I must admit that before the fictional Ginny Baker, I didn’t even think about women in baseball. I went through the first 18 years of my life blindly accepting that baseball was mostly a game for men, played by men, and coached by men. I thought of myself as an exception to this rule. I envisioned baseball for me as something I could watch, but not partake in. As a result, I saw myself standing behind rows and rows of more deserving adult men, peaking through them to catch a glimpse of the game I yearned for, making sure to stay quiet because my opinion was not welcomed. Staying quiet wasn’t a problem for me. I am a shy, socially awkward introvert that would rather listen than speak. But that didn’t mean that I didn’t have things to say.

I’m not really sure where these expectations came from. I know for a fact they didn’t come from my parents. They were always wonderfully open and accepting of my love for sports. I remember going to a Florida Marlins game with my dad. My memory is a bit hazy, but I remember talking with him about the player up to bat, Juan Encarnación. This is when a man sitting in the row in front of us turned around and tried to correct what I had said. I was braver then I am now, and I remember that I said something back to him, and my dad replied that I knew my stuff. The man didn’t say anything the rest of the game, but that small interaction was a punch in the gut that reminded me that this game isn’t for me.

Around second grade, I told my dad I wanted to play baseball. I soon found myself in a white tank top and red shorts, holding a big yellow ball. He would tell me later on that he didn’t want me to feel different on the ball field, and I don’t fault him for that. I don’t regret my softball career for a second. I love the game, made some great friends, and gave it all I had for ten strong years.

But then I saw the television show Pitch, which featured a woman on a professional baseball team. It got me thinking that maybe it would be possible one day. A few years later, my dad and I went to the SABR conference in Pittsburgh. A man told my dad that he was “glad you dragged her along!” to which my dad said I was actually the one that brought him. These may seem like small interactions for people who easily find places they fit in, but they stand out to someone who for most of their life has felt like they are an outcast. In 2018, after my softball career was over, my dad and I took one more long drive up the state of Florida. This time it was to watch the Women’s Baseball World Cup. It was an unbelievable experience to see women playing baseball, and it’s something I’ll never forget.

Now in 2020, the San Francisco Giants named Alyssa Nakken as one of their assistant coaches. She is the first woman to coach a Major League Baseball team. I know that some people aren’t thrilled to have a former women’s softball player coaching a group of male baseball players, but I could not be any more excited. Nakken’s hiring is a breath of fresh air that helps further my hope that baseball really is for me. I, for one, would buy her jersey today if it were available. This is such a big deal to so many young athletes who feel like they don’t fit in with the model of the traditional baseball player. Since we’re all about letting the kids play, let’s make sure that every kid, no matter what they look like or how they identify, has the opportunity to lace up their spikes and have a good time playing the game that they love.

Being a fan of a Jerry Dipoto-led team is an exercise in object impermanence. Buddhism teaches that taking delight in material possessions is one of the worldly concerns that prevents happiness, and Jerry Dipoto has been all too happy to provide an object lesson in that truth for those mistaken enough to buy anything other than a blank jersey. Every year, the player-issued discount jersey rack at the ballpark swells with names scarcely remembered from Spring Training, and receives a steady infusion across the season as players are shipped out, and in with a frequency and ruthless efficiency that rivals neighboring Amazon. Walk into any Seattle-area Goodwill and gaze upon the rows of former player bobbleheads perched on the top shelf of “Housewares”, their resinous noggins bobbing in solemn accord as, boundless and bare, the lone and level promotional t-shirts stretch far away.

No asset has proved unmovable for the enterprising Trader Jerry in his quest to remake the Mariners in his own image, no matter how many bulldozers and Van Wagenens he’s had to bring in to pull it off, with the exception of two of the longest-tenured Mariners: Félix Hernández and Kyle Seager. There have been whispers of a Seager trade, although the size and structure of his contract has largely stalled out those discussions. For Félix, struggling through injury and ineffectiveness over the past few seasons, the team was forced to be content with waiting out his contract. Very often we do not get to choose how we say goodbye; time or health or the whims of others dictate the terms of the farewell, and while the Mariners made space for one final, electric night for the King’s Court, on balance the end of Félix’s time in Seattle was a long, slow, painful descent. King Félix was gone well before the player himself packed up his locker for the final time.

Theoretically, the slow goodbye of the King gave Mariner fans time to process. The ignominious realization that the Mariners would never lift the King to the playoffs dawned, rose, and set amongst the backdrop of a stripped-down rebuilding club. Divorced from the idea of winning or contention, fans were free to appreciate Félix as Félix, no title necessary. The Mariners planned a final celebration for Félix’s last home start, and made the occasion so festive as to mask its funerary nature. Dr. Kubler-Ross would have given the entire city an “A” in Advanced Grieving.

And yet. When the first Photoshopped images of Félix Hernández in a Braves uniform dropped online, the response from all corners of Mariners Twitter was similar: “I knew this was coming but…”

What statement better encompasses the experience of grief? “I knew this was coming, but.” Man plans; Grief laughs. Grief is chimerical, idiosyncratic, and out to surprise you; it waits around the corner of your life to jump out as you make your way to work; it seeks to turn a casual cup of tea into a cauldron of sadness. We can plan and pageant as we like, but no one is ever really ready to say goodbye.

The Waiting Drove Me Mad or Passing the Offseason by Comparing the 2020 Cubs to Pearl Jam Songs

Winter is long and the Cubs have been stagnant, but Pearl Jam has a new record coming out soon, and I’m pretty sure that as a cishet male over the age of 35 who writes about baseball, I’m contractually obligated to write about them or Springsteen at least once a year.

