deck Circle
You should know by now that I try to look at everything. I'm the type of scout that arrives at the field early just so I can watch a player step off the bus. How does he carry himself? Does he look like he wants to be there? Is he loose? Tight? I take it all in.
But something I noticed last week stuck out like a sore thumb. And this wasn't the first time I've seen this either. It's been getting progressively worse over the last couple years. I was in Ft. Lauderdale watching several HS district tournaments when I saw it happen. Carson was pretty high on this particular shortstop and I figured I would check him out to see if he warrants a spot on the short list. His team was up to bat in the bottom of the first with two outs, a man on second and a man up at the plate. As the kid wandered onto the on deck circle twirling his bat, he immediately started talking with some of the students behind the fence. It was real meaningful stuff like, "Did you hear who Jimmy was taking to the prom?" and "Deana really wants you to ask her to the prom."
With a 3-2 count, the kid at the plate knocked a ground ball causing the shortstop to dive deep towards second. The runner easily advanced to third and the batter beat the throw to first. Now there were runners on first and third with two outs. The Prom King was forced to break off his social session and head to the plate. It was a great opportunity for him to put his team ahead early in the game. He had the pitcher in a hole.
The first pitch was a decent four seam fastball over the outside half. The RH Prom King took a mighty long swing and barely caught up to it just over the back part of the plate. The ball lumbered off the barrel slicing in the general direction of the right fielder. A can of corn. The pitcher couldn't hide his emotions as he jumped off the mound with a Tiger Wood's fist-pump and sprinted back to the dugout.
Thinking back, I can remember Pete Rose kneeling at the on deck circle. And a number of other players would do the same as well. It was such an important part of their batting routine. The on deck circle was a place where they would analyze the game situation, plan their at bat, get loose, and get their emotions under control. This mental preparation allowed them to simply react at the plate rather than having to think at the plate.
Sure enough, during the Prom King's next on deck appearance, Deana and her friends were standing there waiting for him to look their way. Of course, having nothing better to do on deck, the Prom King blew Deana a kiss and asked her to the prom. How ridiculous. A mockery of the game. Only this time, however, he stepped to the plate and pulled the first pitch down the third base line for a stand-up double. His next three on deck appearances gave him enough time to completely plan his social calendar for the next two weekends. He ended up going 2 for 4 with 1 walk.