Disabato: At Andrew, it’s a life lesson via baseball
By Pat Disabato email@example.com Twitter: @disabato May 7, 2014 9:08PM
Updated: June 9, 2014 8:04PM
Tom Bushnell couldn’t believe his eyes.
A week ago, Lincoln-Way North was applying a whipping to Bushnell and his Andrew teammates that was so severe, one of the umpires suggested replacing the real score with a less-embarrassing margin when the scoreboard read 23-0 after four innings.
“It was embarrassing,” Bushnell, a junior, said. “I was thinking this can’t be real. This isn’t how we play. This is Andrew baseball.”
My sentiments exactly. This is a program Frank Ganser had built, literally, from the ground up into one of the most feared and respected baseball programs in the state. Coach Dave DeHaan, a 1991 Andrew graduate and one of the most storied multisport athletes the school ever has produced, has done an excellent job of filling his mentor’s spikes.
But it’s been an uncharacteristic season at Andrew, as its 8-13 record (through Tuesday) suggests.
What’s worth noting, though, is the shellacking wasn’t centered around a comedy of errors by Andrew. It was more about Lincoln-Way North’s performance. The Phoenix registered 24 hits, including five home runs. Of the two-dozen hits, maybe one or two were what I’d describe as “soft.” You know, duck snorts or seeing-eye singles. The rest looked like they had been shot from a cannon.
Andrew, in fact, committed just one error on the day. Bushnell’s solo homer in the fourth inning prevented the Thunderbolts from being shut out. Final score: 23-1.
“It was quiet on the bus ride home,” Bushnell said. “We knew we couldn’t be embarrassed like this again.”
“Again” being the key word.
The two teams were scheduled to play again Tuesday.
I had the privilege of watching DeHaan as a student-athlete at Andrew. He was relentless. Not only would he run through a brick wall in pursuit of victory, he had the pride to rebuild that wall when the game was over. He bleeds Andrew black and gold.
A coach can only do so much, but I knew the Thunderbolts would be ready to play Tuesday.
I’m not saying I would have predicted an Andrew victory. Not a chance. But I was quite sure the Thunderbolts would avoid getting hammered again.
“Losing 23-1 in baseball is like losing 63-0 in football or by 40 points in basketball,” DeHaan said. “I told the kids before the game on Tuesday that when you get knocked down like we did, are you going to get back up and fight or are you going to quit? This is a life lesson. In the future you may not get a job you think you deserve or a promotion or something, God forbid, happens to a parent. What are you going to do? You have to get back up.”
Andrew not only got back up, it delivered a stunning blow by way of a 6-3 win over a North team that four days earlier had beaten the T-bolts by 22 runs.
It’s just another example of why baseball is the greatest game on earth.
And guess who was on the mound delivering a complete-game performance? Tom Bushnell.
“I knew on Thursday that I was going to be pitching on Tuesday,” Bushnell said. “I had to make sure I kept the ball low and as long as I can locate my fastball and hit my spots, I would be all right.”
He was more than all right. He was outstanding, limiting an explosive North offense to seven hits and striking out five. He also was 3-for-3 at the plate. Senior Jeff Szubert, who was injured and hadn’t seen live pitching in 17 days, went 3-for-4.
Did North take Andrew lightly in the rematch? Maybe. If so, the Phoenix, too, learned a valuable lesson: never underestimate an opponent.
“The kids executed and came through with some big two-out hits,” DeHaan said. “Tom kept them off balance and hit spots. Our defense played well. We made plays, made pitches and got some big hits. I had nothing to do with it. It’s the kids.”