A Turning Point
In a baseball team’s season, there can be defining moments. Moments in which the team’s performance and results turn 180 degrees — either from success to failure or failure to success. The 2012 Norfolk Tides had such a radical shift in results. On June 12, the Tides completed a 3-5 eight-game road trip to upstate New York, with a season record of 29-38. After a day off, they took the field against the Toledo Mud Hens. Beginning with that June 14 game, the Tides have gone 18-7, moving to an overall record of 47-45 and trailing the first-place Charlotte Knights by only three games.
With such a substantial turnaround, the obvious question is “Did something happen in that June 14 that triggered the change? Was there a play that, in retrospect, started a shift in thinking to “Yes, we can win it”? As it happens, there may have been one in that June 14 game.
The Tides took a 1-0 lead in the first inning, after which Mud Hen starter Adam Wilk faced the minimum fifteen batters during the second through the sixth innings. Norfolk starter Miguel Gonzalez was as impressive in his five innings, with the exception of three-batter stretch in the second inning in which he surrendered two runs on a single, double, and single. With the Tides trailing 2-1 going into the bottom of the seventh inning and producing virtually no offense, it looked like another defeat.
But our hopes were lifted when Lew Ford smote Wilk’s first pitch of the inning down the right-field line for a double. And Miguel Tejada lined the second pitch he saw from Wilk down the left-field line. Ford raced around third to score the tying run. Our elation turned to disappointed resignation when the slow-moving Tejada was thrown out trying to stretch the double into a double. We now prepared for a long extra-inning game, probably ending in defeat.
Bill Hall came to the plate. He hit the first pitch on a high fly to right field. The ball kept carrying and carrying, until it struck the roof of the party deck for a tie-breaking home run! And Norfolk relievers Rich Rundles and Pat Neshek retired the Mud Hens in order to preserve the win.
As I mentioned earlier, this game was the first win in an 18-7 stretch that has brought the Tides into contention. If the Tides remain in contention, or (gasp!) even win the division or make the post-season, I’ll think of Bill Hall’s home run as the moment that turned the season around.