Lost amongst the historical highlights of Wednesday's monumental extra-inning clash between the Chicago White Sox and Seattle Mariners was a very fine exhibition of persistence and concentration by Seattle first baseman Kendrys Morales.
It happened in the eighth inning with the game obviously still scoreless and Chicago's Jeff Keppinger at the plate. On a 1-2 pitch from Mariners' starter Hisashi Iwakuma, Keppinger floated a popup down the right field line and into Safeco Field's foul territory that Morales, second baseman Nick Franklin and right fielder Endy Chavez all pursued.
As it turns out, Morales, the least athletic defender of the bunch, was the guy with the best angle, and he ended up running the baseball down as he neared the sidewall at a pretty good clip. However, as the ball landed in his glove, he was unable to put the squeeze on it due to his momentum and he sort of juggled it in the direction of the stands.
For the full second or so that the baseball hung in the air, it felt like a lost cause for Morales. But he never gave up on it, and at the very last second was able to snatch it out of the air before a fan could grab it or it could hit a seat. He then tumbled head first over the wall near a railing, but held on tightly this time to record the final out of the inning in pretty spectacular fashion.
Granted, of course, it won't go down as a defensive play of the year candidate. We like to reserve those for outstanding plays that are made cleanly the first time around, but it's still very much worthy of a 'wow' or two.
And hey, credit where it's due, not only did Morales show terrific hustle concentration on the play, first base umpire Todd Tichenor was right there too to make sure he got the call correct. Given some of the blunders we've seen from umpires this season, I think it's worth acknowledging, if not suggesting a promotion.