I’ve watched the television show a few times, enough to realize that anything I might have learned back in the stone age of leisure suits and mood rings and 8-tracks, can no longer be summoned from the depths of my flimsy psyche.
I wasn’t smarter than a fifth-grader in the fifth grade.
I’m sure not smarter than one now.
So while accepting the fact I couldn’t trick them on things like Nevada not being part of the Four Corners or Brazil being the largest South American country by area or Mercury being the planet closest to the sun, my challenge to some of the thousands of fifth-graders running around Cashman Field on Tuesday had to be more limited in scope.
The 51s held their annual school day game, and in between a pregame ceremony of warning kids about the dangers of smoking and Las Vegas beating Tacoma 5-4 in 10 innings, I thought it important to quiz the tykes on the home team.
Jovany attends Wolfe Elementary in North Las Vegas.
1. Do you know who Noah Syndergaard is?
2. Do you know what Major League baseball team Rafael Montero will pitch against this week?
3. Do you know which team has the best record in Triple-A baseball?
4. Does your inability to answer any of these questions make you doubt that you are smarter than me?
At this point, despite Jovany’s strong but odd level of confidence, I felt my Stephen Hawking facade coming on, confident the short ones could struggle keeping up if I continued my assault of queries on the 51s.
“What about fractions?” asked fifth-grader Angie.
Boy, talk about a rally killer.
There is always one in the group.
What the 9,686 in attendance witnessed, or at least the few hundred who remained following most of the kids returning to school, was a rarity when it comes to the 51s this season.
Las Vegas before Tuesday was 21-2 when leading after six innings. It led 3-0 entering the eighth against Tacoma, but then really took the school-day theme seriously and allowed fifth-graders to finish the game.
Or at least played like it.
Zach Lutz won it for the 51s with an RBI single in the 10th, but not before the home team blew the best start all season by Logan Verrett, whose 7 1/3 innings pitched included 11 ground ball outs and no earned runs.
But then the 51s went all Bad News Bears defensively to the point the only players missing from the eighth inning on were Tanner, Lupus and Engelberg.
There is a reason 51s manager Wally Backman didn’t give the anti-smoking speech beforehand, because I assume there were a few packs blown through late in the game.
“We got the win, which is nice, but Logan pitched such a great game, maybe the best game we have had pitched by anyone all year,” Backman said. “I’m very disappointed the way we played the last three innings. We had some mental letdowns and didn’t play good defense. It happens, but that’s how you let teams beat you.
“We haven’t done it very much this season, but when it happens, it’s not a happy time for me. The gut starts turning a little there. Those last three innings were a total letdown, blackout, whatever you want to call it. I’m happy we won, but the players knew I was pissed off in that dugout.”
Overall, he’s fine. His team is better than fine. It still owns the best record in Triple-A at 28-11 and still has a deep pitching staff led by the Mets’ top prospect in Syndergaard.
Montero was called up this week and will pitch against the Yankees tonight at Citi Field.
Things continue to go well for the 51s, despite the fact many of the fifth-graders at Tuesday’s game weren’t aware of the team’s hot start.
More to my intellectual speed, I discovered a group of third-graders from William Snyder Elementary strolling the concourse with their teacher, Mrs. Eitnier. Her students had shown such good behavior all year, they were allowed to attend the game with the older ones.
I had to be smarter than a third-grader, right?
“Multiplication is a good start,” Mrs. Eitnier said. “We do a lot of social studies. Cause and effect. Comparing different (styles) of writing.
“We also have been studying communities and map skills.”
I suppose that doesn’t include the Google maps application on my iPhone that helps me get from home to the grocery store ...
“No,” said Mrs. Eitnier, laughing. “They have to read the maps.”
Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ed Graney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-4618. He can be heard from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday on “Gridlock,” ESPN 1100 and 98.9 FM. Follow him on Twitter: @edgraney.