From Home Plate Day 5 – Helderberg – Umpire Robert Slabinski

Dec 31: Happy New Year’s Eve, but first there is a game to be played. Travel time today was about 90 minutes. We had breakfast at McDonalds as the game was starting early and we had to leave even earlier. We were near the field that we played at yesterday, wine country. The field was a little dry, they are having drought like conditions here, no outfield fence, but a tall weed line we will use. The area around homeplate was somewhat undeveloped which made finding a spot to call the game from rather difficult, hard to find a slot position. But, we are playing baseball, so this field is BEAUTIFUL.  

If yesterday’s game was INCREDIBLE, today’s game was the complete opposite (un-incredible? Is that a word?). Whether the boys were tired, perhaps bothered by the heat or simply looking forward to New Years, who knows, but one thing was certain, the game was filled with errors and dropped balls. We had at least 5 fly balls dropped in the outfield by the Pole-2-Pole team. You can’t expect to win when this is happening. Final score was Deutsche Baseball Academy (DBA) 17, Pole-2-Pole (P2P) 5. We ended the game in the fifth inning on the 10 run rule.

Even though there were numerous errors, we did have 2 outstanding plays worthy of a Webgem. Early in the game, the DBA player crushed a fly ball deep to left, the left fielder raced back and made a great catch just short of the weed line, surely taking away a home run, think Mike Trout like effort. Later in the game with P2P having bases loaded, the P2P player hit a hard liner back to the pitcher. He promptly fielded it, fired to home for the first out and the catcher rifled it down to first for a 1-2-3 double play.

DBA leads the series 4 games to 1.

Once again the local umpires did not show for the game. So, I was given the opportunity to call another plate with another awesome view of the mountains in the outfield. At home was Bob, at first a local gentlemen from the baseball club, at second we had Kevin and at third was Kieran.

Kevin and Kieran are a couple of young men that are helping run the series. As an umpire crew, we may not be the best dressed, but we are getting the job done. Due to the clear blue skies with hot temperatures, Kieran now has some pretty toasted legs as he umpired in shorts.

After the game, we hurried back to the campground to get ready for the New Year. I got in a little nap first, 3 straight days of having the “dish” in this heat has worn me down. I will welcome a day off to recharge myself and get ready for the final 4 games.

Dinner was a scrumptious meal consisting of African dishes and bread, what a FEAST. By the time midnight rolled around, only the adults were left at the campground, the kids had all went down to the beach to ring in the New Year.
Fun Fact: Early in the game, with a runner stealing second, Kevin made the mistake of turning to look at the bag before the ball was thrown. He narrowly missed wearing the baseball. Between innings I quickly explained to him the proper mechanic.

Fun Fact: After having 2 bottles of liquid refreshments after the game, the lady who was serving asked me if my bottle had a whole in the bottom. Hmmmm, I don’t think so, but maybe! I did leave my personal umpire pin with her to be put on the walls of the clubhouse. It is decorated with all sorts of baseball memorabilia. I did see a picture of umpires from many years ago. In it was John Michael Sucker, a German umpire that I met at least 10 years ago, small world.

Fun Fact: I was chatting with the German kids after the game. One of them was telling me about a saddening defeat they experienced in the Czech Republic a few years ago. They were playing in the Little League Europe-Africa Intermediate Regional. They told me about an umpire that had a World Series ring from the California Angels. YEP, I know that guy, Sam Griffith, a friend and mentor from Orange County in California. What a small world we live in!!!

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