I took time this week to reflect on the meaning of the Nats being eliminated from the postseason – on the morning of October 12th. I read all the commentaries, listened to Baseball Tonight, and will eventually seek out friend and ESPN Baseball analyst Tim Kurkjian’s opinion on the 2012 Nats/Orioles season.
The first thing I know, it was a wild and enjoyable ride. The second thing is I can’t wait to see what the 2013 Nats can do. Baseball is back, it’s in our own backyard, and many would be fans in the MoCo/Metro area this year renewed their joy and love for baseball.
Putting all the talking heads side (including myself) the Nats and Orioles were hot teams all season, they were young and played loose. They exceeded our expectations and even with their abrupt elimination they brought game – and we all will never know what more could have been accomplished in October of 2012.
It used to be that for decades that spring meant pinning our hopes to the NCAA playoffs with Maryland, Georgetown and even George Mason or lamenting the woeful Redskins. Summers were spent driving to Baltimore to catch the O’s or reading about the upcoming Terps/Redskin/Ravens training camp and practice games. Now, at least in baseball has taken its rightful place between DC Metro basketball, hockey and football seasons.
Like the Normal Rockwell painting the Endless Debate – men talking baseball around the old wood stove – fans throughout the area will now talk, read (or listen) with renewed anticipation on what’s next in store for the 2013 Nationals and the Orioles. Who is traded away? Who is kept? Will they keep Davey (a no-brainer there)? Whom will they bring in or traded for? How much for the free agent? What new prospects are up and coming? When do they call up Pitchers and Catchers?
The October season in Washington (and Baltimore) is the best of all. I was there for the return of the postseason at Nats Stadium with tickets provided by my sons’ best friend (both of whom grew up as die-hard Orioles fans) and sat close to the action. Colleen Herklotz and her 10-year-old son Carter sat in the row behind my wife, Denise, my sons best friend mom, Bev and me. I listened throughout the game as Colleen explained the game and players on both teams to Carter. He will be a lifelong Nats fan.
In the middle innings a foul ball came arching overhead and landed 3 rows behind Carter – a gentleman – no doubt a Dad – grabbed the bounding ball and almost immediately reached over and handed it to Carter. It then became a running joke between Carter and me for me rest of the game to hold or touch the ball emblazoned with a NLCS Postseason tattoo on the hide. Carter never let it out of his possession – hiding it in his glove – only occasionally giving me a peak of the ball. He was now a converted Nats fan.
As fate would have it some 27 hours later at do-or-die Game 4 in which Jason Werth won it with a walk-off homer my son Philip (31 years old) sitting in those same reserved seats with tickets provided by his best friend catches a foul ball that bounded off some meat-handed adults. He claims it was the best baseball game he was ever at – and also that he kept the ball in his pocket the rest of the game. I can touch it the next time I visit him in Arlington.
Baseball is like that. The ball finds you.
The best part is that we can choose to root year round for our local teams, whomever they be – across all seasons of sport – and then come spring renew that baseball love when the dandelions and cherry blossoms reappear in 2013.