Meats Don't Clash
Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: Ontario, Canada
Re: Toronto Blue Jays 2012 Season Thread
DUNEDIN, FLA -- The ball left Bill Hall’s bat like a cannon. It landed in Anthony Gose’s glove like a feather. This is the story of one of the most impressive catches a Blue Jays centre fielder has made in a long, long time.
It all started with a first-pitch fastball from Jason Frasor. It came in belt-high and on the outside half of the plate. It looked like a mistake. But Frasor meant to throw it there.
Hall’s been at this for awhile. He’s played 10 years in the majors, more than 1,000 games with five different teams over a long, if underwhelming career. The one thing everyone knows about Bill Hall is he loves first pitch fastballs. It’s the first line of every scouting report ever written on him. He salivates when the first pitch comes in fat and he knows what to do with it. But Frasor said screw all that.
The 34-year-old reliever was frustrated, tired of falling behind hitter after hitter. He just wanted to be ahead in the count for once. So he challenged the next batter he faced.
You could practically see Hall’s eyes light up as the pitch came in. That’ll do, he must have thought. Hall pushed his hands through the zone and drove the ball high, true and long to right-centre field. It flew like a dart, slicing upwards through the warm Dunedin breeze, hitting an apex somewhere around shallow centre and coming down like a small, white asteroid crashing to earth.
“Off the bat, I’m thinking that’s a double,” said Frasor after the game. “No doubt about it.”
But Frasor hadn’t seen Gose yet.
The 21-year-old had entered the game at the top of the inning to play centrefield in place of Colby Rasmus. Gose is 11 years younger than Hall and hasn’t played a single game in the major leagues. If this was war, Hall would be a tenured commander and Gose a foot soldier. But when the ball is in the air, everyone is equal.
Gose saw Hall push his hands through the zone, saw the ball rocket off the bat, heard the crack like thunder through the ballpark.
That’s when instinct took over.
“I just ran,” Gose said. “I don’t even think about it. I just go.”
Gose knew right away it would be over his head. A swing doesn’t make that kind of sound and fall short. So he turned around and off he went.
As he pivoted to his left Gose tracked the flight of the ball with his right eye. Damn that thing was moving fast. It took him a second to get his feet going before he was in an all-out sprint, his head torqued to the right, looking over his shoulder.
About half way to where he figured this rocket was going to land, most outfielders would have had a decision to make. Play it safe, stay on your feet and chase the thing once it lands, or try to make a play. Gose didn’t have to make that decision.
“I knew I would catch it,” the centre fielder said after the game, wiping sweat from his face with his jersey. “I just ran and dove.”
Sounds simple enough. But a lot of things simply said are harder done. Gose had to find the ball, track its flight, determine a landing point, mentally calculate the quickest route to that spot and, most importantly, get there. Meanwhile, the ball is dropping like a penny from a skyscraper. There’s nothing easy about catching that thing. Some 300 feet away, Frasor watched this scene play out like a movie.
“When you watch that from the mound, you follow the ball. Then all of a sudden you see the player,” Frasor said with his hands up in front of him, index fingers extended, before slowly moving them towards each other until they touched right in front of his nose. “And they meet—they come to a point.”
That point was on the warning track in right centre where Gose laid out horizontally, leading with his glove reached out long in front of him. He bruised the ground with his midsection, small brown pellets spraying around him. He slid head first and came to a stop just before the Jet’s Pizza advertisement tattooed on the wall.
The play was made right on the line of success and disaster. If he slid any harder, dove a step later, he would have crashed head-first into the base of the wall.
But great centre fielders just know. They have a tremendous grasp of the space around them, like a sixth sense for outfield fences. They know exactly how big the pocket is that they have to fit into. They can tell when making a play like that crosses over the line from masterful to catastrophe. And they know they often have to play this game tip toeing along that edge.
As Gose’s momentum wore out and he came to a full stop face down on the ground, he hesitated for just a second, as if to make sure he was still in one piece. Then he popped up quickly like a running back does when they’re leveled and want to show everyone it didn’t hurt. The ball was in his glove. And Bill Hall could only stand between second and third shaking his head.
Ben Francisco, running to that same spot Gose was from his station in right field, had the best seat in the entire park for the grab. When Gose popped back up he gave him a sly look and said “nice catch.”
“Thanks,” Gose said, before taking a small hop and breaking into a silent jog back to the dugout as the 5,509 people on hand at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium gave him a standing ovation.
“That’s what we play for — to make a catch like that,” Francisco says, sitting in front of his locker after the game. “When you get a chance to run and make a play like that, you’re always going to go hard for the catch… no matter what.”
Back at the dugout it was all high-fives and “good jobs” from his teammates before Gose could sit down and think about what just happened. Down the bench from him, Blue Jays manager John Farrell and the rest of his coaching staff were in awe of the play, one of a few impressive defensive efforts from the Blue Jays on this afternoon.
They talked about the youthful exuberance Gose and some of his young teammates have shown at this camp, marveling at their skill and desire.
“It’s like The Triple Lindy,” Farrell said with a laugh, remembering Rodney Dangerfield’s impossible dive in Back to School. “I don’t know what the degree of difficulty is for those dives but he made a heck of a catch.”
All the boners.