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Coral Gables A's Stories: Rivalry Week

The Coral Gables A's took on our biggest rivals this past weekend: South Dade Suela. The game did not disappoint.

Willy had a huge day at the plate and on the mound for the Coral Gables A's

The Coral Gables A’s are America’s funniest men’s league baseball team, in case you haven’t heard. They’ve been around for 20 some odd years, doing nothing but winning games with a group of the most, we’ll say “colorful,” personalities you’ve ever had the fortune, or misfortune, of meeting. When you have that many insoportables on one team, you’re bound to form a few rivalries.


The Coral Gables A’s have no shortage of rivalries.


Maybe the greatest one of them all is South Dade Suela. A good marker as to how seasoned an A’s player is is how many tours he’s served against Suela. These games usually go down to the wire and there is usually some sort of subplot that makes the game even spicier.


When I first started playing with the A’s, we were Suela’s daddy. No matter how much better they were than us on paper, both teams knew who would come out on top. Both teams knew who was going to make the play that ultimately made the difference. It was us. They have always had a younger, deeper, and more talented team; a huge chunk of their roster played professionally, while we have two or three, at the most. But baseball is a funny game and the Coral Gables A’s feature the funniest players of all. So we owned Suela.


Then things changed about three or four years ago. I can’t pinpoint exactly why, but for the last few years it’s been Suela who has made the winning plays. We try to play a couple national men’s league tournaments per year. They’re always there as well, and sure as shit, we always end up playing them in a winner-take-all playoff game, oftentimes the championship. Just like we’re back home.


The most recent time we played them in a tournament was in the championship. They won 1-0 in 11 innings. Their starter went all 11 innings and gave up one hit. And it was a questionable hit at that, I'm sure their scorebook marked it as an error, meaning he tossed a no-no. The winning run was scored on a two-out, bases-loaded infield single in which the hitter blew out his hamstring stretching for the first base bag. Tie goes to the runner, Suela wins.

The time before that was also a tournament championship game. They won 9-8 on back-to-back squeeze plays. The first to tie the game and the next to win it. By their 3rd and 4th batters. This is a typical Suela game, most of which also come with accusations and arguments related to cheating from both sides. It would be nice if we could just play baseball against them, but there always seems to be some rule-bending (breaking), and general Bush Leaguery.


South Dade Suela vs. the Coral Gables A’s is like 90s/00s Red Sox vs. Yankees, or 80s/90s Eagles vs. Cowboys. Two excellent teams who probably won’t send each other Christmas cards.


That’s who we played this past Sunday. As usual, the game had no shortage of fireworks.


The Skeleton Crew


Suela week is not the week you want to call in sick. Alas, the A’s roster was thin, to put it mildly. We were without our:


Starting 1B

Starting SS

Starting 3B

Starting C

No. 1-2-3-4 Starting Pitchers


We were also dealing with a litany of injuries, including:


Me (feet, oblique)

Nick (calf)

Willy, a P/UTIL (hip flexor)

Erwing, a 2B/SS (wrist)


We had eight rostered players. A C/OF named Jose, who we call Brito, brought a pitcher with him to at least give us a starting nine. And that’s it. Nine guys against big, bad Suela.


This is a formula to get your shit kicked in.


Starting Hot!

Suela brought a small army to this game. I think they might’ve legitimately had an MLB-sized roster of 26. Maybe more. Not exactly an easy assignment for the new guy Brito brought, a tall lefty who started the game.


First batter of the game: Four-pitch walk

Second batter of the game: Four-pitch walk

Third batter of the game: Falls behind 3-0, then the hitter swings. Infield single to load the bases.


By the third batter he was barely reaching the plate. He was not a hard thrower anyway, but something was clearly wrong, and worsening. Nick pulled him with the bases loaded and zero outs recorded. Insert Amed.


Amed is a hitter and outfielder first. He generally hits between 2nd and 4th in the lineup, where the ringers hit. But he also throws multiple pitches for strikes and can give you quality innings if you’re in a pinch. Bases loaded with no one out in the top of the first inning with a nine-man roster against Suela is about as big of a fucking pinch as you can find in men’s league.


