Why I Love Baseball
Note: The post below doesn’t involve the RoughRiders. It does, however, have everything to do with baseball. We will still have a RoughRider-related post later today. Enjoy!
Aaron, Reid, Stephen and I are incredibly lucky to be here with the RoughRiders and follow baseball on a daily basis. As much fun as baseball is, the game is mentally and physically taxing for everyone involved. By the end of the season, the ‘Riders will have played 140 regular season games in 152 days.
I will never be able to relate to the toll baseball takes on players in the minors. Still, a broadcaster at this level needs some self-motivation here and there during the long season, and this day provides a much-needed jolt for me.
On this day ten years ago, I truly fell for baseball.
I was always a fan. I went to a no-hitter at the age of one (don’t remember that one), a World Series game at the age of five and an All-Star Game at the age of seven while growing up in Cleveland during the glory days of Indians baseball.
If you are reading this, you have probably been a fan for a long time, too. But for many baseball fans, there is that ONE moment when everything came together. Many Rangers fans experienced that moment last October. Maybe Nelson Cruz’s homer in Game 6 against the Yankees? Or Neftali Feliz’s strikeout of Alex Rodriguez to clinch the pennant? (Aaron’s moment, by the way, is buying the first hot dog in new Busch Stadium’s history. Seriously.).
My “moment” was August 5, 2001. I had tickets to the Indians-Mariners game, which was on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball. After a family emergency that day, it didn’t look like I would get to go, which, at that point, was completely understandable.
About 30 minutes before first pitch, my dad changed his mind. We went to the game hoping for a pick-us-up.
By the time we got there, the Mariners were in the process of taking a 12-0 lead in the third. And this was the Mariners team that finished 116-46 and went to the ALCS. At that point in the season, they boasted a record of 80-30. The main point—they were good.
Going into the bottom of the seventh, it was 14-2. As the probability chart shows near the middle of this page, things weren’t looking good for Chief Wahoo’s crew. We stuck around as the Sunday night, sold-out crowd started to dwindle and as the likes of Eddie Taubensee, Wil Cordero and Russell Branyan replaced some of the Indians’ starters.
The Tribe plated three in the seventh to make it 14-5. In the eighth, the Indians scored four runs and had only one out. All the momentum went away, though, when a potential run was cut down at the plate, and Seattle took a 14-9 lead into the ninth.
During the top of the ninth, my dad pointed at the scoreboard. He said, in what had to be a showing of sarcasm, that the Indians wanted three in the seventh and four in the eighth in order to score five in the ninth.
After an emotional day at home and an ugly night of baseball, my dad said, “I have a feeling.”
Whether or not he truly believed that, I don’t know and I don’t care. He was incredibly correct.
With two out and a runner at first, four straight runners reached. Bases loaded and two outs in a 14-9 game, and Omar Vizquel (my favorite Indian) was at the plate. On a 3-2 pitch, Vizquel laced a bases-clearing, game-tying triple down the right field line that still gives me goosebumps when I think about it.
Two innings later, in-game addition Jolbert Cabrera drove home the game-winning run for the Indians. Less than 10,000 people were still at Jacobs Field shortly after midnight when Kenny Lofton scored the game-winning run. Still, I’ve never heard a crowd like that one. I’ve never attended a game like that one.
Every year, I relive the play-by-play calls of that magical night, which takes me back to a time, albeit a short one, when baseball was perfect.
Baseball is a game that must be approached with realism, humility, and grit. Every team experiences peaks and valleys. Patience is key, and one streak (positive or negative) does not define a season.
But everyone who has watched this game enough has at least one of these experiences. Baseball keeps bringing us back because we all want to experience something better. Is that likely? Not exactly.
Neither was the Rangers’ run to the Fall Classic. Neither was a win for the Indians on that incredible night ten years ago, either. But these things did happen, and they were perfect.
No matter what happens to our favorite teams, we’ll always have that one moment. And ten years later, mine is still perfect.