I'm always happy to hear from Richland baseball coach Ben Jacobs.
First off, the guy's an icon. He's been around since they laid the dirt on the Richland infield. Some would say he's as old as the dirt on the Richland infield, but I can't rightly say that about Ben. His spirit is as young as a lot of his players.
Secondly, he's got a great baseball voice. Every year he's ever coached has torn into those pipes. He'd be a voice coach's nightmare, but I'm sure his players love hearing it. It reminds me a little of the famous boxing referee Mills Lane, who I swear gargles with sand.
Anyway, Ben called in his game — a 12-6 win over Mount Spokane in Richland — and told me about his newest outfielder, Ellijah Gardaya. He said the win was a little sloppy, although the pitching was good, but he was really happy with Gardaya's emergence as a baseball player.
Ben told me the 5-foot-7 senior didn't even come out for baseball in his sophomore or junior year.
"He couldn't hit as a sophomore. He absolutely couldn't handle a bat," Jacobs said.
But Tuesday, he showed Jacobs what kind of talent he's got, going 2-for-3 with a triple and three RBIs. I've seen his speed on the football field, so I can imagine he'll be a terror on the basepaths and could be a nice defensive asset in the outfield.
"Holy Moses!! He moved up from being our 13th player to our seventh player," Jacobs said. "He's been a pleasant surprise."
Gardaya's decision to play baseball his senior year takes me back to my high school days, when I ran track instead of playing baseball.
I did well in track, winning the Lake County (Ill.) sectional in the 110-meter hurdles and going to state as a senior. But I couldn't help but feel a little bit of regret for not trying what has always been my favorite sport.
I think I would have done well in baseball, but I'll never know. That's something I'll always have to live with.
Fortunately for Gardaya, he'll never have to wonder.