Talking playoffs and taking one on the chin

Every player begins the season hoping to extend his season into the playoffs.

Right-handed reliever Randy Messenger is no different, but he has no qualms whatsoever about being with the Mariners in Anaheim instead of being with the playoff-bound Tacoma Rainiers, the Pacific Coast League North Division champions.

Without Messenger’s 25-save contribution, the Rainiers probably would not be starting their best-of-five playoff series against the South Division champion Sacramento River Cats at Cheney Stadium tonight.

“You always miss playoff  baseball, but when you are higher up, it’s a lot easier to be away,” said Messenger, who was promoted on August 22. “I have watched them every night to keep tabs on everybody.”

He was a busy man on Monday, texting his congratulations “To everyone that I had their phone number.”

“I helped them out and they reminded me of that, but it’s awesome what they did.”

The Rainiers were 7 1/2 games behind first-place Colorado Springs with 17 games remaining. A 9-0 road trip catapulted them back into the race and the hot finish was capped by Monday afternoon’s division-clinching victory.

The message from Messenger to his former teammates is: “Congrats and keep it up.”

“I’m here now and don’t want to go back, unless I absolutely have to,” he said.

In the meantime, he’ll watch the Rainiers’ progress the best he can.

Back here in Anaheim, the Mariners took one on the chin last night, dropping a 3-2 decision to the Angels in 10 innings.

Speaking of taking one on the chin, Sei Shimoda, a Yomiuri Shimbun reporter covering Ichiro’s pursuit of 200 hits was assigned the seat next to me in the Angel Stadium press box.

It was not a lucky seat for him. Late in the game — Ichiro was 0-for-4 at the time — a ball was fouled straight back.

I saw the ball coming and it was coming fast. Jeff Evans of the Mariners P.R. staff, was sitting in the front row, ducked and put his hand up to either attempt to make a sensational one-handed catch, or defelct the  ball out of harm’s way. He did neither. The ball hit his index finger and continued its unimpeded flight to the second row.

I yelled “heads up!” and the guy next to me, who was typing, looked up — just in time for the ball to hit him directly in the jaw. An inch higher and it hits his nose and glasses. An inch lower and it hits his throat. Anyway, the ball ended up between our computers, so I picked it up.

Both Jeff and I were stunned that the direct hit didn’t knock the dude out. I mean we’re talking light’s out for awhile. In almost 40 years of covering baseball, I have never seen a fellow scribe get nailed that flush with a foul ball, but the writer with an  iron jaw just shrugged it off, though he did spend the remainder of the game with an ice-pack on his chin. He departed later with the baseball as a souvenir.

Yeah, I gave him the ball — but for a reasonable price.

— Jim Street

One comment

  1. Buz

    Chuckle.. I’ve been dinged a few times with hit balls. Not a very fun feeling no matter where it gets ya : )

    By the by.. I grew up in the Bay area during those Swinging 70’s A’s years. Listened religiously. Now, many moons later I happen to be a very good friend of Dick Williams (HOF Manager) and have lunch with him once a week. Kinda cool huh?

    Buz –

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