Ground balls up the middle at Dey Field at Liberty Park Stadium have been causing headaches for middle infielders this summer.
Often they will be routine plays, just like on any other field, but on occasion they take a large hop over the infielder’s head and into center field for a base hit.
“We call that the Liberty bounce,” said Travelers manager Mark Carey. “When the Liberty bounce doesn’t go your way it looks bad, but when it goes your way it looks good.”
Travelers infielder Luke Archibeque has fallen victim to the Liberty bounce more than once this season.
“All you can do is try to read the hop, and you want that second hop after the big hop,” he said. “If it just takes that big hop over your head, there’s nothing you can do about it really.”
The bounce giveth and the bounce taketh away. In a game on Friday against Quincy (Ill.), Travelers pitcher Dalton Christian bounced a single over the second baseman in the fourth inning to drive home Matt Miles with the first run of the game. An inning later, a Liberty bounce over the head of Travelers second baseman Henry Tietz in the fifth inning gave Quincy its first hit of the game.
“Usually I’m pitching and it’s unlucky for me,” Christian said. “Once in a while it helps us out.”
The bounce is a new and unintended feature and not one that will last long.
“When we put sod in front of second base it took a little too well, I guess, and there is a little lip there,” Carey said. “We’ll take care of that in the offseason.”
For now infielders just have to deal with the fact that what might seem like a routine grounder could end up 10 feet over their head.
“It never used to happen, but I’ve seen it a lot this year, especially during senior Legion,” Archibeque said. “It’s happened to Tietz quite a bit and it’s happened to me twice.”
Archibeque said it won’t really change the way he handles balls hit to short, since it can be somewhat unpredictable.
“If it takes that big hop, you’re charging a bit,” he said. “But if you see it’s going to take another good hop right to you, and it takes that hop (over your head), you just can’t do anything about it.”
NEXT HOME GAMES
Bombers vs. Joplin
7 p.m. Thursday
Juniors vs. Independence
8 p.m. Friday
Travelers vs. Windsor (doubleheader)
6 p.m. Tuesday