In the last couple weeks, I have been racking my brain trying to come up with a great preview of the 2010 season for the Philadelphia Phillies. What should I focus on? Should I add fuel to the fiery debate that was the blockbuster trade of Cliff Lee for Roy Halladay? Should I compare the defensive metrics of Pedro Feliz and Placido Polanco? Should I discuss what kind of season the Phillies will get from Brad Lidge and more importantly, Cole Hamels? Should I even spend a few keystrokes on the thought of Albert Pujols in red pinstripes? Should I start getting you all prepared for the possible departure of Jayson Werth? Should I mention the beard?
Finally, I realized that all of these issues have already been beat in to the ground. Every Tom, Dick and Harry Kalas has weighed in. What could another random blogger possibly contribute to the vast sea of internet banter?
So, I decided I would take a cue from myself and pen another piece similar to this particular article from last season. Like every other baseball fan who lives and dies by “the statistic”, I thrive on cold, hard facts.
This time, you will not be getting anything of the sort from me.
On the morning of November 4, 2009, the same day as Game 6 of the Phillies-Yankees World Series, my father passed away. I awoke that Wednesday excited about the upcoming game that evening. Yes, it did not look promising for my beloved team, but I had a glimmer of hope. When you’ve gone that far, there is no turning back. All you have is hope. That was all forgotten in a matter of seconds. When I received that call, nothing else mattered. The Phillies had become meaningless.
During the next couple hours, thoughts about the World Series started creeping back into my head. Like in any trauma, a person’s brain will begin to veer off into illogical and strange directions. I thought about my mother-in-law, an avid Yankees fan. I began to feel a sense of sadness that my father’s death will be ruining her joy in seeing her Yankees possibly win another World Series. I didn’t think that maybe she was feeling exactly the same way I was feeling, that baseball didn’t matter, and that a man she had come to respect and love with all her heart, was gone.
On the train ride back to his home, I pulled out my phone to check for any email or voice messages. As if I begrudgingly decided to tackle that nagging chore I needed to do, I checked the score of the game. Fifth inning, 7-1 Yankees. When my wife asked how it was going, I gave a shrug.
When we arrived at his home, I turned on the television. The first image to pop up was a shot of Ryan Howard and the rest of the Phillies bench, dejected. The crowd, roaring. Next pitch, Shane Victorino grounds out to Robinson Cano. The Yankees didn’t even start their celebratory mobbing before I promptly turned off the set. Again, I gave another shrug.
During this winter, as I was trapped by the massive bastions of snow outside our windows, I began to ponder about this upcoming season. In the middle of watching the constant rebroadcasting of classic games on the MLB Network, I kept thinking about how high will my enthusiasm be this summer. Will I even care? These thoughts scared me. At a time when I needed a positive distraction in my life, the thought of baseball was not bringing me any comfort or joy.
Spring Training is in full swing, and all has changed. Much like the hope and promise every Major League ball club exudes during the spring, my life is now filled with that same sense of positivity and anticipation. The weather is getting warmer, flowers are beginning to bloom, the air smells fresh and new… and the start of a new baseball season is right around the corner. Now I’m excited.
My dad would not have wanted me to shelve my love for this game. That would be completely unacceptable. One of the many areas in our lives that brought us closer was our love for the Phillies. If I discard them, I am discarding a piece of me, and even worse, the memory of my father. Why would I want to ruin some of the best memories of my childhood… the same memories that have been repeated over and over between father and son for a century? Some of the most valuable lessons in life I learned from my dad in the backyard, having our daily catch after he got home from work (even though he encouraged me NOT to use two hands to catch a fly ball if I wasn’t comfortable with that. To this day, I still get an earful). In these last three, postseason-bound seasons, the first lesson I learned about baseball was driven home even more. It’s just a game. A glorious, intelligent, beautiful game. Just have fun. And that was our attitude going in to each and every series. Sure, during the regular season we would analyze every player, praise a player one day, damn him to the seventh circle of baseball hell the next, but when it came to the playoffs, our mindsets changed. We would call each other after every game. We didn’t breakdown pitch sequences. We didn’t scrutinize a particular player’s at bat. We just made very general observations of that game… “how about that play?!” If they won, we just told each other how happy we were and how much we were looking forward to the next. If they lost, we just shrugged. True, we could not see each other, but we knew. We’ll get them next year…
So I can now answer the question I posed to myself back in the winter. Will I care? More than ever. I will go to more games. I will embrace my inner 10 year-old even more, collecting more baseball cards. This summer I will coach my softball team. Next winter I will be in Clearwater, FL, participating in Phillies Fantasy Camp…with my dad beside me.
Yes, I have plenty opinions on what transpired in the off-season with the Phillies, and I will have many many more as the season moves along. But for now, I am reveling in the beauty of the game. No statistics. No contract talks. Just the sound of a ball snapping inside a glove. Just the game.
…and the Phillies will win the NL East and return to the World Series for a third straight year.
About the Author
Written by Bryan Sargent
Bryan Sargent is a lifelong Phillies fan, currently residing in the least hospitable city for such a person as himself, New York City. This coming January he will be attending Phillies Phantasy Camp in Clearwater, FL. He is currently documenting the entire process on his blog (http://www.bryansargent.com). You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow on Twitter @BTSargent.