It’s been awhile – nearly five months if you’re counting.
This was a long offseason; a very fitting follow up to a difficult baseball season.
Fans should be passionate about baseball, but they shouldn’t be emotional. That’s a typical “girl” reaction and considering some people don’t even consider us legitimate fans, we should hide our emotions.
Last season wasn’t an easy one for me. I had a trifecta of gut-wrenching moments: the retirement of my favorite player, the trade of another favorite, and watching my hometown team lost the World Series. Again.
But – if I didn’t feel so strongly about each of those three things, I wouldn’t be the fan I am today.
As I’ve mentioned (many times), I became a baseball fan in 1997, and an Alex Rodriguez fan approximately five minutes later. Watching him play when he was just an insanely talented young shortstop in Seattle changed who I am as a baseball fan.
We all know someone, probably many people, who don’t like baseball because it’s “boring”. They see a lack of action on the field so the entire game drags on. Fans of the game know there’s so much more than meets the eye. We can appreciate how much of the game is mental rather than physical, and we can feel excitement even when there is no action.
Watching Rodriguez play in his early seasons brought this to life for me. It wasn’t because he was a good-looking guy pictured in magazines – it was because his fielding was energetic and I could feel the excitement every time he came up to bat. Suddenly, the game was so much more than just a guy throwing a ball, and another guy who may or may not hit it and run around the bases. It was the intellect behind the game and understanding the thought that went into each pitch, each at bat, and each play on the field. Baseball was anything but boring!
My appreciation for pitching is still developing. Admittedly, I don’t fully understand all the physics behind it, but I am constantly fascinated and learn a little more each game I watch.
Andrew Miller was the first pitcher I really “noticed”, and watching him pitch, at least in my opinion, is one of the most beautiful things in baseball. What impresses me about Miller compared to other pitchers is that he makes it look so effortless. He takes the mound, throws a few pitches (frequently facing the minimum number of batters), then strides over to the dugout like it was nothing.
Even more impressive is he’ll do that every game for multiple innings (any innings) if the team needs him to – and you’ll never hear a complaint. He seems to be exactly the kind of guy you want on your team and in your bullpen – a leader who puts the team before themselves.
As disappointing as it was to see the Yankees trade him, I’m glad he went to Cleveland. From the moment the trade was announced, Indians fans were happy to have him – and I’m certain it was genuine because Cleveland is home for me, and I know their fans; I grew up as one of them. Miller showed all the same character and talent in Cleveland as he did in New York. He embraced the city as his new home, he pitched whenever and whenever Terry Francona needed him, and even changed his entrance song because Indians closer Cody Allen was using the same one (Johnny Cash’s “God’s Gonna Cut You Down”).
And Cleveland – oh, Cleveland…! My hometown, known most infamously for losing sports teams and our river catching on fire, is where I became a baseball fan. For most of my life growing up, the Indians were the only baseball I could watch. Occasionally I would see a Mariners or Yankees game at my friend’s house (she had satellite TV and MLB Extra Innings – a big deal for that time), but Indians games were consistent. I was fortunate enough to see them make it to the World Series twice – and unfortunate enough to see them lose both.
Witnessing the Indians win the ALCS (with Andrew Miller’s help, no less) was one of the most exciting moments I’ve experienced as a baseball fan. The team seemingly came out of nowhere to make it to the World Series for the first time in 19 years. When the Cubs won the NLCS, I was slightly less excited. Both teams had long and disappointing histories. Regardless of what happened, the winning team deserved the win and the losing team would have to suffer a little longer. I was on the Cubs bandwagon right through the NLCS along with so many others.
Game seven was an emotional rollercoaster. I felt myself go from the extreme high after Rajai Davis hit that homerun, to the extreme low when Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo completed the final out. There I was for a third time in my life, crying over another disappointing Cleveland loss in the World Series.
But – that loss lead me to something good: it led me back to the Indians. I’ve never stopped being a fan, but I admit I haven’t always been a good fan. A lot of people don’t think it’s possible to have more than one favorite team, but I have to disagree. Cleveland is home, and the Indians are the team I loved first. If I didn’t watch their games, I would have seen Alex Rodriguez, the Yankees, or any other players/teams – and I may not be a baseball fan today.
What will 2017 bring? It’s the start of a new era for me as a fan. Thinking about what I’ve seen in the last twenty years makes me excited to start the next twenty years. My favorite player may be retired, I may never fully understand pitching, and my hometown my never win the World Series again – but who knows what exciting things are still to come.
Whatever happens, I just hope I’m there to witness it – and I hope I never experience such an emotional season again!