Remember that name. Billy Moon.
Last night I went to a collegiate summer league baseball game, West Coast League. The Wenatchee AppleSox at home vs. the Portland Stars. I showed up at the middle of the third inning, and the score was already 4-1 in favor of the home Sox. I got the last available “premium seat” ticket for $9. That nine dollars put me in row B, seat 30. If you’ve never been to the Wenatchee Valley College ballpark, officially called the Paul Thomas Sr Field, you won’t know that row B, seat 30 is about 20 feet directly behind home plate.
Sitting that close to a baseball game, you hear a lot. You hear the smack of the ball into the leather of the catcher’s glove. You hear the first base coach yell “running on swing” when the bases are loaded, two outs, 3-2 count. You hear the home plate umpire call each ball – including the “outside,” “low,” “in.” Of course, when you’re in Wenatchee, you also hear the guy behind you talk about buying a used auger for $700 to dig 1800 holes to plant a new orchard, and fighting with his wife about whether he should’ve rented one instead.
And you see things you wouldn’t see at a major league game.
Like the Mustard vs. Ketchup Race, where two volunteers from the crowd run behind the outfield fence carrying giant pictures of condiment bottles. (Hint: it’s rigged.) Or the Red Lion Inn Kids’ Choir (aka every kid under age 12 at the ballpark) gathering on the mound to sing Take Me Out to the Ballgame during the seventh inning stretch. Or the two umpires officiating the game – yes, only two. One behind the plate, of course, and one who rotates around the field depending on the play. Behind first if there’s no one on. Between first and the mound if the runner’s on first. Near short if he’s on second. Tonight’s single field umpire is a man who is at least as wide as he is tall. But he hustles out there and makes the calls – stolen bases, a close play at third, a tag coming down the line to first, a shoestring catch in left center.
There’s one other thing that happens tonight that you won’t see in the majors. Before I get to that, let me catch you up on the game. The home AppleSox play a couple of sloppy defensive innings and let the Stars back in the game, make it only a one run advantage for the Sox, 5-4. Then they respond and add two unearned runs, 7-4. The seventh and eighth are tight with some nice catches in the outfield, and they take that three run lead into the top ninth.
Now, one kid I notice is the right fielder for the home team, Billy Moon. I notice him for two reasons: One, he has a couple of key hits and good plays out in right. Two, every time Mr Moon comes to the plate, the guy sitting next to me yells out a hearty “Willllll-iammm!” As the home team takes the field for the top ninth, the announcer calls the new pitcher’s name.
“And pitching for the AppleSox is number seven, Billy Moon!”
I turn to the guy next to me. “Excuse me. Did I hear that right? The kid playing right field is coming in to close the game?” That’s when I find out he was Mr Moon’s high school coach, in town with his team for a high school tournament. “Yeah,” he says proudly. “They’ve used him that way a lot this year.”
Mr Moon shuts the door. Three up, three down. Takes the ball, throws the ball. Eleven pitches. A live fastball that has major league movement. Makes the three hitters look much, much worse than they are. After playing eight innings in right field.
So I’m just saying, as you watch the majors over the next few years, keep your eyes and ears open. And remember that name – Billy Moon. I have a feeling you’re going to hear it again.