And so, without further ado, here are the 2020 Cubs as Pearl Jam songs.

Anthony Rizzo – 1B – “Corduroy” – The exemplary entity, heart and soul of the machine that can occasionally be overlooked, if only because it’s so essential that it’s easy to take for granted. The proverbial workhorse, the hard-hat-and-lunch-pail guy, the eggs in the omelet. Can’t buy what I want because it’s free.

Nico Hoerner – 2B – “Dance of the Clairvoyants” – Brand new, ambitious and promising. It would be foolish to assume that this tiny glimmer of hope portends a return to greatness, but after having been mired in so much redundancy of late, any sign of a change in approach is welcome. Expecting perfection leaves a lot to ignore.

Javy Báez – SS – “Yellow Ledbetter” – Look, I still don’t really understand what it means or how it does what it does, but it’s graceful and elegant and cuts me to my core, with a beauty that can still make me cry. Dependability with the appearance of effortlessness is exactly the sort of indescribable magic we’re here for. I don’t know whether I’m the boxer or the bag (or the no-look tag).

Kris Bryant – 3B – “Light Years” – Of course, the easy choice here would have been “Grievance”, but “Light Years” is as beautiful as it is tragic, a heartbreaking lament for those that leave too soon. And in both cases, if the initial arrival had been better – in the case of the song, having not been produced by Tchad Blake, and for Bryant, having not had his service time manipulated — everything might be different now. It don’t seem fair, you seem to like it here.

Willson Contreras – C – “Animal” – A little wild, a little erratic, a little loud, entirely compelling. While they have no shortage of aggressive songs, this is the most blatantly “us against the world” anthem in their catalog (don’t @ me about “Not For You” – that’s a “me against the world” anthem), and exemplifies Contreras’s raw passion and fiery competitiveness. One, two, three, four, five against one.

Jason Heyward – RF – “You Are” – The first time I heard this opening riff–the sound of drummer Matt Cameron running a guitar through a drum machine–I was convinced that Pearl Jam was going to regain their status as an “important” band. The day that Jason Heyward signed I was convinced that he was going to continue his ascendence towards MVP/HoF caliber player. The riff ended up being a blip on an otherwise mediocre record, and thus far, Heyward’s primary contribution has been the most important pep-talk in the history of professional sports. The road’s exploding, but you’re keeping me strong.

Ian Happ – CF – “God’s Dice” – On paper, this seems good. People tell me it’s good. All of the elements are there. I’ve even had moments where I haven’t minded it in small doses. But I can admit it – it’s just not my thing. I don’t see it and I likely won’t see it, but if it does anything for you, I’m glad. Enjoy. This power has no roots to guide, no role.

Kyle Schwarber – LF – “Elderly Woman Behind The Counter In a Small Town” – Epic and legendary and upsetting and uplifting and forever overshadowed by memory. Two nights – one in April in Arizona, another in October in Cleveland – will likely define his career, regardless of what’s to come; the epitome of bittersweet. Never dreamed you’d return, but now here you are and here I am.

Yu Darvish – SP – “Come Back” – I was already satisfied. I got what I needed and was convinced that I didn’t need any more. And then this unexpected and extraordinary arrival reignited the emotional connection that brought me here in the first place. I try not to pick favorites, but this one is without question my favorite. em>If I keep holding out, will the light shine through?

Kyle Hendricks – SP – “Of the Girl” – So steady, so subtle. A quiet killer that’s over before you ever have a chance to settle in. How he makes his getaway.

Jon Lester – SP – Alive – Legendary. Integral to the story. The reason for the story. The moment we knew this was a Big Deal. And yes, it definitely feels like a bit of a relic now, an artifact of a bygone era, but it’s important not to let that get in the way of the fact that without it, and before it, there was nothing. Have I got a little story for you, indeed.

José Quintana – SP – “Footsteps” – There are two versions of this song – Pearl Jam’s Footsteps and Temple of the Dog’s Times of Trouble. Guitarist Stone Gossard used the same riff for both songs; Eddie Vedder wrote the lyrics for Footsteps, Chris Cornell wrote the lyrics for Times of Trouble. Both are serviceable, but one is definitely better than the other. There are two versions of José Quintana – the one the White Sox had and the one the Cubs have. “I got scratches all over my arms, one for each day since I fell apart.”

Tyler Chatwood – SP – “Spin the Black Circle” – We heard about the spin rate. We heard that in a different time, in a different place, his stuff would play. In a different time, in a different place, the records would spin. Record Store Day is now an international annual event and Tyler Chatwood is likely moving into the starting rotation. “Spin, spin. Spin, spin. Spin, spin.”

David Ross – MGR – “Better Man” – Sure, everyone likes “Better Man”, but it was never supposed to be an arena rock anthem. Somewhere along the line though this small, simple song blew up and got overplayed and overexposed, and in that overexposure came the realization and acceptance that it was never as interesting or deep or exciting as we wanted it to be. I’ll still sing along, but I’m not holding my lighter up for it. She lies and says she’s in love with him.

And finally, to anyone who might be wondering about the conspicuous absence of songs from No Code or Yield, just know that there are, in fact, players who correspond with the tracklists from my two favorite Pearl Jam records, and pretty much all of them played between 1987 and 2003. All the precious moments, as you know, cannot stay.

Thank you for reading

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