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Yesterday The Ringer ran a hell of a piece on the cult classic computer game Backyard Baseball and its incredible legacy. I highly recommend checking it out, as it brought back all the fond nostalgia I have for the Backyard sports series.
Almost everyone I know (aside from Will deFries apparently) shares that fond nostalgia for the cartoon sports games about extremely likable multi-cultural little leaguers giving it their go at every major sport you can think of. While Backyard Football also took up a ton of my time in my youth, Backyard Baseball is what kept me in front of a bright heavy glass screen for multi-hour marathons of gaming.
I could likely rattle off at least 80% of the fictional characters from memory, but putting them in the perfect lineup, aside from a few obvious choices, was a little more difficult.
1. Pete Wheeler – CF
This. Boy. Can. Fly. A sprinter with an awkward-yet-powerful left-handed stroke, Pete Wheeler is the obvious choice to leadoff your Backyard batting order. He’s just as likely to go deep as he is to squib a single and steal his way to third two pitches later. The kid can absolutely go get it out in center as well. You could play two overweight clunkers at the corners and Pete’s raw speed would more than make up for the lost ground in the gaps.
The only real downside here is Pete does have some swing and miss in his game, as being a free-swinger with an obvious learning disability doesn’t often lead to consistent contact. Still, there’s no better choice at the top of the order.
2. Pablo Sanchez – SS
What else is there to say about this guy? Greatest video game athlete of all time and it’s not even close. In Backyard Football, he was Johnny Manziel before Johnny Manziel, but his prowess on the diamond somehow exceeds his greatness on the gridiron. Guy is a triple crown threat at the dish plus he could just as easily lead the league in steals if he wasn’t so preoccupied hitting dingers. Conventional wisdom says hit this guy in the 3-hole, but I want Pablo up to the dish as much as possible, preferably with Petey Wheels sitting on 2nd.
In a backyard league with a few capable shortstops, Pablo is head and shoulders above the rest in everything but actual height, as he’s about 3.5 feet tall. Smooth actions and a rocket attached to his right shoulder, the only reason you should take him off short is to throw gas to close out the game.
3. Kiesha Phillips – RF
Hands down the most underrated player in the Backyard universe. While she’s out-shined by Wheeler’s speed and Pablo’s all-around greatness, Kiesha Phillips is a bonafide five-tool talent who’s a solid power/speed combo in the 3-hole. It may surprise you if you get to the end of the year with Phillips topping Sanchez in both bombs and steals, but it really shouldn’t.
Putting Kiesha and Wheeler in the same OF should be a felony. Much like a frustrated 13-year-old me over a decade ago, in that outfield balls just ain’t dropping.
4. Mikey Thomas – C
Sniffly and morose Mikey Thomas can’t run for shit. But, when you hit 400ft home runs with easy left handed power, it really doesn’t matter if it takes you 15 seconds to get to first base. He’s also got the perfect arm and frame for behind the dish, and it’s not like you care about all that time catching wearing out his already slow legs. He’s the perfect cleanup hitter with three speedsters in front of him, and when Mikey Thomas gets a hold of one, people stop and watch it.
5. Jocinda Smith – 3B
Just an absolute damn professional out there. Jocinda is going to hit .350+, take her walks, hit the occasional dinger, and give you the best left side of the infield since the ’04 Yankees. Somewhat of a double-play risk batting her and Thomas back-to-back, but frankly the shots in the gap are definitely going to outnumber the occasional 6-4-3.
Smith is clearly a born winner out there and a steady presence you need in the clubhouse just as much as on the field. There’s little doubt that being an athlete like this would have Geno Auriemma recruiting her before she got to high school.
6. Achmed Khan – LF
This guy has raw power to spare out there. He’s going to swing as hard as he can and when he barrels up, that ball goessss. The tools are there, and the only things keeping him batting as low as he is are the impressive attributes of his peers and the fact that you never know what he’s blaring under those headphones. Yeah, it seems like pump-up rock, but if homie gets his heart broken on the playground and spends all day listening to that new Sam Smith song, you might be staring at 0-5 with 5 K’s.
7. Stephanie Morgan – 2B
Give me nine Stephanie Morgan’s and you win a World Series every single time. She’s got that passion and it-factor that every ballplayer needs, and you’d be stupid not to have her in your lineup. A natural shortstop, she fits perfectly into the keystone after getting bumped from short buy the greatest of all time. Reminiscent of Pedroia both with the quick actions on a double play ball and surprising pop at the dish, being able to slot Morgan into the seven hole is an absolute luxury.
8. Ernie Steele – 1B
Sweet Jesus can this man pick a baseball over at first. Considering you’ve got absolute howitzers coming from Sanchez & Smith on the left side, the smartest play is to stick the best damn first baseman money can buy over there. It helps that he’s the tallest kid in the league by at least four inches. Ernie probably isn’t going to ever wow you at the dish and sure as hell won’t win you any games on the bases, but he’s not going to lose them there either, and that’s what matters.
9. Kenny Kawaguchi – P
You’ll see some that might prefer to give the ball to Angela Delvechio, but she’s such a liability in the field and on the bases that it practically nullifies her ability to carve like a female pre-pubescent Greg Maddux.
Kenny does enough with the stick to let his literal wheels do the work on the bases, and provides a good segue to Wheeler at the top of the lineup. On the bump, Kenny is going to hurl gem after gem with his patented wheelchair 360 motion. IF you’ve got Kenny to deal for five innings then the raw fastball of Pablo Sanchez for the 6th, you’re going to win often. .
Image via YouTube