We caught up with former Rider University pitching prospect (and current beer-league co-ed softball teammate), Tim Young, to kick off the baseball season by recounting his brush with greatness from his college playing days.
As a Freshman in 1998 Young had the opportunity to start on the mound against the 1998 Collegiate Baseball National Player of the Year and consensus All-American, current Texas Ranger melonhead Kevin Mench. That year Mench lead the NCAA with 33 homers and drove in 72 runs for the Delaware Blue Hens.
If I could just start a little before the game. I had pitched in a few games already, but never started. This was my first start in college (because it wasn't a conference game and didn't mean anything to the team). Also, it was the catcher's first time first time catching in a live game. I had known this newly converted catcher for many years, as we grew up playing baseball against each other. He was a great pitcher, but an even better hitter. In order to get him into the lineup (I suspect), they made him into a catcher.
Anyway, on the hour long trip to Delaware in our schools Ford Econoline vans, my teammates are mentioning that this guy, Mench, is leading the nation in home runs plays for Delaware. Those things didn't bother me, in fact, it motivates me. Getting this Mench guy out would be a good story for my friends and maybe I could gain a little respect in the eyes of my teammates and coaches.
Now you will have to forgive me for not knowing all of the facts but this was ten years ago, plus there was only one part of the story (three times) that it worth mentioning.
When Kevin Mench steps to the plate you can't help but notice the size of this guy. Big guy, reminds me of the players from the Gas-House Gorillas (Bugs Bunny).
I can't say whether or not I was ahead of him in the count but one thing is for sure, there were two strikes. Next pitch is going to be a curve ball in the dirt (now that I think about it, I had to have been ahead of the count because you wouldn't throw a ball in the dirt purposely unless you are ahead). Mench swings and misses. I have a sigh of relief. Then I see my catchers back as he runs behind home plate and Mench taking off to first base. I don't remember if there was a throw to first or not but I do remember he made it safe. Oh well...it's still a strike out. New catcher, first time starting, we can let this one slide.
The second plate appearance by Mench is much like the first. I get ahead of him in the count. I have two strikes on him. Time for an off-speed pitch in the dirt. I can't tell you if it was a curveball or a change-up, but I can tell you that he swung...and missed...and made it to first base again on a K E-2 (strike out swinging, error on the catcher) in the books. I couldn't help but smile but COME ON! Two times to the same batter, and this is the only guy on their team that I WANT to strike out and send back to the dugout.
With out getting into specifics, it happened again. Two strikes, blah blah...ahead in the count, blah blah...strike three in the dirt and blah blah...guess who is on first again.
I didn't have much of a college career but I do have a good story to tell. I struck out a major league baseball player three times. That's my unfortunate claim to fame. And until the sports world starts recognizing "Beer League" softball and Quoits, it's probably going to be my only claim to fame.
I'm sure Mench doesn't have a clue who I am and probably doesn't even remember the game, but I do. How can you not tell that story after seeing the guy playing on TV?
I see the catcher from the game every once in a while at the local watering holes and we can't help mentioning it after a few sips of our beers. Good times.
We searched like hell for a box score and news clipping of the game, to no avail. However, the Rider University Sports Information Director did confirm the following:
"At this time I can confirm that Tim Young pitched one season for Rider, in 1998 as a freshman, and did receive the decision (11-3 loss) in the Rider game at Delaware. He gave up 10 runs (5 earned)... Mench did play in that game but I have not found a box score or the scorebook."
That's good enough in our book.
I (Ren) also have a story tangentially related to this.
I also grew up playing ball against the catcher referenced by Tim. In a Babe Ruth League game he was playing short, I was standing on second in a game in which we were being blown out. The pitcher was a high school classmate of mine, a real shyster, who incidentally also ended up going to Rider. I'm taking a lead and chatting up the Catcher (playing short) and the ump (who happened to grow up with each of our fathers). Again, a blow out, no one's really very into the game. My buddy, the shyster pitcher, decides to collude with the second baseman and pick me off. Frozen, still mid-conversation with the ump and shortstop/catcher, the three of us are bewildered while everyone else in the field, in the dugouts and in the stands are waiting for the ump to make a call. His call, "Timeout. Time was out."
Special thanks to Young and the Rider University Athletic Department & Director of Sports Information.