By Anthony Frascogna
It was several years ago when I was fortunate enough to be coaching a talented team that made its way to the county’s high school baseball playoffs. Set to play a higher seeded team away, we were big underdogs — based on the pitching matchup.
Our coaches did their due diligence and scouted our opponent. In doing so, we realized they were extremely sloppy calling pitches — meaning, we could easily decipher what pitch their pitcher was going to throw.
We took note and had a plan in place for game day, should they continue to be sloppy with their calls. Quite bluntly, they were sloppy. We stole every pitch for the first three innings, built an insurmountable lead and defeated a previously undefeated pitcher.
As Major League Baseball gets rocked with a cheating scandal, coincidentally just as Martin Luther King, Jr. (It is always the right time to do the right thing) approaches, I immediately reflected back to that day.
It remains one of my fondest memories as a coach. Did we steal signs? YES WE DID! Did we cheat, no we did not. We did the work, we prepared, we were ready. The other team had every opportunity to do the same.
What transpired with the Houston Astros was blatant cheating, this is not about the evolution of the game or the repudiation of new school technology. It was bold face cheating, not just the teams they were playing but the game itself.
The beauty of baseball is the work you put into the game. The repetitions, the experience, the soul and the gut instinct of what years of paying attention will make you feel what’s going to happen next.
A quick backstory for those not up on the sports world:
The Houston Astros were caught stealing pitch signs and relaying them to batters in real time during home games, using high-tech video equipment and low-tech audio (banging garbage pails and whistling).
This scandal has directly affected the two local teams. The Mets have lost a manager, which is not that big a deal because, well, the Mets … and the Yankees may have lost out on a World Series in some way due to this unfair advantage.
You can also find video of Patchogue-Medford’s own Marcus Stroman, then pitching for the Toronto Blue Jays, being victimized by the scheme.
To my knowledge, Marcus, who now plays for the Mets, has no comment on the matter. Suspensions, fines, firings and further investigations are ongoing.
As always, sports can be used as somewhat of a looking glass into society as a whole. As, I’ll call it, maturity and all that comes with it, rains down upon me, it becomes more evident that the process — how you go about your business, your work ethic, your preparation, your relationships within those structures — are the most important things. The outcomes will be what they may.
These guys cheated the process. In trying to find a shortcut, they tarnished what positive outcomes they may have achieved. A good friend of mine, Mike Herrschaft, a man who used analytics before it was in vogue, always said baseball is overseen by a “Humble God.”
Brag about hitting, you are doomed for a slump. Don’t think you need to take ground balls — that will guarantee you an error. In fact, as soon as you think you are better than the game or you think you can take a shortcut, you will experience His wrath in some fashion.
Well, the Humble God has spoken. Amen.
Anthony Frascogna has been Patchogue-Medford’s head varsity baseball coach for nearly 20 years. He teaches physical education at Oregon Middle School in Medford. He grew up in Patchogue.