MATTHEW OSBORNE: Bulldogs' family bond stays strong during rough game
A game that looked all day like it would be the beginning of a cruel summer turned into one incredible bananarama.
Ejected coaches, bad calls, highs and lows, mind games, clutch hits. If Saturday’s game did not entertain you, maybe baseball is just not your game.
Murphy’s contest with Uwharrie Charter Academy on Saturday afternoon had a bad vibe all day. After a 24-game undefeated run, something in the air felt final once the game got started.
The visitors were up emotionally after two days in town waiting out the rain – and apparently trash-talking in the hotels leading up to the postponed game as well. But after some early success, they were feeling good about backing it up.
Meanwhile, the locals needed a jump-start.
Steven Baker and Amie Clark – parents of Murphy senior Jeremiah Clark – have been running the public address and music for the varsity games for eight years.
No one can say they do not get into their work to try and hype the boys up. They also give unwavering support to their son and the entire team with every ounce of emotion they’ve got in the tank.
I have been to few games with these Bulldogs, but it’s clear the bond between this group of players, coaches and parents is strong.
So all the while in the press box, I honestly thought the game had the feel of a loss. I wondered what I would ask guys who might see their time on the diamond together for the last decade come to a sudden disappointing end.
However, perhaps as a symbol of this team’s resilience, Baker and Clark never gave up in the booth. While Dad maintained a cool, calm confidence that the Bulldogs would pull it out, Mom also was pledging her support to the end.
But it was clear she had at least considered whether this was the last time they would be in that place with that team.
The game was an emotional roller-coaster even before the dramatic seventh-inning comeback, followed by the craziest eighth inning for which you could even attempt to pen a script.
Uwharrie’s top two coaches got ejected for arguing questionable calls, which seemed to be in abundance against both teams all day. Coaches are not allowed to say that, but I am. Suspend me if you want, but the umpires were awful to both teams Saturday.
Murphy officials wisely sent escorts to walk the umpires to the cars to make sure there was no trouble from the visiting fans on the way home.
There were unkind words thrown around by players on both teams during the final handshake, but the Bulldogs got smart, started clapping in unison and headed for right field.
Murphy coach Adam Clonts talked about the boys keeping their composure, and that was certainly the key to the rally.
The true test of a champion is how you act, play and carry yourself when the chips are down.
Anyone can front-run and win by 10 runs over outmanned teams. But proving you can beat adversity at its darkest is the mark of a winner, and that’s a lesson you can apply far beyond the baseball field.
It is true both in life and in baseball that strength comes in leaning on each other, no matter what comes your way.
“We always knew we had each other’s backs,” Jeremiah Clark said. “It could have been our last baseball game, but I think that is what helped us push through and get those runs at the end.”
After it was over and everyone took a breath, Baker smiled and said, “We had them all the way.”
Maybe it is that confidence and belief in each other that made it so. The Bulldogs will need that in the regional and state finals if they are to win the 1A title that eluded them last year.
With a smile and a beautiful perspective, Clark may have said it best.
“We really wanted to fight and do it for each other, and not just for ourselves.”
Matthew Osborne is editor of the Cherokee Scout. You can reach him by phone, 837-5122; fax, 837-5832; and email, firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @cniozzy.