Walk The Line
No matter how much baseball I watch, it's the little things that keep the game exciting, interesting and enjoyable to me. The moments that some people overlook are what I enjoy experiencing time and time again.
One of those moments occurred during last night's Detroit Tigers vs. Cleveland Indians game. In one of the best examples of high-level mental awareness, Tigers' catcher Brayan Pena watched a nubber off the bat of Nick Swisher trickle up the third base line in foul territory, picked it up when it crossed back into fair territory and tagged Swisher out.
Now we have all seen catchers rush to the line and pick up the ball or knock it left before it went fair. Pena did the opposite, but the reason behind his decision is where his tremendous mental awareness comes into play. Half way up the line, Pena looked back to see if Swisher had started running. If he had been running, I have no doubt that Pena would have picked up the ball in foul territory, bringing Swisher back to the plate. But he noticed that Swisher had already turned his back to the play and assumed it was a foul ball.
Pena, knowing that Swisher wasn't going anywhere, stood over the ball so that the event it rolled back into fair territory he was going to grab it and rush to tag Swisher out. And that is exactly what he did once the ball crossed back over the line.
To be honest, I'd be lying if I said that a smile didn't appear on my face the second it appeared on Pena's right before he made the tag. This play was the epitome of being aware of the situation and working harder than your opponent.
Catchers, always be thinking back there. Think about the situation, be aware of your surroundings, be conscious of what the players on the other team are doing and make sure it all goes into the decision you make. The more situations you see, the easier they become to recognize. The mental part of the game is not everything, but it is an incredibly important piece to the puzzle.