Ghostball played in Eugene

EUGENE-- With the way the Eugene Emeralds' pitchers were hitting in batting practice Monday, Matt Antonelli and the rest of the team's designated hitters had better keep their reflexes sharp and their gloves well-oiled.

The batting practice session, manager Doug Dascenzo's reward to his staff for its shutout of Boise last Saturday, was anything but hurlers haplessly flailing away in a cage. Actually, that's exactly what it was, but with a twist.

Instead of a normal BP, the pitchers played a nine-inning game similar to baseball best described as Ghostball.

The rules to Ghostball are simple. First, everybody gets one swing. The only exception to that rule comes if the hitter fouls the pitch off. In that case, he will get a second and final swing. Second, the umpire, in this case hitting coach Matt Howe, will decide the results of any and all fair balls. His decision is final, but may be criticized mercilessly. Anything not deemed a hit is an out.

The pitchers divided themselves into two teams and took their places on the left and right sides of the batting cage. For the purpose of this piece the teams will be creatively dubbed the Righties and the Lefties.

The Lefties were the visitors and were comprised of Drew Miller, Andy Underwood, Stephen Faris, Brooks Dunn, pitching coach Wally Whitehurst's son, Gabe, reliever Justin Mattison and captain Ben Krosschell.

The Righties played the role of home team and were made up of Rolando Valdez, Aaron Breit, Jackson Quezada, R.J. Rodriguez, Ernesto Frieri, strength and conditioning coach Tyler Young and their captain and aspiring slugger Matt Buschmann.

After being led in a quick pre-game stretching session by Young, the fun, games and hilarity began.

The Righties drew first blood; riding Valdez' one-out scraper over the left-field fence to a quick 1-0 lead.

An inning later, the Lefties struck back when Faris, an over .400 hitter in high school, answered Valdez' shot with a solo blast of his own. One out later, Gabe Whitehurst put his team in business again, but was erased when Mattison grounded into a spectacular inning-ending 4-6-3 double-play started by the Righties' ghostfielders.

The game was tied at one apiece, but wouldn't stay that way for long as the Southpaws regained the lead in their half of the third on Valdez' second bomb of the game.

The Righties had a one-run cushion, but would need much more after the Left-siders broke the game wide open in the bottom half of the inning.

A single by Krosschell and a double by Miller put runners on second and third to open the inning and Faris tied the game one out later on a sac fly to right, scoring Krosschell's ghost from third. Dunn and Gabe Whitehurst followed with consecutive singles and Mattison and Krosschell continued with a pair of doubles to drive in five runs and make the score 6-2 after just three innings.

And the Righties' nightmare still wasn't over.

The Lefthanders would tack on three more in the fourth on a pair of sacrifice flies from Dunn and Krosschell and a run-scoring single from Gabe Whitehurst. The game was well out of reach by then, but Faris decided he would add his second home run of the game, a two-run blast this time, just for fun.

Even though his team's chances to win may have been long gone, Righty captain Buschmann still found time in the top of the seventh to steal the show.

With two out, Buschmann swung at Wally Whitehurst's pitch with every ounce of might he could muster, and sent the ball over the left-field fence, into the midday sun and quite possibly into orbit. It was a titanic shot and he knew it. As soon as bat struck ball Buschmann had gone into full Barry Bonds mode—dropping the bat and posing until the ball had cleared the wall.

"I watch a lot of TV. I watch a lot of baseball on TV, so it makes it easy," Buschmann said about his pose.

He also admitted that he was trying to hit one out the whole game.

"Oh yeah, you see all guys trying to pull out their backs trying to hit it out. It's fun."

Buschmann's blast helped pull his team within five runs, but his feeble pop out in the top of the ninth ended the game and secured bragging rights for the Left-Siders. Bragging rights, that is, until the next round of Ghostball.

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