To be quite honest, this is my favorite time of the work year, the point at which I have picked my spring All-Harford teams and will not be tasked with putting together another one until the fall sports season wraps up in November, five months distant. I simply do not look forward to choosing the teams because of the stress it involves. The process is a bit like writing, which I think I'm pretty good at, in that it's challenging and, at the end, satisfying, but in no way can it be considered fun. Another thing to which I'd compare the selection process is running a race, something I used to be good at about 15 years ago. Crossing the finish line first in the 1600 meter event, having dropped the two guys who boxed me in and elbowed me the first three laps, felt amazing, but during the race all I could think about was how bad my lungs and legs burned, how I hoped I had enough left in the tank to sprint the final 200 meters, how it would be so much easier to feign a stomach cramp and just dive on the infield grass. Fun is a sunny Saturday when I have a $100 bill in my pocket and zero obligations. Picking All-Harford teams, writing, running the 1600 meter, not fun.
Toward the end of selecting this season's baseball and softball teams, I was asked by a reader to outline my process. Well, it's simple. Are you familiar with the ancient practice of Haruspices? If not, it goes like this: I take a slaughtered animal, usually a sheep or a chicken, cut open its belly and dump out the entrails, which I then study. Consulting a chart, which takes into consideration the placement and shape of the animal's organs, along with recent natural phenomena like lightning strikes and earthquakes, I come up with the initials of the All-Harford selections, and from there it's just a matter of elimination.
I'm kidding. I've never hurt an animal in my life, much less used one for the purpose of divination. Here's word-for-word copy of the explanation I offered to the curious reader who asked how I came up with the teams (keep in mind, this refers to the baseball and softball squads):
1. I send out a mass email to each sport's coaches, asking them to give me their nominations. The coaches are asked to rank their nominations from most-deserving on down, and to name players from other teams whom they think deserve all-county recognition.
2. I list the names of every nominee, trusting that the coaches have not omitted any players, and then start crossing off those whom I don't feel qualify for either first or second team (these players are usually those who missed a large portion of the season, had quality stats but played for teams with weak schedules or just plain didn't have the stats to warrant a spot).
3. After whittling down the list, there's generally around 30 players left, with 24 all-Harford spots in which to place them. I then go through the remaining names and do a top-down assessment, picking the best players from the most successful teams (i.e. the catcher who batted .325 for a regional championship team is going in above the catcher who hit .600 for the 4-15 team that got knocked out in the first round of the playoffs).
4. With a list of five to eight definite first-team players, I then fill out the remaining spots by seeing which players have been given recognition by other team's coaches. For instance, if two players from the same position, who played for teams with similar records, have identical stats, the one that received more nominations from other coaches is going to make the cut, every time.
5. Now, with 12 first-team members, I start picking the second-team using the same method.
So, the cat is out of the bag. I wish I had a more scientific way, or that I had some kind of Bowl Championship Series computer algorithm that spat out the 24 best players in Harford County, and I could say, "the computer picks 'em, not me." That's not the case, however, and I have to stand by the teams that I pick, which I do, 100 percent. It's torturous choosing them, but I'm satisfied when the work is done.