Niagara Gazette

Sports

January 6, 2014

BASE PATHS: Toole's tale a unique one

Niagara Gazette — On a cool (he insists) August night in 2012, Justin Toole picked up a glove and trotted out to play right field for the Class A Carolina Mudcats of the Carolina League in Zebulon, N.C.

He would not return to that position. By 9:10 p.m. he had played a defensive inning at all nine positions. Did right well, too. Fielded a ground ball at each of the “throwing” infield positions. As catcher, snagged a third-strike foul tip. Then finished the game with two strikeouts on the mound. Had the Mudcats taken less of a lead into the ninth, he’d have earned a save.

But in “9 in 9,” the book Toole would later write, there is little self-congratulation, however justified. It’s not about the achievement, it’s about the journey, what he learned about the game in each position. It’s about putting yesterday behind you except as a learning tool, and accepting the failures endemic to the game in which missing seven times out of 10 makes you a star.

Nine-in-nine is not easily executed. First requirement, the opposing team’s good will, a recognition that no disrespect is intended. The game should not be impactful to the standings and it must be at home. A road team, behind in the score, will not take the field in the ninth. And a wise manager will prepare, in advance, a defensive lineup for every inning.

Greg Edge of the Bisons did it in 1992 but lasted only one batter as a pitcher, after a high fly fell for a triple, beyond the grasp of the catcher-by-trade stuck in right field. Since Edge retired nobody, the mound stint doesn’t show up on his “Baseball Cube.”

Base Paths seems to recall a Niagara Power player trying it, frustrated when rain cut the game short.

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