Redbirds title worth wait for 1981 bat boy
By GEOFF HALLMANN
IN 1981, Easts Redbirds rose to the heights of Far North Coast Baseball, taking out the A-Grade major premiership.
Sitting on their bench that day as a bat boy was a youngster by the name of Graham Snape.
The win has stuck in his mind ever since.
It was his first taste of victory in the top grade and up until last weekend, it was his last.
In the years following that heady win, Snape worked his way through the grades and for well over a decade has toiled for his club in the top grade.
Through the past 24 years he's remained loyal to his club, enduring a number of highs, coupled with a good many low points.
This past weekend, that loyalty and the pain of poor performances found their atonement.
Snape and his long-suffering Redbirds now find themselves atop local baseball, taking out the Rex Airlines Major League Premiership with a 2-1 series win over minor premiers Workers Club.
In fitting style, it was Snape who was the catalyst for the premiership win, belting the third pitch of the first game over the left field fence and firing the first salvo in the Redbirds' campaign.
The Birds went on to take the first match of the final series 3-2 in the ninth innings.
In contrast to the first game, game two was dominated by the pitchers in the initial innings, with neither team able to get their runners aboard.
Workers struck in the third innings, which placed Aaron Olley and Martin Tucker on bases.
Super veteran Wayne Devlin ensured the runs with a stand-up triple to right centre.
Workers extended the lead to 3-0 in the fourth with a further run coming from the bat of Troy Pruess, scoring Josh Daley.
Redbirds pushed their way back into the game in the bottom of the fourth, with Matt Best capitalising on two walks to drive in two runs and force the score to 3-2.
The fifth had the feel of an upset when Redbirds brought in Snape off a Nick Shailes drive to centrefield, moving the score to 4-3 to the Redbirds.
In the sixth the contagiousness of wayward balls struck Matt Best on the mound. Workers came back with five runners placed on bases after being hit by misdirected pitches.
Workers prevailed 10-6 to lock up the best-of-three series.
Like the second game the pitchers again dominated the initial innings for both sides in the decider.
Workers broke the seal in the bottom of the third when a number of Redbirds errors allowed Aaron Olley to score and the 1-0 scoreline remained until late in the game.
Redbirds finally cracked their duck in the sixth when Stephen Best was dropped by centre-fielder Aaron Olley following a superb attempted catch.
Best progressed to third on yet another error, only to be driven in by coach Nick Shailes to tie it at 1-1.
For Workers, the pressure broke in the seventh when walks allowed Peter and Stephen Best aboard and hits to Snape, Matt Davis and Reece Smith.
The mini-rally quickly stole the game as Redbirds led 4-1.
As in game one, it was Shailes who changed the face of the game, shutting down the Workers' offence completely until the top of the ninth when a late charge from the reigning Premiers yielded a single run and left two runners perilously close to home.
In one of the closest and most intense grand finals for many years, the Redbirds supporters exploded into thunderous applause as left-fielder Stephen Best secured victory at left field for the third out and the game.
Redbirds celebrated the win well into Sunday as the club basked in its first win for a quarter of a century.
Fittingly, the player of the final was awarded to Redbirds coach Nick Shailes for his exceptional pitching across the weekend, in addition to an exceptional display of athletic fielding and his dominant contribution with the bat.
Shailes, 20, led the youngest team in the competition.
The Redbirds win paves the way for a unique double in which they can cement their place in the annals of Redbirds history by taking out the inaugural Interleague title when they meet Mudgeeraba next Sunday at 1pm on Baxter Field.
Who knows, maybe it will be the game that inspires their present bat boy, Lewis Johnson, on the path to his premiership ... in 2030.