Life, like baseball, sometimes offers second chances

Published 4:16 pm Thursday, May 24, 2018

Life, like baseball, sometimes offers second chances

Lots of people have asked my opinion on the hiring of Greg Davis of Southaven for a tourism and marketing position in Sardis. Well, here’s what I think.

One of the things I really like about baseball (I could fill these pages and more about everything I like about the game) is the opportunity of second chances the game often affords those players willing to keep trying and pushing to play perfect ball.

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It happens in many aspects of the game, both on offense and defense. How often we have seen a player make a costly error early in a game only to redeem himself and provide a winning hit in the waning innings. Happens all the time.

Such is the substance of the mysterious “dropped third strike” – a phenomenon particular to baseball only. Other sports have various situations where an offensive player is given a second chance because the defense failed to complete a play. Defensive penalties sometime give offenses another play, but usually not after the play is completed.

Almost everyone knows that a hitter gets three chances to swing for a hit in baseball. Failure to connect after three swings and misses, and the batter is out. Most of the time that is. Remember the old rule about the dropped third strike.

No matter how poorly a batter swings, no matter how dominating a pitcher may be, no matter if the hitter doesn’t stand a chance of making solid connection, all hope is not lost for the man with the bat.

Not until the ball is secured by the catcher of course. Because until then the batter still has hope of reaching first base. It happens fairly often except at the highest levels of baseball, and its not so unheard of there.

Simply put, the catcher must secure a pitched third strike without the ball touching the ground, or the batter is entitled to attempt to reach first before the catcher can retrieve the dropped strike and throw to first.

It’s just that little bit of opportunity a batter gets after striking out that gives coaches and fans the slightest bit of hope that the hitter is not officially out. We see it often in the little leagues. Strike three whistles by a hapless batter who blindly waves his stick at the passing sphere for a third consecutive pitch when suddenly his coach, teammates, and mother are yelling “run, run, run.”

And off to first base the runner heads. No matter how bad he just looked, no matter how poor was his swing, there is still hope of reaching first base. And not failing.

Every old coach has a few dropped third strike stories to tell. Sometimes they are joyful tales of extended innings, big rallies, and comeback wins thanks to a dropped third strike. Sometimes they are painful memories of games almost won, but lost because the catcher couldn’t hold the ball or make an accurate throw to first. Defeat snatched from the jaws of victory is a heavy blow felt by more than one baseball coach or player.

It’s that second chance that’s appealing to me. A batter sometimes causes a strikeout by his own poor choices – swinging at bad pitches and letting the good ones go by. Sometimes a batter strikes out because he knowingly takes a cut at a pitch he knows can’t be hit. It just looks too tempting to pass up.

Even in those cases, though, a batter has hope. Sure, he may have struck out on his own accord – doing something he shouldn’t have. And, yes, batters often strikeout swinging at pitches the batter before got away with swinging at. The fact remains he has still struck out, and the only thing left to do is return to the dugout and the sidelines to sit and watch others perform.

But, let’s not forget that second chance. It could be, just maybe, the catcher dropped the ball or the pitcher had thrown it in such a way that it couldn’t be caught. Either way, the disgraced batter has hope – new life some call it.

It’s what that batter does with the second chance that matters at that point. If he bemoans the fact he swung and missed three times and mopes off the field, he will never reach first base and the umpire will call him out.

Some batters take the opportunity presented by the catcher’s error to stay in the game. They hustle hard to first base, trying to take advantage of the sliver of hope they’ve been offered. And sometimes they reach first base safely.

Then the strikeout doesn’t matter. Oh, it’s still in the books as a strikeout and will forever be in the official stats, but also in the scorebook is the notation that the batter “reached on a dropped third strike.”

With a successful scamper to first, the batter becomes a runner, and everyone involved soon forgets hhow he got there, not by hitting the ball soundly, but by a second chance given after he swung and missed, striking out in the process.

So many times, baseball fans will tell you, such a runner will come around to score on the next few plays. He’s extended the inning. He’s used his second chance to get on base and have a chance to help his team.

Second chances are good things. Not all strikeouts end bad for hitters, especially the ones willing to forget the failure and dash for the safety of first base.

I love baseball, and second chances, because sometimes it’s those dropped third strikes, and one more opportunity, that starts the rally that wins the game.