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Eric takes on … the Bullfrogs

July 17, 2001|By ERIC GALVAN, Sports Writer

I think I can now officially call myself one of the boys of summer.

No, I'm not going to bust out with that old Don Henley song, but I'm gonna bust out with my newfound professional baseball hitting prowess.

It may be almost every person's dream to take on a professional athlete. Whether it's going one-on-one with Michael Jordan or trying to send some heat past Mark McGwire, or even shooting a round of golf with Tiger Woods, challenging a pro is something most people would want to do.

Well, this weekend I got a little taste of that as I took on the Yuma Bullfrogs, our area independent professional baseball team.

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The Bullfrogs may not be the most famous of baseball teams and their players may not be household names, but these guys are professional baseball players for a reason.

On Friday I went to a game at Sun Desert Stadium in Yuma to get a feel for the 'Frogs and had a chance to talk to former Brawley Union High baseball standout Tim Howard, who now plays left field for Yuma.

I also talked to Bullfrog manager Bill Plummer, who played for the Cincinnati Reds in the 1970s and managed the Seattle Mariners in 1992.

I asked him if it'd be cool if I took a little batting practice with the team Saturday, something with which he had no problem.

As I was driving to Yuma I kept telling myself that I was gonna have fun and not worry about how I did. When I pulled into the players' parking area I kept uttering that to myself: "Have fun. Just have fun and don't worry about anything."

When I walked onto the field from right field the whole team was out there. Guys in the outfield were shagging balls, infielders were taking grounders and other guys were taking BP. I stopped and looked around and while it wasn't a major league ball park, there was something about that moment that was just awesome.

As I was in the outfield I started talking with Tim and all of a sudden a guy ran up to me and said, "Are you the newspaper guy?" I said, "Yup." He looked at me and said, "Come on, you're up."

I thought, "Already? I haven't even been on the field five minutes and I already have to step inside the cage."

Nerves started kicking in as the whole "have fun" idea escaped me. As I was walking to the cage I heard Tim shout out, "Don't make the Valley look bad, man!"

If there was any trace of having fun left it was kicked out of my system and replaced by pressure, thanks to the reassuring words of Tim.

As I was standing on the side of the cage stretching a little, Tim and a few of the other guys jogged in. As soon as they got to the cage "Plum" informed Tim that I'd be hitting with his group, to which Tim responded with an even more assuring, "Aw, man!"

So it was with that "Aw, man" that I knew I'd have to put on a hitting display. I walked to the other side of the cage and picked up a bat and started taking practice swings and one of the players by me said, "You can't use that bat." I thought, damn, I must've picked up someone's "Wonderboy." So I kindly put it down. He told me it was a game bat, that's why I couldn't use it.

I finally got a bat I could use and stepped into the cage. With all eyes on me I again heard Tim say, "Come on man, don't make the Valley look bad." Then I heard Plum say, "You have to bunt first."

I thought to myself, "Bunt? I'm a natural power pull hitter and this guy wants me to bunt?" So as I took the pitch from pitching coach Chris White, who was throwing about 70 mph, I dropped a fairly decent bunt on my first attempt. On my second bunt, though, the ball was a little high and inside and as soon as I made contact the ball bounced back a little and skinned some of my head.

As soon as that happened I heard some laughs and some "oohs" from the players. Then Plum said I was free to swing away. I was given 10 swings to get something done and try to not look like a fool.

My first swing was a miss, as was my second and third. But I finally made contact on my fourth swing, which in a real game would've been a pop out to shallow center.

I took a few balls and Plum started getting on me, saying I needed to swing at some of those because I was taking away his players' at-bats. I responded by saying I was just waiting for my pitch.

As soon as I said that, I swung and missed. After that I connected a couple of times, but fouled the balls straight up.

Tim then decided to refer to me as Wille Mayes Hayes, a character played by Wesley Snipes who did the same thing in the movie "Major League."

As my swing count was dwindling I started getting in my groove as I knocked what would've been a single to shallow right center. It was with two swings left that I came through with my best hit as I ripped a shot down the third base line that the fellas said would've been a double. I was pretty happy about that and followed that with another swing and miss to complete my 10 swings.

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