So, what would you have done?
A team starts the game with only nine players.
One gets injured (broken nose) and can’t continue.
For all you umpires out there, the answer is simple: game over; thank you for coming; drive home safely.
For all you non-umpires, you must start a baseball game with nine players AND you must have nine throughout. NO exceptions.
But here’s the extenuating circumstances to this game:
*It was the championship game of the Sporto Vilkai Cup here in Utena, Lithuania.
*The game was competitive, with Irvine leading host Sporti Vilkai from Vilnius, 2-1 in the top of the third inning.
*There were 400 people in attendance.
*This is an event that is in just its second year of existence and that made a huge marketing push for more teams and greater attendance this year.
*The REASON the team had only nine players in the first place is because, to fill out the tournament to eight teams, Virmidas Neverauskas split his 18-man roster into two teams of nine.
OK, so now you have all the facts. Ignas (many of you in NorCal and SoCal remember him from the Lithuanians’ visit in April) breaks his nose on a train wreck at second base. They have eight guys left. What do you do?
A) forfeit – game over as per rulebook.
B) let Sporto Vilkai select a player off its second team, which played earlier in the day and was in attendance.
C) let Irvine pick a player off Sporto Vilkai’s second-team roster.
D) let Irvine give Sporto Vilkai a player off its bench.
E) rule a forfeit, but use B, C or D to continue and finish the game.
Anyway, there are probably a few other options that Sam Griffith and I had as Tournament Directors. But by the time that we walked the 40 yards from the racetrack grandstands to the field, Virmidas and Irvine manager David Lester had agreed upon Option B.
And so it was. Sam and I looked at each other, informed the coaches that what they had agreed upon was OK with us so long as we heard each of them SAY it was OK with them, and waited for the second-team player to change clothes.
Ultimately, Irvine won its second straight Sporto Vilkai Cup, 12-3.
And then everyone hugged and took pictures.
I wonder how jovial the mood would have been if the second-team player, who was with the first team when they toured California in April, would have stroked the game-winning hit.
Anyway, what would YOU have done in our shoes?
WHINEY WINNERS: The Russians came to this tournament for one reason, and one reason alone – to win. And when they weren’t winning, they were whiney and cranky.
Cases in point:
1) During their 10-0 semifinal loss to Irvine, two of their injured reserves were playing catch warming up, and the ball came loose and came flying onto the field, nearly hitting the Irvine first base coach in the head. The Russian coach, frustrated and trailing 6-0 already, screamed at the players, “If you’re not too injured to play catch, you’re not too injured to run, so start running.” And for the next hour-and-a-half, they ran, and ran, and ran around the horse track. About five miles, we figure.
2) Before the third-place game against Utena Tuesday, the Russian coaches saw the 3 Lithuanian umpires getting ready and approached me to complain. “Why do we have a Lithuanian plate umpire again? We don’t understand their strike zone.”
I told them the assignments were done on merit and that Rimvydas would give them a great performance behind the plate, and he did. The other two umps, Arnoldasa and Eduardas, were stellar.
After the game, I met up with the Russian coaches again. Their comment?
“It’s amazing we won 17-2 considering we played nine against 12,” their interpretor said.
I walked away shaking my head.
NOTES: Had post-tournament dinner at Eel Man’s house. That’s Gintaras’ house, for you Californians who got to meet him. Alas, no eel this night – hot dogs and such…The big hit at the snack bar this week was a waffle on a stick, cooked fresh, with chocolate sauce on it and either powdered sugar or sprinkles – 67 cents USD….Final records: Irvine 5-0, Sporto Vilkai 3-2, Russia 3-2, Utena 2-3, Dublin 2-3, Czech Republic 2-3, Belarus 2-3, Vilnius II 1-4…Watching the Vilnius II parents attempt to do the wave – for the first time, apparently – was hilarious…They played Credence Clearwater’s Greatest Hits between innings Tuesday. Took me back to my first high school dance, when Credence headlined right after releasing Suzie Q.
Final Lithuania impressions Wednesday.