Last year was a tough one for me at times. Having broken up with the former mrs. of a few years, I was out of sorts for a while — check that, I was hurting. During one particularly rough patch in June, I needed to do something — anything — to keep my mind off her, off my pain.
Deluded by my misguided, romanticized notion of solitude in heartbreak, I thought it might be a good idea to take in a game by myself. But I needed baseball with a new twist. I wasn’t ready to go back to Shea Stadium, where we’d gone to so many games together. In fact, the last game I ever went to at Shea was April 11, 2008 — Dog Day — a half-baked attempt at a reconciliation by bringing her to a game.
My need for something new led me to a Class A Potomac Nationals game in Woodbridge, Va., where the lil’ Nats would be playing host to the Frederick Keys, the Baltimore Orioles’ Class A affiliate. The Keys’ star catcher in the first half of 2008 was none other than Matt Wieters, the fifth overall selection of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft.
My quest to see Wieters was not unlike that of a hipster bound and determined to see an indie band du jour when their self-produced material has only been released on their Myspace page — you know, before they actually get a record deal. But most of all, it was something to do. It was an attempt — however circuitous in rationale — to reclaim something I’d previously enjoyed with the former mrs. as something of my own again.
As it turns out, Woodbridge is no hop, skip and jump from Long Island. The drive was one I’d done a million times prior since I went to school in North Carolina, but even still, my calculations — with traffic and some inclement weather — were off a bit. Long story short, by the time I arrived at cozy (to put it nicely) G. Richard Pfitzner Stadium, golfball-sized hail was pounding my poor truck into oblivion. Once the lightening started flashing in the distance, I knew the game would be off.
Better still, they had actually already played five innings, enough for it to be considered an official contest. Better still, Wieters didn’t even play in the dang game. So, I drove about five hours to miss a five-inning game in which the player I wanted to see didn’t even play. Clearly, I was batting 1.000, as they say.
After tearing up the Carolina League, Wieters was promoted to Double-A Bowie just a few days after my misadventure, where he was actually closer to my grasp since he’d be playing teams within a shorter driving distance from my home like Trenton, N.J., and Binghamton, N.Y. But, I guess life got in the way (after all, life outside the diamond is a wrench). I never saw Wieters play.
Now, Wieters is on everyone’s radar. He’s going ahead of a handful of proven veterans in fantasy drafts (justifiably so; he has the potential to easily be the best-hitting catcher in baseball in no time). Baseball snobs and jilted lovers alike will have to move on to a new next-big-thing player, perhaps the Rays’ Tim Beckham or the Orioles’ Brian Matusz. Maybe I can go see Wieters the right way in 2008 — at Camden Yards, a stadium I’m long overdue to visit.
Allow me to be a company man here for a moment by virtue of not being one.
If Johan Santana pitches in the World Baseball Classic, I will be rather upset because the Mets need Johan to be healthy in the worst way. It will be better for baseball if Santana has a clean bill of health to help usher in Citi Field in its inaugural season.
In reality, I’m looking out for the best interest of the team for which I root, which has virtually no shot of winning its division without the services of one Mr. Santana — as if its two-years-running penchant for
collapse slumping at the wrong time weren’t enough to prevent that.
Lost in the aftermath of last season’s
collapse poorly timed, team-wide slump was one of the greatest pitching performances in Mets history in Game 161. Johan staved off the Mets’ inevitable elimination from playoff contention on that fateful, overcast day at Shea Stadium, shutting out the cocksure Marlins in rousing fashion.
Shea closed its doors for the last time the following day — with the Mets officially going home for the postseason — but in the coming weeks, we learned Johan had spun his masterpiece on a balky left knee, which eventually required surgery and rehabilition.
Which brings us to now. Team Venezuela surely wants its best native hurler on the mound in March, and Johan speaks as if he’d like to pitch for it, but he won’t do it if he’s not physically able to.
Just remember, Johan, it’s not Venezuela that signs those robust paychecks. The Citi Field faithful needs you this summer. No pressure, or anything.