Yankee Stadium, Bottom of the 9th

corey-koskie-baseball-mlbCorey Koskie is not only a 9-year veteran of the MLB and friend of iSport360, but with four sons, he’s coached more youth sports than anyone I know.  His philosophy on youth sports and coaching is in lock step with us and we’re thrilled he shared this story:

2004 Yankee Stadium ALDS—Bottom of the 9th

Going into the bottom of the 9th we were up 3-0. 

I remember thinking, “I hope they don’t hit the ball to me. I don’t want to be the guy that starts the Yankee Train.” 

Yankee Stadium in the playoffs can be the most intimidating place on earth!  Especially when the crowd starts to feel the Yankees have a chance to do something. I have seen 14-year Major league vets look like a little leaguer who is completely lost as they can’t handle the pressure of the situation.

Our left-handed closer Eddie Guardado was in the game to shut the Yankees down. Eddie overpowered the hitters with heart. A typical closer threw anywhere from 96-99 MPH. He threw 91 MPH and wasn’t afraid to challenge anybody! He portrayed the essence of compete, he was an average pitcher that competed with heart and grit to make him an all-star. Eddie wasn’t afraid to challenge the hitter and throw a fastball. What does this mean? Switch hitters would hit right-handed and I would get the hard hit balls.

The bottom of the 9th started with All-star Bernie Williams swinging at the first pitch and getting a base hit to right.  Hideki Matsui(also know as Godzilla) was up next, he also swung at the 1st pitch and flew out to LF. 

“2 pitches, 1 out, runner on first, up by 3. We are still good” 

Next batter Aaron Boone hits a double down the LF line. The crowd erupts because the Yankee train is starting to roll.

“Runners on 2nd and 3rd, 1 out, tying run is at the plate. 1 swing of the bat and the game is tied.”

This is where your mind starts to play tricks on you. You start to feel the pressure of the situation. I have every fan down the 3rd base line screaming at me trying to get into my head. I look at the big screen to see who we have to face. Ruben Sierra, Alfonso Soriano, Nick Johnson, Derek Jeter.  

“Oh boy, Sierra and Soriano are pull-hitters and hit missile my way.”

“If they get Jeter up we are done.”

This is where negative thoughts and your insecurities can creep in, especially at this time of the day at Yankee Stadium.  The sun was setting, going behind the arches on Yankee field.  It was very difficult to see the ball off the bat because the ball would go from shadow to sunlight 5 times before it got to the infield dirt.  “what if …… , Can you really …… , don’t screw up ……”  The way I would battle this; as the pitcher wound up I would say to myself over and over and over “ground ball right here, ground ball right here,  ground ball right here.”

Sierra hits a flyball to RF… 2 out.

“OK, 1 out away from game over… Dang it Soriano… go get it, go get it, go get it.” 

The reason I said that to myself is that Soriano had an uppercut swing and hit some very tough balls to 3rd. Top spin missiles would eat up 3rd basemen all through the league.

Soriano gets a single: 2 out score is 3-1 with the tying run on 1st and winning run hitting, Jeter on DECK…

“OH BOY,  we gotta get this one,  at least he is not a righty. The chances of him hitting the ball to me is small, I wish I could see better.”

Sure enough with 2 strikes, Nick hits a ball off the end of the ball to me at 3rd base…

I froze for a second to try to find the ball

“GO FOR IT!“

I knew it wasn’t hit hard so I charged. I saw the ball as it came out of the shadows.

“I have to get this ball in the light or I am screwed.”

The ball bounced in and out of the shadows as I was charging in blind. The ball came out of the shadows into the light I was getting close enough to make a play and then it disappeared into the shadow. 

“Argh, I can’t see it, do I slow down to get it in the light; if I do that he might have a chance to beat it out… what do I do… SCREW IT… GO FOR IT.”

Based on the speed of the ball, the height of bounces, the angle the ball was on as it was going down into the shadow I took a swipe at where I thought the ball would be. I got it right. I caught the ball on the short hop. 

“Phew… got’em.“ 

I threw the ball to first. GAME OVER TWINS WIN. 

Point of the story… ‘Nervousness and Jitters’ are alright. They get you focused and ready. You have prepared all year for this moment…

GO FOR IT.

Don’t sit back and play not to lose. Go for it and ‘Play to Win!’