His Fastball Is In a League of Its Own

I still remember the first (and last) time I decided to catch for Brandon League, without any protective gear. It wasn’t that I never played the position of catcher before; quite the contrary, it was my long time position. But this was a very different time. As they say, preparation is the key to life, right. Well, I wasn’t prepared on more levels than one for what I was about to see.

Let me preface by saying that today, Brandon League, is the starting relief pitcher for the Seattle Mariners major league baseball team. What is he known for in the MLB? Well, League is known for his down-tailing fastball that reaches a whopping 100 mph. Yup, you heard me right: 100 mph! That’s Nolan Ryan fast…

Back in the spring of 2001, when Brandon was in his senior year at St. Louis School here on Oahu, I was helping out my alma mater on the baseball diamond, assisting head coach, Vinny Passas (who was also one of my coaches when I was the captain/catcher on the 1983 Crusader baseball team). Anyway, that day back in 2001, I showed up after work, dressed in my daily work attire–aloha shirt and slacks; and NO CUP! By the way, for those less versed in baseball: The cup protects your manhood and family jewels. Much of it is in your head, but needless to say, when you’re crouched-down and 90+ mph baseballs are being hurled at you so fast they remind you of aspirins in flight, well, you get the idea…Even as a teenager he threw “smoke”. It happened when I decided to warm him up in the bullpen, at a pre-season scrimmage at Kaimuki HS. At the time, he was still in high school, but he was throwing in the mid-90’s. And the ball moved a lot, or “down-tailed”. I’ll never forget this momentary lapse of judgment. Never again without a cup. It wrecked havoc on me mentally; I don’t like that feeling of physical vulnerability. I now have learned how to say, “no”, and have learned not to volunteer for things I’m unprepared for at that given moment.

Fast forward to 2011: League is the starting “closer” for the Mariners, and this year Brandon is starting to really get noticed (to the tune of a 1-year, $2.25 million contract). Also, half way through this 2011 season, League was selected as a relief pitcher for the American League in this summertime classic, the MLB All-Star game (ASG). It was his first.

A pitcher hasn’t represented the 808 in the MLB ASG since Sid Fernandez (whom my dad predicted would go all the way to the “show” from the time Sid blew us away as a 14-year old in a game against us on Maui) did in the mid-80’s. After catching for Brandon that harrowing spring day, I felt he definitely had the goods. I’m glad he persevered and has succeeded beyond measure.

Congratulations, Brandon!

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