By Ryan Divish/Havre Daily News Sports Editoremail@example.com
I don't know if I would call it a hit. You could call it a flare, a gork, a dying quail or a Texas leaguer, I tried to call it an error. But for Dusty Heath, that little looping pop fly that found the grass at the Sixth Avenue Memorial Softball Field was good enough to earn him a spot as the guest picker on this week's Armchair Quarterbacks.
It started last year when Dusty e-mailed me asking to be a guest picker. At that point in the year, we had already filled up all of our slots for the remaining weeks. But after coaching baseball with and playing softball against him all summer, he continually hounded me about being a guest picker.
So I made him a promise, if he got a base hit off of me during fast pitch, I'd let him make an appearance in the paper.
And it happened. Don't ask me how. His buddy and teammate Steve Heberly joked that I made the mistake of throwing it where Dusty was swinging.
It was the second to the last game of the season and I remember the count and the exact pitch. I had gotten two quick strikes on Dusty by throwing a pair of rise balls over his head that he promptly swung at. It was the like the line in "A League of Their Own," when Geena Davis tells the pitcher how to pitch to her sister, "High fastballs, can't touch them, can't lay off them."
I'd been throwing pitches right at eye level all season to Dusty and he just couldn't stop himself from swinging at them. I was pretty sure I was going to strike him out. He fought off two more pitches above the letters and watched a change-up in the dirt.
So instead of going back and throwing another pitch at eye level, I tried to get cute and sneak a drop ball past him on the inside. I thought he was looking for something high. I thought the drop ball would fool him. I thought wrong. To steal a line from the movie "Bull Durham,"
"Don't think, it will only hurt the ball club."
Dusty golfed the drop ball softly out into the outfield. It seemed like our second baseman had a broken leg or is just the slowest man on the face of the earth. And our two outfielders in the vicinity? Well, one had to be watching cars go by on Fifth Avenue and the other was busy swatting mosquitoes.
"It goes down as a line drive in the book," Dusty said with great pride. "I almost had two hits off you that game, but the second one was an error."
Dusty honestly thought there would be a third hit in the game, as in me hitting him with a fastball in the ribs when he got up the next time.
"I really did think you were going to hit me," he admitted. "Especially because I was talking trash about getting a hit off you."
In my younger days, I probably would have tried to tattoo some seam marks in Dusty's ribs or leave a Dudley logo in the small of his back. But I have mellowed considerably in my old age. Yeah right. I tried hitting him, but he is quite nimble in the batter's box.
It must be from his days spent working at Northwinds Athletic Club. Not that you would know it by looking at him. Once after running some conditioning drills with the Havre Comets, Dusty in between gasps for breaths, said, "I have got to get into some shape."
It's seemed like a strange comment for a guy that spent most of his days at a health club. When I asked him about it, he replied, "I don't like lifting weights, they're too heavy."
You know on TV and in movies when they show a gym, they show some man or woman that looks like they lifted too many weights, took too many steroids, spent too much time in the tanning booth and and ate too little food. But that's not Dusty.
"You'd think the person that works in the club would be in great shape," he joked "But what I do is make everybody feel better about themselves when they are in the working out by looking at me."
However, Dusty is changing his ways starting next week when he starts a lifting program with his little brother, Bryan.
"I am getting a little soggy in the midsection," he said. "Plus, I'm need to get him stronger so he isn't such a sissy-boy."
Speaking of sissy-boys, the Bobcats are not one of Dusty's favorite teams, which is always good.
"I despise the Bobcats," he said. "They win two games and all of the sudden everybody is a Cat fan. Where were they when they lost 16 straight?"
"What's worse is that all of my friends go to school in Bozeman," he added. "Steve and I get into real arguments over the Cats and the Griz."
While Dusty may despise the Bobcats, he is a die-hard St. Louis Cardinal fan. So, you can imagine how much I heard about the Cardinals all season.
"They are going to in the World Series and nobody can tell me different," he said. "They have the most potent offense and the best defense in baseball."
And their pitching?
"They have the most potent offense and the best defense in baseball," he repeated.
And their pitching?
"It's starting to get better," he said.
As for Dusty's picks he went with very few upsets in the high school section. H did go with Box Elder over Blue Sky/KG and did take Billings West in the big Class AA showdown. In the college section, he went with Iowa over Michigan and Oregon State over Arizona State. He also took Colorado State as a slight favorite over MSU.
"They're going to beat them by 50," he laughed.
In the NFL, he stayed with mostly home teams, but did take Green Bay in an upset over Indianapolis and the Bengals over the Ravens. He also took his beloved Raiders over Tampa Bay.
"I love the Raiders," he said. "My grandpa gave me a Raiders sign when I was a kid."
My theory of Raiders fans all being a little off psychologically is holding truer than Einstein's theory of relativity.
Last week was pretty rough on some of our pickers. As usual Wells finished in first at 15-7. But Harvey pulled off a miracle and tied him for top honors. I was second at 14-8 and Jim rebounded to finish 13-9. George struggled, going 11-11. Let me type that in again, George struggled, going 11-11. Our guest, Matt Kegel, was also 11-11, and Julie came in last at 10-12. I really want to type that last sentence again, too, but Julie might beat me with a golf club.
As always, we're looking for suggestions on guest pickers and games we should have. Drop us a line, send us an e-mail or send us a message via carrier pigeon.