Although I played catcher for my high school varsity baseball team, I was more known for my dugout antics rather than my on-field performance. However, in light of my “never turn down an invitation” policy, I decided to join the Shankees (Buenos Aires’ expat baseball team) last Saturday for some good ‘ol fashion hard ball.
I was expecting a nice leisurely day of men’s league style beer drinking and joke telling but boy was I wrong. As soon as we stepped off the Shankee Shuttle in some random park in Lanus, I knew I was in for a treat. The Shankees just started their second tournament of the season against other international teams from around Buenos Aires. It’s pretty funny actually, teams are comprised of players from all over the world. There are 8 teams in the league like the Puerto Rican squad to the Korean Tigers. Saturday however, we were playing the Shankee’s bitter rival and league powerhouse… the Cubans!
As we walked out to the field to warm up their entire team was already there stretching, wearing Under Armor and drinking protein shakes. It was like the scene from the Mighty Ducks 2 when the US team played Iceland for the first time. They were big, organized and intimidating.
To make the matchup even more intense, the guys told me that they had a bitter animosity towards the Cubans starting pitcher. This douchbag kid from the States left the Shankees last season for the Cubans because he said he wanted to win. I don’t think anyone told him that there wouldn’t be any major league scouts coming down to see him pitch in a men’s league tournament at some make-shift field outside Buenos Aires.
As I started wondering what I’d got myself into, the Shankee skipper read off the line-up. Playing centerfield and batting clean up… Gareth Leonard. Haha, seriously? I guess I have a knack for diving into things head first. It was all or nothing now! With a quick stretch and about 15 minutes of playing catch the game was under way. There was no taking infield and no batting practice. Perfect.
Of course, the first two batters of the games hit deep bombs my way. One was a pretty direct shot that I back peddled a bit to catch. However, the second was a frozen rope into left center that I had to get on my horse for. Luckily with an outstretched arm and eyes closed I managed to bring it in successfully. I was just happy I didn’t embarrass myself in the first inning… Game on!
The Cubans would score a few runs each inning to put us in a 9 to 3 hole going into the 4th. However, with 2-outs in the bottom of the 4th, we woke up the bats and went on a 6-run rally to tie the game at 9. Including a 2-run base hit up the middle by yours truly! Even more important than evening the score was that we knocked their starting pitcher out of the game. Our coach was ecstatic. He said “win or loose we just fucking won!!!” I’ll be honest I was pretty pumped.
About as anti-climatic as it could be the rest of the game didn’t maintain the same intensity. The next inning we changed pitchers and he had trouble finding the zone. We ended up getting mercy-ruled at the end of the 7th inning 25 to 10.
Regardless of the lop-sided finish it was a blast. I ended up going 2 for 3 with a walk and a couple of RIBs. I was just happy I didn’t drop any balls in the outfield or strike out.
The group of guys we played with were awesome. Most were expats from the States but we also had 4 or 5 Argentines on the roster. The city of Buenos Aires actually just told the coach that they would be building a stadium for the Shankees in the city so they wouldn’t have to drive an hour out to Ezieza for their home field. This is great news for a team who have only been around for about 2 years.
The Shankees baseball team is always looking for new talent. Please contact me if you want to get out and play some baseball with a great group of guys any Saturday afternoon. I hope to play every chance I get.