I go back to that dungeon better known as school the next day, snatch the sports section of the local newspaper and read "Fired-up Aurilia Schools Tigers" in the Argus, and "Aurilia's Hit After Verbal Exchange With Tigers Keys Win" was headlining the San Francisco Chronicle.
Giants players often joke with Richie when he's in a slump. They tell him that they should tell the opposing pitcher to pitch inside to him, or even to hit Richie on a wild pitch, to get him steamed so he'll start hitting again. Richie laughs this off... but any pitcher or player who's been in the league long enough can tell you that's not too far from the truth.
There are players who can be affected by being badmouthed at the plate, but there are others who take that nonsense and throw it right back to the opposing team... and Rich Aurilia is one of those throwbackers.
But, apparently, the Tigers are new in town. Heck, they're new in the league. Fine, they're a young team, I'll give them that... but wasn't it the Tigers' coaches who were the ones talking trash to Richie in the bottom of the eighth inning on Sunday? What a rookie mistake.
With a little confusion I read the article, since there aren't any mics hooked in the Tigers dugout that connects to the loudspeakers in the ballpark. It explained how Richie tried to lay down a bunt with a runner on third base because of his poor batting average with runners in scoring position (.172, 10-58). Richie would be the first to tell you that he's not had a good season with runners in scoring position, so he tried to bunt his way aboard. Well, Tigers pitching coach, Bob Cluck, had some words with Richie after he laid down an attempted bunt that rolled foul, telling him to swing at the ball. Tigers' bench coach, Kirk Gibson, may have been another disturbing party as Richie looked in the direction of the entire Tigers dugout after he heard someone tell him to swing at the ball.
"You talkin' to me? You TALKIN' to me? You talkin' to ME? Then who the hell else are you talkin' to? Are you talkin' to me? Well, I'm the only one here. Who the *bleep* do you think you're talkin' to?" Think Richie's seen Taxi Driver?
So, after two pitches, Aurilia's Italian blood boiled over and he smacked a double into left field to drive in the tying run, and then proceeded to score the winning run on the pinch hit double by Edgardo Alfonzo. After the ball left Richie's bat, he snickered and aid, "There, I swung." Two clutch hits with two out, Giants win it. "You betta not be talkin' to me."
The Tigers should have known better, right? And here I was the entire time shouting at the top of my lungs, sitting in my center field, fourth row seats, "Come on, Richie! Hit it right here, baby!" Hit it he did, to me he didn't... and he apparently didn't hear me yelling at him to hit the ball, nor did he hear the fan who was running across the bleachers holding Richie's poster up, but he did hear the Tigers calling.
So, reasons for the Tigers' actions of stupidity... (there's no excuse for their horrible defense, but that's another story, for another time) I guess it's understandable to... misunderstand the personality of Richie because he's known as the "nice guy," ...The guy who never minds staying after games in a win or lose situation to do TV or radio interviews... The guy who doesn't mind signing a few autographs for dedicated fans... The guy who never fails to wave at you when passing by... The guy whose name is known throughout the entire San Francisco Bay Area because of all the charity work he does... The guy who wears the chef hat in the kitchen while holding a spatula in one hand and a mixing bowl in the other, ready to make his next mouth-watering Italian meal... The guy who always has a smile on his face. He ain't gonna do nothin'... right?
Wrong. In the batters' box, Richie's everything BUT nice... and when you send him off the edge, he'll send you out of the park. A nice guy who takes pride in what he does, and a nice guy who will annihilate the ones who disrespect his passion. Still wanna talk? Didn't think so.
Sara Kwan was born in San Francisco and raised in the Bay Area. She currently writes game recaps, other articles, and is one of the Two Giant Prophets for SFDugout.com. Sara can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org