After almost three weeks into the 2017 Empire Pro Baseball League (EPBL), the Sullivan Explorers currently reside in second place with a record of 14-13 trailing the Plattsburgh Redbirds by three games.
With only about one-third of the season concluded, we have already experienced a rollercoaster of emotions and memories to last a lifetime. From a rough start to the season, our manager surviving a cardiac arrest and putting together win streaks accompanied by walk-off wins, the team has persevered to compile an impressive start to our short-lived season.
To begin the season, we were scheduled to have a four-game set against the Redbirds. After winning the opening game of the season 1-0 on a gutsy complete-game shutout by our starting pitcher, we dropped the next three games to start the season 1-3. The process of becoming acclimated to each other as teammates while losing three straight games made the start of our season slightly difficult to endure. However, the events soon to come would completely trump the struggle of our first road trip.
Our next road trip was a five-game set at The Ballpark in Old Orchard Beach, Maine. The first game of the series was scheduled for Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. So, we left Plattsburgh, New York Wednesday morning, took the five-hour drive to Maine and played under the lights at Old Orchard Beach. We lost another one 10-8 and started the series off with a loss.
The following morning was another typical day for the Sullivan Explorers in the Empire Pro League, but it turned out to be anything but ordinary. We all showed up to the game a few hours before the first pitch for batting practice and to warm-up. Just as the game was about to begin, there was a big commotion in the dugout, and it appeared that our manager was laying on the dugout bench surrounded by a group of our players. A few minutes later ambulances arrived, and we later found out that our manager suffered a massive heart attack.
For obvious reasons, that night’s game was postponed, and we were unsure what was to come in the near future. The next day we had a team meeting and decided to play the next game against the Surge which was scheduled for later that night. The end result of the game was another loss for us, but it was one of the most abnormal games I have ever been a part of. It was extremely difficult for everyone to focus on actually winning the ballgame when our coach was in the hospital, and we were unsure if he was going to be okay.
The next day we knew the importance of winning the baseball game, but the gravity of the situation was still apparent as we got to the stadium. Instead of pressuring ourselves to be robots and focus solely on the game, we decided to unify as a team and play our hearts out for our incapacitated manager. By relying on each other and our interim manager, we were able to secure a win and snap the losing streak. So after starting out the season 1-5, we were finally back to winning baseball games as a team.
After that initial win to break the streak, we won three more to improve our record to 5-5. We are continuing to come closer as a team and collecting wins as the season progresses. We also received some spectacular news a few days after the incident. Jim had woken up and is now on the right track to a healthy recovery. He is currently resting comfortably with his family in California. In my opinion, without the banding together of our team after the near-tragedy, we would not be doing nearly as well or relying on each other as much in this long and grueling journey of our season in Indy ball.