The wacky, and wonderful, AFL.
It’s Steve Cobb’s league. But for a few minutes on Saturday night, the Arizona Fall League was taken over by Robert Ripley.
There were two plays in close succession late in the Surprise-Salt River game of the sort never seen by Cobb, the veteran baseball man who is the AFL’s executive vice president. Or by anybody else. Ripley is the “Believe it or Not” guy, and the plays came right out of his twisted mind.
Weirdo No. 1:
Bases loaded, one out in the bottom of the ninth. Raimel Tapia, a frequent flyer, is the runner on third. Surprise protecting a 5-3 lead. Chris Rabago singles to right. Or does he? Bubba Starling fields the flare on one hop and lasers a throw to catcher Gary Sanchez to force Tapia at home.
Full disclosure: I’d seen the 9-2 force once, which still doesn’t make it ho-hum considering the tens of thousands of innings I’ve seen. And the circumstances were totally different.
In the mid-60s, Roberto Clemente deked Lou Brock into believing he was about to catch a one-out liner, made him tag up at third — then charged the ball to unleash a throw that erased Brock at the plate.
There was no deking last night. Routine avoid-getting-doubled-up-if-the-ball-is-caught decision, then take off, by Tapia. He was just nailed.
Weirdo No. 2:
A true never-seen-before. Jurickson Profar doubles with one out in the top of the 10th. Dustin Fowler goes in to run for him. So Profar is out of the game, but the Rafters have a plan to to get him out, period.
Salt River righty Carlos Estevez has his instructions. He toes the rubber, steps off the rubber … and tosses to first base to appeal that Profar had missed the bag.
Not quite. Estevez actually tosses way over first baseman Rowdy Tellez. Into the camera pit adjacent to the dugout. Umpire Clint Fagan holds up two fingers. Two-base error. Fowler is waved home, for Surprise’s winning run.
Seasoned baseball people departed Salt River Fields shaking their heads and muttering to themselves, “Never seen that before.”
Ah, the proof.
Baseball. It’s like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates.