It wasn’t the 1955 World Series. It wasn’t Yankee Stadium. It wasn’t Dodgers versus Yankees. Whitey Ford wasn’t on the mound and Yogi Berra wasn’t behind the plate. But none of that mattered to Chase’s Aaron Ballinger when he did his best Jackie Robinson impersonation and bolted for home Wednesday afternoon at McNair Field.
With the Trojans trailing cross-county rival R-S Central 8-4 in the bottom of the fifth inning and Ballinger standing on third base, Chase head coach Matt Tipton told him to go.
“I was doing something to try and break the ice,” Tipton said. “I had good wheels right there and I was just trying to make something happen and scratch another run across the board.”
Tipton spent the afternoon studying R-S Central starter Conner Dailey with his long windup and high leg kick.
“In the first couple of innings [Tipton] was telling me that with my wheels I could make something happen and in that situation we needed some runs and [Dailey] has a real long wind-up,” Ballinger said. “Coach said when he came set and picked up his leg that he wanted me to take off.”
Ballinger, who displayed his speed earlier with a first-inning triple to left-center, never doubted his coach’s orders.
“I was down for it. He’s my coach and I got to listen to him,” Ballinger said.
“He’s one of the fastest guys we got and I noticed the high leg kick. I honestly thought about sending him in the first inning after his triple, but that’s something you really don’t do,” Tipton said.
And with Dylan Lewis at the plate, Ballinger did exactly as he was told, he took off.
Ballinger’s jump on Dailey was so quick that he had to stutter-step as he approached the plate because Lewis was still in the batter’s box and Central Cather Tyler Morgan was still waiting for the pitch to hit his mitt. Ballinger slid his cleats under Morgan’s tie to cut the Central lead to 8-5.
“Honestly I thought [Lewis] was going to swing,” Balliger said. “I was thinking, ‘Oh my God, if he swings I’m going to die.’ I got down low enough and touched home plate and it just got me hype.”
“Before the game we had a discussion where I told them to just have fun,” Tipton said. “We were struggling to get runs and I wanted to change give us a shot of adrenaline.”
The Trojans took that adrenaline and tied the game at 8-8 in the bottom of the seventh but eventually lost in extra innings. But no one at McNair Field can deny the excitement that Ballinger and his rare feat injected into the crowd. And with Jackie Robison day just around the corner on April 15, Ballinger gave us a glimpse into the past. Luckily we could enjoy this one in color.