We played the Cleveland Indians over the weekend, and after our 1-0 win on Friday, I received so many text messages about the ninth-inning catch — the one over the wall to help save Justin Verlander's(notes) complete-game shutout and rob Grady Sizemore(notes) of a game-winning homer (VIDEO). Pretty much everyone was telling me how great the catch was in those texts.
Afterward, people started asking questions about whether it was the best catch I have ever made. It's up there for sure. The reason it might be the best is because of the situation of the game. If Sizemore hits that ball a foot further or I miss it, the game is over and Cleveland wins. Being able to bring back that home run a few pitches before Verlander closes the game out for a win makes that catch one of my best.
As far as the play, it was the ninth inning and there was a runner on first base. From a defensive perspective, with Sizemore coming up to bat, I had to back up and respect his power. I also had to play deeper to keep him — the winning run — from getting to second in case he did get a hit. Before the play even started, I was already much deeper than I would normally play. Still, if Grady hits the ball to the left, right or a foot further or a foot shorter, this play never happens.
You really can't practice this type of play. We joke around in batting practice and try to rob home runs for fun, but we are standing on the warning track when those balls are hit and we usually never catch them. The pitchers actually catch more than me and the other outfielders out there, mostly because they're standing right by the fence to be able to do so.
A lot of people have asked why I didn't seem excited right after the play happened. Well, it was only the second out of the ninth inning and Cleveland still had a chance to win the game. Only after Verlander was able to end the game with a 99-mph fastball for a swinging strike was I able to THEN get excited. We all shook hands after the win — just like we do normally — but when I made it to Verlander, we ended up hugging on the field instead of the usual handshake.
Verlander said he was going to buy me dinner that night, but his pitching performance was good enough for me. He threw great and to finish the game with a 99-mph fastball showed how dominant he was that game.
(But, of course, everyone knows I can never turn down a free dinner.)
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Curtis Granderson plays center field for the Detroit Tigers and his blog will appear regularly on Yahoo! Sports' Big League Stew during the 2009 season. Make sure to check out and support his Grand Kids Foundation.