The idea of weaving in a personal narrative with baseball events is not a new one. It’s been done by better writers than I, and you could argue was the entire point of Field of Dreams. I’m going to be doing it here, but I don’t have a great way of setting it up. That’s a weakness I sometimes have as a writer (Another being that I’m waaaaaaaay too fond of parenthetical statements.) But forewarning, we’re about to get a little heavy.
It’s Labor Day weekend. In our minute baseball world, that means the season is heading down the home stretch. Our preferred team, the Arizona Diamondbacks, are doing very well! They have a great chance to secure one of the Wild Card spots and even host the game. A sweep of the Dodgers gives us some, hopefully earned, bravado in the case of facing them in the NLDS. Everything is coming up big!
A decade ago, the Diamondbacks were in a similar situation. Fueled by an Island of Misfit Toys roster, late comebacks, and a disregard for the concept of “Pythagorean Record”, they were fighting it out for an NL West title with the Padres around Labor Day. Lurking five games back were the Colorado Rockies, but nobody was worried about them. Why would they be?
Labor Day weekend 2007 doesn’t immediately bring to mind that playoff chase for me. Nor does it immediately remind me of my life at the time. Going to college, trying to figure out my life, trying to learn lines for an upcoming production of Much Ado About Nothing at Pima Community College, although those were foremost on my mind around that time.
Labor Day weekend 2007 was when my father died. I won’t go into too many details about what happened and why, only it was inevitable for years, so I had kind of mentally steeled myself. I’ll also say that the relationship had become... complicated for a bit, and so the previous steeling myself ran into a lot of complex feelings, especially for a 20-year old that was still feeling his way around the world. So, all around it was rough.
I also was a shy and introspective person. I mean, I still am to a certain point, but I know when to open up about things. Back then, I told maybe like three friends who I trusted and kept it to myself otherwise. When I had to ask for a rehearsal off from the aforementioned production a few months later for the funeral, I was vague with the director about why I needed it off. I recall just saying “A funeral” and leaving it at that. For someone that was kind of an aspiring actor, the thought of being the center of the Community College attention over this felt overwhelming. It’s ironic, I know. In hindsight, I should have been more open about that, but I was a dumbass 20 year old.
Coinciding with the Funeral was the 2007 NLCS. If you’re reading this website, you’re probably familiar with the outcome of that, so I won’t reopen that wound too much. As it happens, the day of it was the day of Game 3 of that series, at Coors Field.
My father grew up in Colorado, so by happenstance I was in “enemy” territory during that day. After the funeral was over, my mom, sister, and uncle were driving back to our Hotel, in anticipation of flying back to Arizona the next day. We decided to get some food on our way back, and settled on a Bennigans near the Airport. The game was starting, but we weren’t near any TVs in the restaurant. I would more than occasionally get up and go to the bar area to check up on the game.
One of the times I did that, this happened:
I was standing in the middle of the room, sort of gawking at the various televisions. Every other patron around me, however, erupted in joy. Who could blame them? That ended up being the game-deciding homer, and would eventually lead to a sweep and a World Series appearance. I was just there, stunned, with this miasma of joy encircling. I suppose one could make the Arrested Development “Hello darkness my old friend...” joke, six years early. However, in the Simon and Garfunkel catalog, this was more of a Bridge over Troubled Waters. Like, it wasn’t a happy time, but there was this almost surreal experience of “Things will pass, even the bad ones” with that and having been to my father’s funeral earlier in the day. After probably only ten seconds, but it felt like the entire length of the Bridge over Troubled Waters album, I slumped back to eat with my family for the rest of the night.
The flight out of Denver was at an incredibly early hour, and after flying back and surviving through classes and rehearsals that day, I spent that night and most of the free day I had the next day sleeping. I didn’t watch Game 4, but I knew what happened. I was on a weird emotional reboot. Afterwards, after going through that, life just... continued. As it does.
It’s odd how our minds process various stimuli. Dealing with an odd sort of grief, but a weird relief that an ordeal was over, plus an ill-timed Home Run, turned into a sort of stoicism. Compare that to the next Diamondbacks playoff exit, where work-related stress, plus a close game in extras, plus said close game being blown in extras, resulted in a primal outburst (You can’t yell “Fire” in a theater, but you sure as hell can yell “F***!”) I crumpled to a heap on the floor in 2014 when Nick Johnson DIDN’T REALIZE HOW MUCH TIME WAS LEFT ON THE CLOCK AGAINST WISCONSIN IN OVERTIME IN THE ELITE 8 GOD I HATE FRANK KAMISKY
And so on and so forth.
(Needless to say, I’ve become, uh, better at expressing myself.)
When looked at from an objective lens, filtering a personal tragedy through baseball is odd. In another way, it isn’t. Non-mentioned things earlier aside, my father was the person who got me into baseball, and we went to a lot of games in a lot of stadiums, so really, viewing his life through that lens made a little bit of sense.
In a broader way, humans seem to process things that happen around them through the filter that makes sense for them. The sort of person who seems to understand politics better through Harry Potter analogies? They’re understanding the world through the lens they personally can see through. You probably don’t need to hear me say it to come to this conclusion but: People contain multitudes.
There’s some coincidence in me writing this as a series against the Rockies is impending. It’s, in my opinion, pretty arrogant to think whatever pulls the levers of the universe does things a certain way for you, personally, but you note those cosmic happenings when you can.
It’s also extremely likely that the Diamondbacks will face the Rockies in the Wild Card Game. I’m not sure how this Diamondbacks season will end. I have hopes for the first time in awhile. Of course, those high hopes can lead to a big crash should it not go well. If the Diamondbacks lose in the playoffs, especially close and late in a deciding game, I’ll be pretty bummed. It won’t nearly be the worst time of my life by any stretch, but it won’t be pleasant. How any Diamondbacks failures or successes weave themselves into the tapestry of this part of my life remains to be seen. The fact that those successes or failures do make a mark is part of the background. It’s a part of who I am, and part of how I process the world around me. You probably have similar things for you. There’s a good chance that Diamondbacks baseball is also part of it. That’s part of our shared zeitgeist. It’s probably what brings you to this website.
Go Diamondbacks. I hope they are a friend that we need, sailing right behind.