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Coral Gables A's Stories: Thunders [sic]

The return of Angel and La Flama Blanca? The Coral Gables A's always bring the heat.

The Coral Gables A's got Angel back this week

The Coral Gables A’s, America’s funniest men’s league baseball team, took on the Thunders Kings this past weekend. That’s correct. The Thunders Kings. Not the Thunder Kings. Not even the Thunder. No, sir. We took on the Thunders Kings, who are, shall we say, not fluent in English.


These guys can play a little bit, though. The Thunders Kings succeed based on their athleticism and aggression. Nearly everyone in their lineup can take second and third on you if they get on base and you’re not careful. They swing hard and early in the count, and usually try to hit line drives and ground balls in the hole. And they will do a whoooole lot of talking in the process if things are going right for them. If you’re undisciplined, don’t make the routine plays, and can’t limit their stolen bases, they will run you right off the field. The Thunders Kings aim to cause chaos, and they’re good at it.


Luckily for us, we got one of our horses back for this game.


Angel’s Return


Angel is one of our best starting pitchers; sometimes our very best. He is a big, hard-throwing lefty with a ton of movement on his fastball that causes hitters to beat it into the ground. His change-up is what he gets swings and misses with, and he’ll spin a curveball over once in a while just for a different look. But he’s mostly a fastball/change-up guy.


Angel is a cop who has been unavailable for the last handful of Sundays due to work-related commitments. Sometimes, when he hasn’t thrown in a while, his control will escape him. The plan was for him to go four or five innings as we ease him back into his usual workload, but we were aware that this might not be the nasty Angel we’re used to. His first inning would be telling.


After a leadoff base hit, Angel induced a 6-4-3 double play and another groundout to end the inning. Pumping strikes. Getting soft contact. The kid was back.


An Early Duel

Their pitcher matched Angel pitch for pitch in the early going. He was a righty who didn’t throw as hard as Angel, but had a quick, short-arm release and a lot of run on his fastball that made it hard to pick up until it was too late. His change-up and slider weren’t terrible either.


He retired six of the first seven batters he faced, while Angel retired six of the first eight, each across two scoreless innings. The bottom third of our order was what got the party started.


Friends in Low Places


It’s a luxury having such a deep lineup that the bottom of the order would be the middle of the order on most other teams. Alex, our catcher, started the inning with a hit-by-pitch. Two batters later, Cisco, a speedy outfielder, battled through a full-count walk. Their pitcher lost the zone after this. Juany, our leadoff hitter and centerfielder, walked to load the bases. Then I walked to bring in Alex. Then Nick, our third baseman and manager, walked to bring in Cisco. We were still without our first hit of the game, but concluded the third inning up 2-0.


One-Man Show(s)


Did we ever get our first hit the following inning. Matt, who you may remember hit the home run-that-wasn’t a few weeks ago, only to later hit a grand slam, led off the bottom of the fourth with a ball that would have gone 30 feet over the right-centerfield fence were it not for the gusts of wind blowing straight in at that moment. It hit the wall instead, making Matt settle for a double.


Although their pitcher had good stuff, he was dogshit at checking on runners. Matt saw an opportunity during the next batter and swiped third. Their catcher had an excellent arm, but there was nothing he could do. Matt slid in without a play.


The next two batters struck out. We were in danger of wasting a leadoff double. Not something you want to do against a team that can score in bunches like the Thunders Kings. Alex was the batter and had two strikes on him; they were one pitch away from stranding a man on third and reclaiming a good amount of momentum heading into the fifth. The pitcher delivered a breaking ball in the dirt that Alex managed to lay off, and it dribbled by the catcher. Matt never hesitated and broke for home. The catcher slid into the backstop, scooped up the ball, and fired it home to the pitcher covering the plate. Matt slid in safely, completing his unaided trip around the bases to make it 3-0. Sometimes, you have to do things yourself!


Speaking of doing things yourself, Angel had pretty much everything working through his first five innings. The Thunders are going to get on base. They’re too fast and too aggressive to keep completely in check. But Angel managed to scatter their hits and miss bats when he needed to. Through five, he allowed six hits, all singles, walked none, and punched out six, the final three coming consecutively in the fifth inning.

Angel was dealing for the Coral Gabes A's last Sunday

The one time something alarming happened was when their three-hole hitter got into one. He was a big lefty with a big swing, and in the fourth inning, Angel grooved a low-and-inside fastball that he tattooed into the right-centerfield gap. Much like Matt’s double of the previous inning, this ball is way gone without the pull of the wind. But on this day, you had to be David Ortiz to hit it out to right field. The ball hit the top of the wall.


Evidently, the big lefty thought his prodigious power could overcome Mother Nature’s influence. He pimped the shit out of this one, walking out of the box and going right into a slow home run trot heading to first. Cisco, who was playing right field, never gave up on it and played it off the wall beautifully. The hitter, once he saw his ball hadn’t left the yard, finally started running in an effort to at least get a double out of his A+ contact. Easier said than done when Cisco is in right. He scooped up the ball standing on the warning track and, in one fluid motion, uncorked a heat-seeking missile to second base. Matt caught it on the fly and applied the tag. He was out by at least 15 feet.


That is why, kids, you must absolutely, positively know your batted ball will be traveling over the fence before you act like a Big Leaguer. Otherwise, you might look like a jackass. Like their three-hole did.


One Too Many


Angel probably should have been done after five, as was our plan. He was feeling good, though, and said he wanted to stretch himself across one more inning if possible. We told him to go back out for the sixth, but that relief would be ready if he ran into trouble. That relief came in the form of…La Flama Blanca.


