By Dr. Rug
Lakers – Celtics.
Duke – North Carolina.
Seabiscuit – War Admiral.
Red Sox – Yankees.
Ali – Frazier.
All of the greatest athletes are ultimately defined by how they fare against their nemeses. In the case of the teams in the Yellowknife Fastball League, the real nemesis lies 200 kilometers to the southwest on the opposite shores of Great Slave Lake. Of course, I’m talking about the evil Hay River Heat. As I scroll through their line-up for the upcoming Territorial Championship, the roster alone is enough to make me cringe with disgust and outrage. Delorey, Power, Ashton, Rowe. The names are like fingernails on a chalkboard. It’s a veritable who’s who of the most hated players around. Don’t get me wrong, I respect their skills and their competitive will to win, but nonetheless, it would be better to lose 20 straight regular season games to Sub-Arctic than lose to Hay River once in a tournament. They bring out the best and the worst in Yellowknife Fastball players and this weekend is sure to be no different.
As the fastball teams from our great capital city head south today to enter the hostile territory of “The Hub” and descend on Pine Point Ball Park they will undoubtedly be greeted with jeers, taunts and ridicule… and that will be from the family section of the stands. On top of the venomous barbs that they will have to endure, they will also have to be at the top of their game if they hope to slay the Heat giant and bring the Territorial championship back home. The reason that this hatred exists is not because of the personalities of the Heat players, but instead, it lies more in our jealousy of the powerhouse team that Hay River has been able to assemble and the losses we’ve been forced to endure at their hands. In order to make sure that doesn’t happen again, I’m willing to put aside the petty league squabbles and offer up this simple three step blueprint of ‘How to Beat the Heat’ to all of the Yellowknife teams that are travelling south this weekend.
Step 1. Make their pitchers pitch.
Todd Ashton is still a force to be reckoned with on the mound but there is no denying that he’s on the downside of his career. Recent years have seen him losing a little movement on his rise ball and a lot of his stamina. As far as Floyd Daniels goes, I’m not saying that he is old per se, but he has been pitching since Al Cardinal was in high school. And Darcy Delorey may have a lot of zip on his fastball, but his control makes Rick Ankiel look accurate by comparison. Given these facts, the first key to beating the Heat is to take pitches, work the count, tire out their arms, and take your walks (I’m stealing a little from the Spencer’s Slo-Pitch playbook with that last tidbit of advice).
Step 2. Avoid the power in the line-up.
Of course I’m not talking about the Power brothers, by all means, pitch to Paul and Kenny as often as you can!! No, I’m talking about the meat of the order and the guys that can take you deep in a fraction of a second. While it isn’t necessary to walk them every time they come to the plate, you’d be best advised to avoid the heart of the plate against batters like Terry Webster, Jeff Boyce and Lyndon Antoine. If you’re going to make a mistake to any of those guys, make sure it is outside of the strike zone. That leads us to key number two to beating the Heat, avoid the sluggers in the line-up and make the weak links try to beat you.
Step 3. Don’t be intimidated.
The fans may be a tad bit intense south of the lake, especially when you’re used to the beauties that come out to our games, but don’t let them get to you. If you want to beat these guys, your attitude is half the battle. Walk into town like you own the place. Strut up to the plate like you’re Yoenis Cespedes at a home run derby. Roll into the dance on Saturday night like you’re Tony Manero and make all the Hay River ladies swoon. Much like the bully in the school yard, as soon as the Heat players realize that you’re no longer scared of them, they’re going to start questioning themselves. Mistakes will inevitably follow and before you know it they’ll be throwing the ball around like a hot potato and getting on their own teammates like Scooter at a Slo-Pitch game. Which is why we have key number three, show no fear.
The Heat may be good and they may have a few titles under their belts, but remember Yellowknifers, this is an opportunity to define our legacy. Follow these three simple steps and return home as a champion. We are the better city, we are the better players, and we are going to laugh in the face of adversity and win this Territorial title.
Do it for Yellowknife!!