The cricket lesson: baseball players learn the English game

BEVERLEA WALZ PHOTO Some baseball players showed up at the Island Boatyard, venue for Saturday’s Charity Cricket match for a lesson. From left, David Shillingford behind son Digby, Charlie Binder, Matt BeltCappellino, Spencer Gibbs, Peter Miedema, and kneeling, Basil Shillingford.

Some baseball players showed up at the Island Boatyard Sunday, venue for Saturday’s Charity Cricket match, for a lesson. From left, David Shillingford behind son Digby, Charlie Binder, Matt BeltCappellino, Spencer Gibbs, Peter Miedema and kneeling, Basil Shillingford.

There’s a bat. A ball. Innings. Runs.

And that’s about it for similarities shared by baseball and cricket.

Oh, there’s also humor, the same whenever athletes of any sport get together.

Example: David Shillingford, English born, resident of the Island and one of the organizers of Saturday’s third annual Shelter Island Cricket Club Charity Match, was asked by someone the meaning of “a sticky wicket.”

Before he could answer, Peter Miedema, Shelter Island High School teacher and baseball coach, immediately said, “I got a shot of penicillin for that one time.”

“You have to have humor with  cricket,” Mr. Shillingford noted, “because a match can go on for days.”

Three high school baseball players who graduated last month, Matt BeltCappellino, Spencer Gibbs and Charlie Binder, along with their coach, Mr. Miedema, showed up Sunday morning at the Island Boatyard, where Saturday’s match will be played, for a cricket lesson from Mr. Shillingford.

Although it could have been a case of two cultures separated by a common language, all the Yanks caught on quickly.

When one player was catching on a little too quickly, he was accused of being too scholarly. “You were on Wikipedia last night,” he was told to broad smiles.

The workout was in preparation for the match (not game, please) this Saturday at the boatyard. It’s developed into one of the most successful, and it goes without saying, fun events of the summer on the Island.

Last year more than 300 people came out and helped raise over $15,000 for the Shelter Island Emergency Services.

The match will begin at 9 a.m. with lots of kids’ games and activities kicking off around 11. The match will be played rain or shine. There will be a beer tent and  a food tent catered by SALT. The cricket match will be over about four, which will be enough time to get a taste of England’s great game.

Cricket is played in almost every country Britain decided to conquer. That takes in some territory, since the Union Jack once flew over a quarter of the world’s land surface. That’s also a lot of folks, as in 450 or so million of them.

So, a primer on cricket was given by David to the three ballplayers and their coach Sunday before “padding up” (putting on leg pads).

The game is played on a pitch and there is no pitcher, but a bowler, who takes a long running start and throws overhand, stiff-armed, reaching speeds that an elite baseball closer can bring it, clocking in at a 100 mph. There are pace bowlers — power pitchers — and spinners — junk pitchers. Wicketkeeper equals catcher, roughly, and he’s the only one who wears a glove. The rest of the fielders are barehanded and their fielding skills are something to behold.

As the boys and their coach started to whack the ball and tried to master the  art of bowing, Mr. Shilingford’s two sons, Basil, 11, and Digby, 9, knocked a soccer ball around the Island Boatyard field and occasionally weighed in on aspects of the game.

When one of the baseball players asked why cricket players always wear white, Basil piped up, “Because they play in summer. Would they play wearing all black?”

His father noted that he was about to answer “because it’s always been done that way. But I think Basil is on to something.”

Another difference between the American and English games was noted by Mr. Shillingford  when a pitch (bowl?) went awry and hit the pads of the batsman.

“In baseball when the ball hits the batter, large guys come out of the dugout,” he said. “In cricket, everyone claps.”

Spencer showed some major league skills as a wicketkeeper and all the baseball players struck the ball well, especially Mr. Miedema, who got a recruiting pitch from  Mr. Shillingford to suit up Saturday and play for real.

Bowling was the most difficult skill to master for the student athletes. The stiff-armed delivery and bouncing the ball in front of the batsman took some time to achieve.

Mr. Shillingford began to demonstrate the proper method of bowling, preparing a long run before flinging the ball. “This is why we sponsor the ambulance corps,” he said. “Because I might need it.”

Spencer gave a few tosses and said, “It might not be good at batting or bowling but my fielding is down.”

As they played on, there was some ragging  and whoops of appreciation for a good bowl or a well-struck hit. The next time a bowler hit a batsman’s pads, the boys and Mr. Miedema clapped, and then laughed.