He got two quick outs before things went south. Angel gave up three consecutive hits, threw a wild pitch, and walked the last batter of his outing. Two runs had come across, and up walked none other than the big donkey lefty who had nearly gone deep off him his previous at bat.


Nick took a mound visit and pointed to me in left field. La Flama Blanca was in.


La Flama Blanca


It is I. I am La Flama Blanca. Why, you ask? Welp, first off, I’m white. Second, I throw pretty hard for men’s league. Finally, I love the show Eastbound & Down, in which the protagonist, Kenny Powers (Danny McBride), gives himself this moniker when he’s playing in Mexico. So there you have it. I seldom pitch, but you’re goddamn right I’m La Flama Blanca, and you’re fuckin’ out.


The score was 5-2 at this point. After Matt’s solo trip around the bases, Alex drew a one-out walk, a new guy named Jorge doubled to bring Alex in, and Cisco followed with another double to bring Jorge in. With two men on, the lefty represented the tying run.


This man was puuumped up. You know getting thrown out by about three social distances had to have stung. He was trying to leave no doubt this time around; he was trying to tie the game with one swing. This would be power vs. power.


First pitch, fastball. Probably, like, 105 MPH. Just high for ball one. Second pitch, fastball, around, say, 107 MPH, dotted on the inside corner, but the ump squeezes me! Everybody in the ballpark thought that was a strike except him. Whatever, we move on. Third pitch, another fastball, I’m guessing around 106 MPH, up again. 3-0.


This is usually a take situation for the hitter; I’ve yet to throw a strike. Their dugout threw that right out the door, however, making a big show about telling the hitter to swing away if he got a good pitch to hit. La Flama Blanca likes his odds here!


I throw a fastball right down Broadway. The lefty takes a mighty hack. Ball meets bat…and results in…a pop-up in foul territory that Matt ranges over to catch for the final out of the inning. La Flama Blanca always rises to the occasion.


Three More to Get


We tacked on three more runs in the bottom half of the sixth. Cisco brought in Brito, a catcher/outfielder, with a single, then I brought in Cisco and Jorge with another single. 8-2. This game started about 20 minutes late and there were some very slow innings due to pitching changes and a lot of traffic on the bases. The 3:00 time limit got reduced to 2:40 after the late start, and because of the slow pace, the umpires informed us we’d be done after the 7th. All I’d have to do was get three more outs to secure the victory.


My mentality here was to pitch to contact. We had a six-run lead. No need to make anything interesting by walking people. Let’s just throw the ball over the heart of the plate and see how hard they can hit it. I’ll let my defense work for me.


The first batter stroked a ball up the middle. The second batter took a hanging change-up and hit another laser to left field for a single. Alright, let’s maybe not pitch to too much contact. I struck out the next two batters. One more out to get. I walked the next batter, though I’m confident two of those balls caught the corner. The umpire had a shoebox-sized zone in this game. The bases were now loaded and I was one bad pitch away from making things decidedly hairy for the Coral Gables A’s.


There’s no way I was walking the hitter and starting a merry-go-round. I was going right after him. It would appear he was going right after me as well. On a 1-1 pitch, he took a low fastball and hit a laser back where it came from. It skipped off the grass in front of the mound and hopped up directly at my face. This must have activated a fight-or-flight response in me. I stabbed at it, more so in self-defense than with any baseball-related intention. It went right into the webbing of my glove; I like to think I played it off pretty well, even though I nearly shat myself.

Nearly. La Flama Blanca never shits himself. Everyone knows that.


I flipped the ball over to Dee at first base to end the game. Since I came in with a three-run lead, that right there was a four-out save.


A’s win by a final of 8-2, though it felt much closer than the score indicated.




Before I leave you, we need to talk about Nick. Nick, as he was this game, is our usual third batter. He doesn’t hit there because he’s the manager and he writes the lineup. He hits there because he’s one of our true ringers. He led the team in AVG, SLG, RBI, R, and hard hit % last season, while being tied with Amed, another ringer, for the team lead in home runs. Nick has power. Here's a clip of him crushing one in a tournament last year.


But this season, even with a .333 AVG and 39% hard-hit rate, he has yet to hit one out. He says he’s never failed to hit a home run in any season he’s played, and now he’s willing to put a little skin in the game. This was our text conversation before the game against the Thunders Kings. I felt like I did my part as a supportive teammate and friend...


Nick: BTW if I don’t hit at least one home run before the season is over I’m going to retire.


Me: You haven’t been even close. I don’t think you can do it.


Nick: I know. Lmao.


Me: I’d retire now. Sit with Isaac all game. (Isaac is our co-manager, who only plays in case of emergency)


Nick: We gotta do a bet! Dinner. If I hit one in the next 2 regular season games you take me and the wife out to dinner.


Me: By “season” do you mean the next two games or playoffs included?


Nick: Or to Regatta first round is on you. The next 2 games (Regatta is a popular Miami bar)


Me: Deal


Nick: Bet. Omg so nervy


I’d like to point out I was in the middle of typing the question about what he means by “season” when he sent the answer to my question, so I didn’t see what he said. I’m not stupid.


Nick grounded out, walked, and struck out his first three at bats last Sunday. His final at bat was his best chance at a homer. He smoked a ball right to the left fielder, who retreated a few steps to catch it. If he got more loft on it, it would’ve been gone for sure. Alas, Nick will have to wait another week for a chance at home run numero uno.


Will he finally send one? Will I be stuck buying him apple martinis, I’m assuming? Or will I be the one enjoying the fruits of Nick’s power outage? Tune in next week to find out, as we take on the Texas Rangers, who beat us early in the season on a walk-off!

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