Suela was locked in to start this game. Amed has had success against them in the past, but he wasn’t missing any bats this inning. All three of his inherited runs scored, then three more after that. It didn’t help that the lefty who started the game, who was now in right field, didn’t have the range to get to any balls hit to him. A pair of softly hit flyballs fell in front of him, both of which would’ve normally been caught. It was 6-0 when the top of the first inning finally came to a close.


One At a Time


Welp. Might as well fuck around and see if we can’t make a game of this, huh? Suela’s ace, the guy who threw an 11-inning 1-hitter against us in the aforementioned championship game, was not there this Sunday. They threw their no. 2, a righty sidearmer with good run on his fastball and a decent slider and changeup.


A little two-out rally saw us load the bases against him. Willy stepped to the plate. Willy was far and away the unluckiest hitter in our lineup last season. He hit the ball hard 41.3 percent of the time, which is very good, but hit .206, which is very bad. Luck tends to even out eventually in baseball, though. Willy is hitting the ball hard once again this season (42.8%), but is now hitting .321; much more in-line with his hard-hitting ways. This continued against Suela.


Willy got a fastball up and drilled it into the left centerfield gap, which cleared the bases. 6-3. Our backs were still up against the wall, but at least we were showing some fight. The double is below:

Suela Being Suela


Suela was on everything this game. Amed’s off-speed is how he gets outs. He mixes in a curveball and splitter and throws them both for strikes in basically any count. He was fooling precisely zero people this game, and eventually, he may have figured out why.


Suela brought a new first base coach for this game. We know pretty much everyone on their team, but no one recognized this guy. Well as it turns out, homeboy was standing extremely close to the first base line from the very first pitch. As in, close enough to maybe take a peak at the catcher’s signs. He wouldn’t look at the catcher with men on base, however. With men on, his eyes would be locked in on Amed’s grip while he was in the stretch position.


He was relaying the signs to the hitter. And Amed caught on. A lot of words were exchanged in the first few innings between Amed and this coach.


Here’s the thing, though. Stealing signs is part of the game. If Amed is adjusting his grip before he puts the ball into the glove in the set position, or if Brito, the catcher, is keeping his legs too far open, then it’s on them to clean that up. The problem is how blatant Suela was about it. As in, literally calling out what pitch was coming, or giving an obvious indicator like “stay back” when a breaking ball was called. That’s the Bush League part. It’s on us to hide our signs. But you’re just asking for a hitter to wear one in the ribs if you’re gonna call things out pre-pitch like that. This, unfortunately, is how Suela often operates. Which is unnecessary when you consider how good they are.

They tacked on a run in the 2nd and two in the 3rd, largely by smoking breaking balls that they were perfectly on time for. 9-3 them.


El Yuca Rises

Yuca is synonymous with the Coral Gables A's

All it takes is one game played against the A’s to know who Yuca is. Even if you don’t know we call him Yuca, you’ll know “that jacked, loud dude.” Yuca is in his 50s and has played with the A’s nearly since their inception. His real name is Jose. Yuca is an acronym, the nickname does not refer to the sweet, stringy, potato-like food that is popular in most Latin cultures. It stands for Young Urban Cuban American, a nickname given to people like Jose when he was a youngin.


He is the spirit of the A’s. Our Udonis Haslem. The one to pull you aside to tell you to stop being a bitch. The first one out of the dugout if any sort of hullabaloo is going on. The one who, believe it or not, can still be relied upon for a big at bat late in a game. He’s dubbed himself Mr. RBI. He’s even had t-shirts made (he wears a skin-tight shmedium so he can show off the guns, of course). The photo below is from a tournament after a rare instance in which he did not come through when we needed him. There’s only one Yuca. El Yuca is eternal.

