A Different View for This Game
Hewitt's National Team Wins Gold
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Trailing Venezuela 1-0 in the third inning of one of the biggest games of his baseball coaching career, 14-and-under U.S. National Team coach Jeff Hewitt had the rug abruptly swept out from under him.
Before a highly partisan crowd, the Americans were facing the defending champions in a third-round pool game at last month’s tournament held in San Felipe, Venezuela. The first of several bizarre occurrences in a thrilling contest occurred with Californian Nick Madrigal at bat with two aboard.
With the pitcher operating at a slow pace, and not being held to the maximum of 12 seconds between pitches rule, Madrigal stepped out of the batter’s box to get a signal on the coded wrist band the team used. He was then called out by the umpire for stepping out of the box for a second time.
“I approached the umpire gesturing to my watch that the pitcher was taking too long,” Hewitt, the baseball coach at Pinecrest High School, said. “Mike West, our trainer, was my translator. He said, ‘Bro, you’ve just been thrown out of the game.’
“The first thing I thought was, oh my gosh, what have I done. The first game I’ve ever been thrown out of and I’ve caused an international incident. The umpire said he gave a warning, but Nick said he had no idea what he was saying.”
Banished from the dugout, Hewitt followed the action from the window of the dugout’s bathroom before making a cameo appearance on the field an inning later.
“I could see the field. I could see everything,” the coach said.
After a home run made it 2-0 in the fourth, the next Venezuelan batter was hit in the knee by a pitch.
He got up and began to charge the mound, but was quickly brought down from behind after a cat-like reaction by catcher Chris Betts.
“Chris’ dad was a minor league catcher, and he knew exactly what to do,” Hewitt said. “He said, ‘My dad has always told me if someone charges one of our pitchers, you have to get him before he gets to the pitcher.’ Before I knew it both benches cleared, and the fans are throwing bottles and spitting. It was crazy.
“We got our kids together. They threw the kid out that ran toward the mound. They said Chris was protecting a teammate, which I thought was fair.”
The deficit grew to 5-0 and was 5-2 in the top of the sixth when Chicago’s Ako Thomas tied the game at 5-5 with a three-run homer. The home team then took a 6-5 lead in the bottom half.
One out away from a pivotal win, the Venezuelans were poised to rush the field when Georgia’s Chris Cullen cleared both the temporary fence and the outside one that was 380 feet away with a three-run homer for an 8-6 U.S. lead.
Lefthander Bailey Falter closed out the game for a U.S. team that went on to win the championship with a 12-2 win over the same team.
“Five thousand people that were yelling ‘Punch him, punch him,’ meaning strikeout, went totally quiet,” Hewitt said, recalling the reaction after Cullen’s heroics. “All week long we told them that when you wear USA on your jersey, you’re never out of a ball game. They totally believed it.”
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