Since I just decided recently to take up this task, mostly because I like writing, making websites and am returning to MLB after a one-year hiatus, I hadn’t given a lot of thought to what I will be writing about. I certainly don’t plan to engage in game summaries or analysis of off-season roster moves and free agent dealings. There are plenty of places where one can read these types of things and I bring no particularly expertise to those issues. I do think it’ll be interesting to get to know to my boyhood team again, the NY Mets, after so many long years have passed.
In 1986, when the Mets would come back from the brink of annihilation, thanks in part to the Curse of the Bambino, I was working at UPS in the unload section at the Miami International Airport. As I slaved away in what was the worst job I’ve ever had, an announcement came over the loudspeaker that the Mets had won the World Series. I remember pausing with a box in my hand, sweat dripping onto my steel-toed boots and thinking, “wow, my Mets won the World Series.” The sad part was that I didn’t even know they were in the Series. I don’t recall exactly when I stopped caring about MLB, but it was some time during my teenage years when I had given up the dream of being a baseball player and had moved onto the dream of being a rock star. I was too cool for baseball and moving to Miami from Long Island in 1980 pretty much sealed the deal as there was nothing in Miami that even remotely suggested to a newly arrived teenager that MLB was a thing.
In 1988, living in Frankfurt Germany with my soon-to-be-wife, we had all of one channel of television to watch (the Armed Forces Network) and they announced that they’d be showing the World Series live. Due to the time difference, this would mean getting up in the middle of the night if we wanted to watch it. Perhaps because it seemed like a crazy thing to do, or perhaps because of a sudden longing for my once-beloved sport, we got up to watch. My only recollection of the Series is when Tommy Lasorda went to the bench and brought the hobbling Kirk Gibson up to pinch hit. I remember telling my girlfriend, “It’s a nice sentiment to get the guy into the game, but he can barely walk.” Of course that at bat is one of the most storied in all of baseball World Series lore.
In 1991, having just returned from 6 months in the Middle East doing something called Operation Desert Storm, the US Army felt I needed more time in a tent and sent me to the Mojave Desert to spend a little time at the National Training Center. Sitting in my tent one night, tired of reading, I picked up my little AM transistor radio and tried to find something to listen to. What I found was a baseball game. The Atlanta Braves were in the post-season battling their rival Pittsburgh Pirates for the NL Pennant. I was immediately sucked in and witnessed one of the best pitched series in history. I was home in time for the World Series and I don’t think I’ll ever forget how intense that Series was, especially Game 7 which went to a scoreless tie going into the 10th, and then shockingly Twins’ pitcher Jack Morris strode back out to the mound to preserve his 1-0 lead. Baseball had brought me back, and I became a Braves fan for a few years thereafter.
I had a long and tumultuous relationship with the team that would take the place of a young boy’s Mets, as well as replace my newly cherished Braves, that began in 1993 when Miami got one of the expansion teams and the Marlins were born. I’m sure I’ll chronicle the ups and downs of that relationship over time, but I think I’ll wrap this post up by saying that these are the things I think about during the off-season. I don’t follow all the deals, I don’t check on the Hot Stove. Instead, I reminisce about my life with and without baseball and I try to recapture those glorious moments of triumph and defeat that moved me so dramatically at the time. Occasionally, when I really focus, I can make the off-season come to life and feel once again what I felt when I saw Kirk Gibson hobbling up the first base line watching the flight of the ball, or how I felt when Sid Bream came hobbling around third heading for home to end the Pirates’ season, or how my jaw dropped when I saw Jack Morris walking back to the mound to pitch the 10th inning, or Mitch Williams’ disastrous pitch selection to Joe Carter to bring the Blue Jays another championship in what has been the only come-from-behind, walk-off home run to end a World Series. Or the night I pulled the sheets up to my jaw and said, “as soon as the Rangers beat the Cardinals, the moment this World Series is over, I’m shutting off the TV and going to sleep,” only to have David Freese do the impossible and bring the Cardinals back from the brink twice in one game to win. As I typed that, I have goose bumps up and down my arms.
I’ve witnessed all those moments, felt all those feelings, and so for me, the off-season is a chance to hope for more of them in the season that lies ahead, from what is the only sport to have held my attention for a lifetime.