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.
My dad sent me the A-Rod news via text this morning at about 11 a.m. I then relayed to Nelson, my best baseball friend and a devout Yankee follower.
The following conversation ensued via text message:
Me: CNN reports arod tested positive for roids in 2k3.
Me: Look, this is solid investigative journalism in my opinion.
Nelson: There goes the hof.
Me: I mean is this bad for baseball at this point? I think so. Even still, I don’t mind seeing this fraud raked over the coals a bit.
Me: Tomorrow’s Post hed: “A-roid”
Nelson: I think this is bad for baseball period. It really makes me angry.
Nelson: All the arod apologists including myself have to seriously reconsider our allegiances here.
Nelson: Hypothetically, if this were dwright, how would you react? Sincere question. I feel like I don’t want to watch baseball anymore.
Me: No I understand. I’d be crushed if dwright tested positive.
Nelson: I feel betrayed on a deep level right now … don’t even have a logical reaction.
Nelson: Fwiw he wasn’t a yank in 03.
Nelson: The whole game is a sham, bud has to out every single player today, this can’t continue. I refuse to be a fan if I’m going to get sandbagged with old evidence six years after the fact. I blame mlb for covering this up.
Me: Yep. I agree
Nelson: I’m sincerely done with it. That’s the end for me. I feel betrayed by the game.
Whether Nelson’s sentiment is shared by the majority of baseball fans, I cannot say. I wish things were different, of course. I wish this were not an issue, that every player had already been cited and we’d moved on.
But, regardless of the resolution, I’m already offering baseball my clemency. I’m not a despondent lover about this. I need baseball in my life; it provides me an income, sure, but it also gives me something to do on humid July evenings.
It’s supplied me countless memories over the years, like going to Shea in 1992 for the celebration of Tom Terrific’s election to the Hall of Fame, and witnessing the now-infamous “Matt Franco” Interleague game between the Mets and Yanks in 1999 when the eponymous pinch-hitter extraordinaire ended the riveting back-and-forth battle with a clutch base hit off none other than the immortal Mariano Rivera.
I memorized the stats from the back of my favorite players’ cards as a
kid, and emulated their swings as a Little Leaguer. I played the game
with my friends on dusty lots, dreaming of being something when I grew
up the odds said was nearly impossible. Tough losses have ruined many a
day, but I’ve come back the next day, in need of the distraction and
entertainment and otherworldliness of the game.
I trekked from school in North Carolina to Washington, D.C., in September 2005 with The Former Mrs. to watch a couple of meaningless games between the Mets and Nationals. We saw David Wright hit a grand slam in the first one, and Mike Piazza slugged the final longball I saw him hit as a Met in the second. We also went to a pitcher’s duel that spring that was the inspiration for a short story I wrote in one of my fiction writing classes. The following season, we witnessed Piazza’s return to Shea — as a Padre.
I need baseball, imperfections and all.
Pardon the cornball post title, but I thought it apt. I’d like to relay
an experience I endured a few months back.
After several years of dating, my relationship with the former mrs. came to an
end about a year ago. Always an unpleasant time, I did my best to handle it
with dignity. Since we lived together in her grandparents’ apartment building,
I was obviously the one who had to go.
For those who have moved within the five boroughs (or anywhere else, for that
matter), you know it can be a harrowing experience. One day last April, I
checked out apartments in Sunnyside, Queens and Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. I wasn’t
overly impressed by either place, but that hardly gets to the heart of this