Who Dat?

Back in the 80s, long before the X-Games existed, Tom Haig traveled the world as an extreme athlete. He visited more than 50 countries as an international high diver, doing multiple somersault tricks from over 90 feet.

That life came crashing down one Sunday morning in 1996. While training on his mountain bike, he smashed into the grill of a truck and became paralyzed from the waist down. But less than a year later he completed a 100-mile ride on a hand-cycle and traveled by himself to Europe and the Middle East.

Since then he has continued to travel the world as a consultant, writer and video producer. He spent six months launching a Tibetan radio station in the Himalayas and shot documentary shorts on disability in Bangladesh, France, Albania, Ghana and most recently Nepal.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Who Needs a Centerfielder Anyway?

In one of the more bizarre finishes to a World Series game in recent memory, Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz managed to get a bottom-of-the-ninth bases loaded infield hit to beat the Rays – even though virtually every player on the Tampa Bay roster was positioned on the infield grass.

After blowing a potentially historic start by Jamie Moyer, MLB’s oldest active player, the Phillies managed to push Eric Bruntlett across the plate in the ninth without even getting the ball to leave the infield. Rays pitcher J.P. Howell, who was brilliant in the 8th with a pickoff and two strikeouts, plunked Bruntlett to lead off the inning . Howell, who was eventually tagged with the loss, handed the ball to submariner Grant Balfour. Balfour immediately tossed a wild pitch that was compounded by a Nianar Nivarro throwing error tyring to nab the speedy Bruntlett taking second.

With no out and the winning run on third, Rays manager Joe Maddon didn’t just use some out-of-the box thinking – he lit the box on fire. The aptly named ‘Balfour’ was told to give the next two batters intentional passes loading the bases. Then Maddon pulled out a defense that is usually reserved for beer softball league teams who are one player short. With Balfour still on the mound, Madden brought Center Fielder B.J. Upton into the infield, leaving only Carl Crawford and Ben Zobrist to range the outfield by themselves. Ruiz then bounced a soft grounder towards Rays third baseman Evan Longoria who tried to scoop the ball over the charging Bruntlett. Had Bruntlett not been directly in line with the throw, Longoria could have made a clean catch and throw, but his unorthodox heave flew ten feet over the plate.

Just like that Philly had its first home World Series win in fifteen years which covered up the fourth blatant error by what should be the best umpiring crew in the biz. In the top of the 7th Rays leftfielder Carl Crawford chopped a short grounder that Moyers barely got a glove on. In a diving motion, Moyers shoveled the ball, glove-handed, to first baseman Ryan Howard who barehanded the toss for the out. It was the defensive play of the series except for the fact that first base umpire Tom Hallion blew the obvious call. While it didn’t cost the Phillies the game, Crawford did eventually score, which attributed that out to Moyer’s tally. It led to Moyer’s getting a no-decision in the most important game of his 22-year Major League career. It would have been a perfect closing to his baseball life as Moyer grew up in Philadelphia rooting for the Phillies.

Tomorrow night the city of Philadelphia will host the world as the Eagles have a home game and The Who will be playing in the same sports complex as the World Series. The Rays are sending rookie sensation Andy Sonnenstein to the hill against the Phillies Joe Blanton who managed to have a losing record this season (9-12), a rarity for a World Series starter.

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