With players out sick, stuck at work and even vacationing in Belize, Post 5 Aux. Jefferson City arrived in Sedalia with a blank spot in their lineup.
Given the circumstances, the Travelers traded the rights to Smith-Cotton catcher Collin Polley to act as Jefferson City’s ninth man for one game of a seven- and five-inning twin bill Tuesday at Liberty Park.
Needless to say, the Travelers ran on everything.
Beyond extra aggression on the basepaths -- Sedalia finished 5-for-6 stealing against their teammate -- Polley’s switch made for images unique to the dog days of summer ball. Jerseys matched when he or Sedalia batters came to the plate. Sedalia fans cheered for both Tyler Abney swiping second base and Polley’s attempt to catch him. In the third inning, when Nick Cashman missed a foul pop fly off Polley’s bat, one temporary Post 5 teammate muttered, “He did that on purpose.”
Ryan Taylor spelled his Sedalia teammate behind the plate in the fifth. Naturally, the Sedalia stand-in was the final out of a 5-0 victory for the Travelers.
“I was sitting on deck and said ‘Yep, it’s gonna be me,’” Taylor said.
The Travelers sent nine to the plate in a four-run first inning. Clayton Meyer powered the offense with a three-run charge over the right-field fence, and Landon Dull later delivered a two-out single that scored Garrett Wirsig. Wirsig added to the lead with a run-scoring single in the fifth.
Polley, who saw four teammates steal bases against him in the first inning, finally threw out Kyle Weber in the third inning. Not only did his Post 642 teammates run more against a friendly backstop -- Polley said they called their shot.
“They told me at the beginning of the game,” Polley said. “They said, ‘Hey, we’re going,’ and I said, ‘Let’s go, let’s see what you’ve got.’”
Polley said the pregame swap made Game 1 feel like an in-house scrimmage, drawing from a wealth of practices and tournaments to counter familiar swings.
“Kyler Simoncic, I mean, he just turns on that inside pitch,” Polley said. “Naturally, I set up outside for him. (Kyle) Weber has that really weird batting stance where he strides out really far, so I set up outside so he’s leaning on him. It was kind of fun nit-picking on them.”
Among the informal player-sharing, Sedalia’s Will Knight quietly pitched a gem. Surrendering one hit and issuing three walks, Knight faced just five batters more than the minimum in six innings. He recorded four strikeouts before Nathan Brock closed the game with a scoreless seventh.
As loose as summer ball can be, the novelty of sharing a teammate fostered an even more casual feel Tuesday. Polley and Taylor said, despite potential distractions, they valued the extra playing time and still tried to improve.
“I wasn’t even supposed to play the first game,” Polley said. “More reps, more at bats for me.”
Alex Agueros can be reached at 660-826-1000, ext. 1483 or on Twitter @abagueros2.