CJ Remmenga wasn’t worried — because he rarely is — but he had reason for concern Thursday when the Five Points Bank Chiefs trailed Emporia Post 5 6-1 in an elimination game.
Two games into the Mid-South Regional tournament and Remmenga hadn’t seen the mound.
A ‘Legion baby,’ meaning his birthdate allows him to play an extra year of baseball, Remmenga thought maybe he had thrown his last pitch for Five Points Bank.
While he was one of the arms sent to the bullpen to warm as the game began to slip away Thursday, it turned out the Chiefs didn’t need him. The offense awoke and Gabe Conant played hero with four innings of relief and a walk-off single in the ninth inning.
“Everything happens for a reason,” Remmenga said in retrospect.
Boy, was he right.
The 2018 Hastings High graduate, toed the rubber Friday, potentially for the final time.
There are few ways to end a career any better, if that becomes the case in the coming days.
Remmenga set the tone with his heavy fastball, and then spun batters around with his deceitful slider. He faced one above the minimum, and ended a five-inning no-hitter with a strikeout. His offense bestowed him a 10-run cushion, and the Chiefs advanced to play Festus, the Missouri runner-up, at 7 p.m. Saturday in yet another elimination game.
There were two special moments of celebration involving Remmenga after he sat down the last hitter he faced.
First, a dance with his head coach Kevin Asher.
“We got this thing that started about three years ago with ‘Stayin’ Alive,’ “ Asher said with a smile. “We did it in the state tournament all the way through (that year). We had to battle out of the (consolation) bracket to get runner-up, and it’s just kind of one of those things. The kids love to see an old guy fall down almost, and when CJ throws a no-hitter, we definitely had to make sure he was in on that.”
Second, an embrace with his mother Michelle, who suffers from spinal stenosis — a degenerative disease where the space between a person’s vertebrae gradually narrow, causing pressure on the nervous system.
Michelle’s opportunities to watch CJ play have been limited with her disability. Recently, her fourth, fifth, and sixth vertebrae were fused together, which prohibited her from watching CJ and the Chiefs all summer.
“I’ve just been laid up, and haven’t been able to travel the distances to where he’s been playing, so it was pretty incredible to see him today,” she said.
Thursday marked the first time Michelle was able to make it out to the ballpark.
“If they wouldn’t have won (Thursday), that would have been his last game,” she said. “The season would have been over for him, but I’m so glad he got the chance today. It’s just so exciting.”
Michelle greeted CJ with a cold pour of water on his head, and shared a few words of pride.
“It was a very emotional moment for me,” CJ said holding back tears. “It could potentially be my last Legion game, last baseball game ever, and it’s just very special to have my mom here for that moment.”