The past month took a huge toll on me physically. Work kicked my ass—I had seven clients make MiLB all-star games. Tyler White, whom many of you know from this column, won the Texas League HR derby and was promoted to Triple-A, where he is hitting .372 in his first 24 games. He has a real shot to play in the big leagues this season, and still has more walks than strikeouts in his career. Beyond that I had a draft experience with Justin Garcia, a 21-year-old outfielder who went to the Astros in the 17th round. And, for great measure, I saw Carlos Carrasco nearly throw a no-hitter.
I have been a fortunate spectator in my career. During the 2010 season I went to visit a client, a pitcher named David Herndon. (He has had 40-man stints with the Jays, Phillies, and Yankees, but his career had been derailed by a freak run of injuries. He is now playing for Sioux City in the American Association, hoping to get back, another story for another day.) That year David had been selected in the Rule 5 draft by the Phillies—a playoff club the previous year, and it was quite an achievement for him to stick as a Rule 5 guy on a contender. We were going to meet after the game, a Saturday affair at Pro Player Stadium, former home of the Marlins and my hometown stadium. I was going to watch and then jet to Seattle for the Mariners’ pre-draft workout.
So, this random game that I had to sit through while waiting for my business meeting: Roy Halladay throws a perfect game. Arguably the most exciting game I have ever attended. I was at Al Leiter’s no hitter in 1996, and all the Marlins home games in the 1997 and 2003 World Series, but this topped them all. I waited post-game in the family area to see David and privately catch a glimpse of Mr. Halladay. What was so impressive to me was after his post-game interviews, of which there were many, Halladay went back to his normal post-game routine of lifting weights and icing his arm down.
Later that week, I was in Seattle for the pre-draft workout. That year I had a first-round pick, Kellen Deglan, whom Texas ultimately chose with the 22nd pick. Privately I was hoping Seattle would select him, because of my history with that front office, but it was not meant to be. After the workout was over all the kids were invited to go to the night game. That night Ken Griffey Jr. hit a home run—the last, it would turn out, of his historic career. In retrospect, I imagine I was most likely the only man on earth to see both Roy Halladay’s perfect game and Ken Griffey Jr.’s final home run. So for as much complaining as I do about the job, or as much as I talk about the field being my office, there are always rare glimpses of me still being a fan at heart. It’s nice to still be able to feel that.
Seeing Carlos Carrasco chase history, I had a rekindling of that feeling. What shocked me was how, in the seventh inning nearly half the stadium emptied out. By the end maybe 5,000 people were left. Joey Butler "ruined" the perfect game in the seventh, and, as the baseball gods would have it, he would also get the first hit for the Rays with two outs on an 0-2 count in the bottom of the ninth inning down 8-0. Carrasco was dominant, as anyone could see, but brushing up to greatness again and having that feeling as a fan was nice to experience again.
I attended the game with a client who has been retired five years now, and is currently a fireman in the Tampa area. Just because he didn’t make it to the big leagues certainly didn’t alter my relationship with him. (He was also Michael Brantley’s roommate in West Virginia way back when, and it was nice to surprise Michael, who hadn’t seen this guy in at least six years.) All in all it was a long day with six hours of driving, but totally worth it given the kind of special day I had and nearly had. Sometimes, getting your ass kicked by work is just what you need.
Attending another perfect game would have been an incredible experience, but alas in the record books it will go down in history as just another game. One pitch changed the outcome of history and that in it of itself is part of what makes baseball special. It was so great talking to all the fans around me about what we were witnessing, complete strangers brought together by this shared experience. What a day. What a game. Res Ipsa Loquitor
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