Yuca may not always come through, but he'll always be one with the Coral Gables A's

Yuca moved to Colorado for work a few years ago, but will still fly over to play with us in tournaments. This weekend was one of the rare ones when he was back in Miami due to a family matter he had to attend to. So of course, he’s gonna make some time to come see the boys. What better week to do it than Suela week?


Yuca showed up in street clothes near the end of the 3rd inning, amidst us getting our asses kicked. He avoided the itch to play for about five minutes before he started asking if anyone had extra pants and cleats. He found an extra pair of pants from…Suela’s starting pitcher (that team is simultaneously so nice and so annoying it’s so frustrating!) and an extra pair of cleats from Matt (our grand slam masher from last week). The starting pitcher/right fielder who was hurting us in the worst ways? Replaced by Yuca.


This is when the tide really turned.


Taking What’s Given to Us


The home plate umpire had a tight zone; this wasn’t a Jazz Hands game, thank the good Lord. Their starter wasn’t getting that backdoor slider or front door two-seamer calls he usually gets. He got into some long counts and lost a few batters, which gave us life.


Yuca, of course, got it started. Coming up with the bases loaded, he punched a ground ball to the third baseman’s left. There was no play at home. The only play was at first, but a bobble allowed Yuca to reach safely. It isn’t always pretty, but Mr. RBI usually finds a way to get us on the board.


Juany was the next big at bat, lofting a bloop single over second that brought in two. They pulled the starter with the bases loaded after having allowed three runs, bringing in a crafty lefty of theirs who we’ve always hit well. This man was not ready for the jam he inherited. He too couldn’t find the zone. The merry-go-round was in full effect now. The lefty was pulled in the same inning.


The third and final pitcher of the inning was an 18-year-old kid who just got released. I’m not sure by what organization. We heard he’d be around 92-93, but he certainly was not. He was around 87-88, maybe. He got the final out of the inning. The score was now 9-7.


Amed settled in and came through with a huge scoreless inning in the top half of the 4th. We came up against the young flamethrower again in the bottom half. Luckily for us, he too started to lose his feel for the strike zone.


Three walks, a passed ball, and a ground ball hit by Juany made it 9-all. We got ourselves a ballgame.


Is That Keith Hernandez???

Amed continued to make quality pitches the following inning, but needed the help of an unlikely source...yep, El Yuca. He rarely plays the field anymore, but seeing as we had only nine players, he had to. Our defensive alignment worked a little better with someone else in right field and Yuca at first base, so that’s where we stuck him.


Two men were on base. Amed was hanging in there even after having allowed a run that inning already, but was running out of steam. The score was 10-9. A lefty of theirs hits a sharp groundball down the line. Yuca, somehow, snags it as he lays out to his left. Full extension dive. He then rolls over onto his butt and makes a perfect throw to Amed, who bounced off the mound to cover the bag. Out by a hair. Yuca hasn’t done something this athletic since the Reagan administration. But he did. And we didn’t even have to call an ambulance.


10-9. Heading into the bottom of the 5th.

Keep Fighting

Suela’s young gun was relieved by a big junkballer. A truly massive righty who lived off his breaking stuff. We haven’t faced him too often, so there wasn’t much of a scouting report other than he loves his slider.


Amed got us started with a bang, scorching a ball into the gap for a double. Matt followed suit and ripped a ball through the 5-6 hole for a single, though it was hit too hard to score Amed from second. Willy took a page out of last season’s playbook by barreling up a ball right at someone, in this case the shortstop. Awful luck. One out. Brito drew a walk to load the bases. Erwing then came up with one of the key at bats of the game, fighting off pitches, laying off breaking ball after breaking ball. Walk. Tie game. 10-10.


Yuca then came up and nearly gave us the lead on something we call the “Yuca Special.” That is, a bloop single over second or first. I don’t know if these hits are a skill, but if they are, Yuca is a savant. Alas, the charging centerfielder was able to snag it when the second baseman couldn’t get there. Matt, who was on third, decided to take a chance and tag up. Although the centerfielder was shallow, he had to come in to his left to catch this ball. He’d have to immediately change direction and make a 170-foot throw in order to get Matt, who runs well. Suela almost always makes the big plays on defense, though. He spun after the catch and fired a one-hop bullet to the waiting catcher, who put the tag on Matt. Out on a bang-bang play. It was a calculated risk that we unfortunately came up short on.


