Monday, September 29, 2003

El Amor de mi Vida

owe an apology to my one true love. I gave up far too soon, lost faith at an inappropriate time and it was a huge mistake.

It was thirty years ago when my Mom shared her love with me of the only game that matters- baseball- a game as complex as it is simple, as heartbreaking as it is uplifting, as unpredictable as it is consistent. I don't think a day has since passed during spring/summer/fall where one of the first things in the morning I haven't found myself doing was checking the previous day/night boxscores, paying particular attention to that summary of the efforts of our local nine. Doesn't matter what period of my life I was in from a current stressful day to the most mind-blowing enlightening day in college- baseball has always remained deep within my heart. Thus my confession/apology. What the Minnesota Twins accomplished post All Star break after a frightening skid in June and July was truly astounding. I'm not exactly a fair weather, bandwagon jumping fan when it comes to Twins' baseball (women's professional basketball perhaps) and having bought in on season tickets during the nadir of the local baseball franchise (the Bernardo Brito era) I think proves a thing or two.

Still I must confess when the team played some of the worst baseball I've ever witnessed at the beginning of summer I wrote them off completely. Sure the teams of the mid-90's used to lose at an even more alarming rate but what made this season's woeful display even more painful was this clearly was a team with a lot of talent and there was absolutely no excuse (or reason) for the way they were playing. Bad pitching, excruciating poor at bats, boneheaded baserunning, inexcusable lapses in the field- nothing was going right and there was no sign that the team could ever turn it around in time.

Posting the best record in the Majors since the All Star break and playing astoundingly crisp baseball during a remarkably long period of time the Twins not only have answered their critics and doubters and all those in between and indifferent with an exclamation point but with a deserving middle finger pointed at all of us who lost faith along the way. Division rival Kansas City was a better feel good story but they were never a serious threat with a pitching staff composed of retreads they were picking up off the street (Jose Lima, Paul Abbott, Jamey Wright). Chicago had superior talent but the team has always been just dysfunctional enough to play their worst at the worst possible time (witness the deciding series of the season the past two weeks first in Chicago and then here at that atrocious Dome we try to pass off as a Major League stadium). I really shouldn't have doubted that our beloved Twins, with their biggest strength being their pitching and defense would come out ahead in the end.

And there were signs along the way that suggested that something special was awaiting all those who believe in such things as fate. There was that game against Baltimore a month and a half back where Michael Restovich struck out for what appeared to be the last out of the game. But the Oriole catcher dropped the ball and Restovich added to the confusion by freezing at the plate and then taking off as he should and that delay made the catcher throw the ball wildly to first allowing the tying and winning runs to score. And then there was a game a few weeks later when the Twins were down to their final out against Anaheim closer Troy Percival, a mean looking, hard throwing reliever who we had never scored an earned run in his nine years in the league. Dustan Mohr was on first when Shannon Stewart hit a double down the third base line and in what seemed like a futile effort third base coach Al Newman decided to wave Mohr home even though the throw beat Mohr by fifteen feet but he crashed into Angel catcher Benji Molina jarring the ball lose and breaking Molina's wrist also allowing Stewart to somehow scamper safely home for a most bizarre and inspiring win. Games like that have got to make you believe that someone somewhere has planned something special for the Minnesota Twins this season. Yet I stopped believing and there were games in the mid-season swoon that caused me to turn off my radio and not read the next day's newspaper account for the first time in my baseball loving life. So I'll eat the deserving crow and say I'll never stop believing again (at least until next year).


My Dad recently bought me a hundred dollar softball bat and new cleats. He kidded me that he expected me to hit a home run with my new bat, dubbed "the Weapon." So my first at bat with my new piece of equipment I put an easy swing on the ball on a low pitch and it flew far far away hitting the aluminum fence of a St. Paul Central High School fence. A few innings later, playing third base I dove for a liner down the line and stabbed the sucker causing team captain Joe Mansky to declare it looked like Brooks Robinson, a "definite Major League play." A few innings even later a guy hit a blooper between home and third and I charged in trying to judge the backspin versus the bounce the ball might take on the rutty dirt infield we were playing on. I grabbed the ball near the ground while I was in the air and in one motion flung it to first. Nipped the runner by inches. Quite the contrast from a few weeks back when I charged in on a ball and ended up scooping up as much dirt as ball thus losing the grip, and tripping over the ball to add to the embarrassment of the all time worst play ever- all to the laughter and derision of the opposing team. So when my nine year old nephew recently asked his mother (my sister) after hearing of my good game, if I was good enough a ballplayer to play for the Twins I had to tell her to tell him if asked this past July I probably would have said yes but the way the boys are currently playing- no frickin way. I'm sorry, Go Twins.

No comments: