First off, I just want to say that my neighbors are building a backyard fence and leisure space, and I’m more than a little jealous. The smell of fresh cut cedar, coupled with the repeated sounds of a chop saw and a retracting tape measure are enough to send me to Zillow and thinking about putting down some tenacious roots.
Yesterday I was slated to play in the Andover (NH) Autumn Harvest horseshoe tournament. There were a few Massachusetts options towards the end of the outdoor pitching year, but I wanted to see a new set of courts and compete against a fresh set of faces. Unfortunately the tournament was called off due to lack of entries. As of last Saturday only 13 players had signed up, which isn’t nearly enough for a sanctioned tournament. The Massachusetts State Tournament, by comparison, had 39 entrants, which is still a little light. More participants logically makes for better competition, because shooting percentages are more evenly distributed throughout the classes. For the statistically minded, compare the outcomes of the following two tournaments: the Friday Night Challenge, from May of 2011, had 28 participants (yes, that’s yours truly at the bottom of class D); the Gale Green Shootout, by contrast, had 70 participants. Take a look at the percentage distribution in each class for both tournaments. The shooting percentages are much more evenly distributed in the Gale Green Shootout.
Let me get back to yesterday, and steer this post out of the statistical weeds. I decided to take a ride down to Lakeville, MA, where the Mass State Doubles tournament was being held. I figured I’d keep score for a couple of games, take some photos of the action, shoot the breeze, and just hang out. I also knew that there was an off chance that someone who had signed up to play wouldn’t show up, and I’d have a chance to play. I am planning to play in a few indoor contests over the winter, after all, and I need to stay sharp.
It was a pretty bleary morning, raining lightly when I left Somerville at about 7:45 a.m. My trusty forecast friends at Weather Underground had provided a radar map that looked relatively dry for the Lakeville area. It rained hard all the way through Boston, but let up as I passed Stoughton and the sky began to brighten as I neared 495. We were in business.
I showed up just before 9:00 a.m., when the matches were supposed to begin. As luck would have it, they were one person short for the tournament, and I happily obliged to fill in. I was paired up with an A player, which I initially thought was a mistake. What the organizers had done was to pair up A players with a C/D player in order to even things out a bit. My partner and I would be competing against 3 other teams in our class.
My partner, who shall remain nameless, is someone who I’ve seen pitch at a few tournaments in the past. I’m not one for hero worship, but I’ll admit to being slightly in awe of the elite players who can throw at least one ringer out of two shoes and do it consistently. It is no small feat. Perhaps sensing a little nervousness on my part, my partner told me not to worry about trying to keep up. “Just play your own game and have fun, you’ll do fine”, he told me. We had to share a pair of shoes, and it made sense for me to shoot his shoes. I don’t think I had ever thrown M&M Specials before, but they are a good shoe for those who throw a turn shoe. Mine is a turn and 3/4. It didn’t take too many warm up shoes before I felt relatively comfortable with the M&M’s, although they have a decidedly different feel than my Alan Francis All Ons, or my Dad’s Deadeye EZ Grips.
Alan Francis demonstrating his 3/4 reverse, also a turn shoe, as opposed to a flip shoe.
We won our first match, against two of my fellow Hamilton Horseshoe Club members, then lost our second by only five points. The format was comprised of 30 shoe games (30 shoes pitched by each partner) with any ties to be broken by two innings of play. We had to play each team in our class twice, for a total of six games. At the end of the day, the tale of the score sheet would tell you that both my partner and I were a little bit off our respective games. I shot 23.89% for the day, with one 16.67% game hurting us quite a bit. We were .500 for the day, winning three and losing three. The team we beat in our first match ended up winning first place in Class A.
For a day that could have been a washout, and could have been a day of sitting on the sidelines, I was very happy with the way things turned out. I got to play with a Class A player who also turned out to be a class act, and had a great day. I’m looking forward to my first indoor tournament of the fall/winter season, which will be held here, in late November.
See you at the courts.