October 21, 2014

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Coughlin: With the Indians, home is where the hurt is

Casey Blake has played third base, first base and right field, and he has batted almost anywhere in the order. Name the role, he’ll play it. Maybe it won’t be his favorite role, but nobody will know that. He’ll keep his mouth shut and do it.
Lately he’s been playing the hero role. Last Friday, his walk-off home run in the ninth beat Kansas City. Monday night he beat Detroit with a home run in the 11th.
Being a hero in Cleveland, however, could be detrimental to your health. It should come with a warning. A plastic batting helmet is only a good start. Shoulder pads, rib pads, hip pads and knee pads make a good wardrobe.
That’s not a welcome wagon waiting at home plate for anybody who hits a walk-off homer — it’s a lynching party.
This team has a funny way of showing affection and appreciation. Blake was asked what went on inside the scrum that greeted him at home plate in the 11th inning Monday night.
“Hitting and punching,” he said. “I got scratches on my back. My ribs are a little sore. They’re young and enthusiastic. They tried to pull my pants off.”
De-pantsing? That went out in the sixth grade when I was a kid. But that’s the joy of baseball. You never have to grow up. A baseball player is a kid forever. If Pfizer could bottle it, they’d make billions.
Tigers manager Jim Leyland strolled down the left-field line at Jacobs Field on Monday afternoon dragging a fungo bat before anyone was even taking batting practice. What else is a 62-year-old guy going to do on a sunny afternoon?
I remember finding another Detroit manager, Sparky Anderson, hanging around the old Stadium on a chilly spring day at noon before a 7:30 game. He wore his uniform and he was game ready seven hours before the first pitch.
Granted, there wasn’t much to do in downtown Cleveland in those days, but Anderson preferred to do nothing at the ballpark.
When you put on the uniform and go out there 162 times to play a kids’ game, you’d better be a kid — no matter the year the media guide says you were born.
Kids have such odd ways of cementing friendships. My kids would punch their best friends on the arm. Always close friends, never acquaintances.
Around home plate at Jacobs Field, love hurts.
Contact Dan Coughlin at 329-7135 or ctsports@chroniclet.com.