End of the inning. 10-all.


A’s Magic


Amed was done after five innings, replaced by Willy, who slings it a little bit above submarine level. A lot of ground balls, a lot of soft contact. After striking out the first batter, he allowed a walk and a base hit. We were notified by the umpires before the start of the inning that this would be it for this game. We play with a three-hour time limit. When you combine for 20 runs and spend about half an hour screaming at each other over sign-stealing, there’s a good chance you won’t finish all nine innings. This game would be over after six.


Willy made the biggest pitch of the game with a man on first and third and two outs, inducing a 6-4-3 double play. Scored still tied, heading into our final at bat.


Top of the order. Junkballer still junking it up. Juany starts the inning with a groundout. I’m up.

Be Smarter, Sheehan


I am not feeling great in this moment. I mentioned earlier the injuries we were dealing with across the diamond. Mine were to my feet and oblique. The feet thing occurred because, sometimes, I am a big fat moron. By big fat moron, I mean doing barefoot running drills on a turf field at high noon. Barefoot running? Very good for you. Highly recommend. Doing them on scorching hot turf? Very bad for you. Don’t recommend. I thought to myself, “Eh, it’s a little hot but I’ll be alright.” There were no issues for the first few minutes of running, then things started to hurt, a lot. After about 10 minutes I was done. My feet? Covered in blisters. Deep ones. Like, the size of goddamn quarters.


I legitimately didn’t know if I was going to be able to play on Sunday, seeing as this happened Saturday. I could barely walk when I left the turf, let alone run. I drove straight to CVS and bought every ointment and bandage I could find, hoping this might be able to save me for the following day’s game.


I showed up rocking New Skin liquid bandages, Band-Aids, pre-wrap, and athletic tape on each foot. Basically from toe to heel. This made it juuuust tolerable enough for me to run at about 60%, as long as it was in a straight line. Needless to say, I wasn’t about to steal any base.


By the time I got to my final at bat, though, the series of tapes and bandages had moved throughout the course of the game. I was hurting.


As for my oblique, hell if I know what happened. I felt a subtle stabbing sensation around the right side of my ribcage after I took my first in-game swing of the day, and it never went away. Each at bat afforded me about one good hack. After that, I was probably going to be compromised.


One swing. Make it count.



I hadn’t faced this junkballer yet in this game, so I asked around for a scouting report. I went right to Erwing, who had the longest at bat against him, drawing a walk to tie the game the inning prior. “He threw me one fastball, the rest were breaking balls,” he told me. This was with the bases loaded.


I thought, if he’s living off breaking stuff with the bases loaded, there’s no way I’m seeing anything else with one out and nobody on base.


First pitch, sure enough, a slider. High. Ball one.


Fastball incoming? Nah. Maybe as a surprise with two strikes, but he’s gonna trust his bread-and-butter pitch here, even if he just missed with it.


Slider again. Low and over the heart of the plate. I take an A+ swing; a swing to do damage. And that’s what happened.


Walk-off home run to right center. Wayyyyyy outta here. Bad feet and oblique be damned. Look, I’m not saying I’m the new Kirk Gibson, but I’m not saying I’m not the new Kirk Gibson, ya know?


9 men. The return of El Yuca. A Suela army. Sign-stealing. Zero outs recorded by our starter. Down by six in the first inning. Injuries all around. And we managed to win a ballgame.


The Coral Gables A’s never fail to entertain, and games against Suela are often when we’re at our most entertaining. We now move to 8-1 and first place in the standings as we inch closer to playoff time.


We’ll be off for the next two weeks due to byes and Easter Sunday. Stay tuned as we take on the (men’s league) Texas Rangers next time out; the only team we’ve lost to this season!


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