During these last few hours, my heart felt that horrifying shudder stop near every time Madison Bumgarner released. The baseball, flowing along some devious trajectory towards the mitt behind the plate, is such a vulnerable thing. It’s safety is guaranteed only for the few precious moments in the pitcher’s glove, and then it is sent into the world. Each pitch matters, every movement in the measured dance between pitcher and batter. Writers have been obsessed with describing this moment, and indeed all of baseball, since the sport’s inception–metaphors and similes failing to capture the intensity of the few seconds where everything that can happen either happens. Or doesn’t. Schrodinger’s cat until the final milliseconds of flight.
I love baseball. I love how every pitch matters. How each batter has a history with certain pitchers, and vice versa. The strange decisions of coaches and the clear-eyed captaining from the catcher. The aspect of teamwork and trust, and the lonely fighter on the mound. The explosion of movement and athletic grace from a second baseman; the mad dash of a stolen base; the play just…at…the…wall. The storylines and apocrypha of the sport are alive with every play, roosting on each resined bat and stitched ball.
Tonight’s Game Seven just brought home all those feelings–it was a game of delicacy and speed, trickery and deceit, a pitchers’ game with one lonely run separating those celebrating in champagne and those walking silently off the field. I believe that everyone can see his or herself as someone in the game–a cool Bumgarner or Holland, vivacious Sandoval, optimistic Posey or tenacious Perez–what a cast of characters the greatest game continues to attract.
I’ve watched baseball across the world–I still remember coming into the Olympic Stadium in Korea right at far left field in time to see my first live in-field homerun as some unknown Dutch player streaked across first, second, third, and home. I ump’ed the national Little League Championships in Ukraine as kids bounded after errors and bobbled catches, obviously loving this foreign sport. My first year in DC was a collection of $2 tickets to a wiped out Nationals team slowly building itself into eventual playoff contention a few years down the line. I froze alongside the few diehards at the UNR vs. UNLV game as a storm built itself up over the Sierras. I still relish the look and feel of a solid white pant leg collecting the dirt of a slide into second.
So tonight, I say to all of us baseball fans, let’s celebrate! Obviously, I’m a happier human being because my team won, but beyond, let’s celebrate a seven-game series. Let’s celebrate the tension of a well-pitched Game Seven. Let’s celebrate all those around the world who play, score, watch, and love this game. Let’s celebrate the hits and the strikes, the bunts and–why not–the bad calls, the homers and that impish wink from Pablo. Let’s celebrate baseball–because while it’s just a simple sport, it’s still a helluva game.