I haven’t been this sad about anything baseball since Pete Rose let me down.
I grew up a baseball fan with my father watching the Phillies from his green leather chair in the den, my mother perched in the corner of the couch. We’d go Connie Mack Stadium after eating dinner at home, forgoing the hot dogs and peanuts and Cracker Jack, instead seeking out secret places to park for free in South Philadelphia.
Once I got old enough to pay my own way, Penny (aka Patty) and I got season tickets. We cheered on those Phillies and fought over which one of us would marry Mike Schmidt or Shake and Bake McBride or M-a-a-a-a-n-n-n-y Trillo. My father nicknamed me The Bull, comparing my physical prowess to that of Greg Luzinski’s.
During our courtship, my spouse-to-be and I spent a lot of time at different ball parks across the country. We went to Boston and Baltimore, Montreal and Milwaukee, Detroit and Chicago and St. Pete for spring training. I could watch baseball anytime, anywhere and never get bored. We eventually got married (and much to my chagrin, he did not ask for my hand in marriage on the JumboTron) and moved to North Jersey, an area strongly divided between Mets and Yankees fans. Rather than choosing sides, I remained true to my Phillies. But, when my hand was forced, I would go with the Mets, just because they were a National League team. And because I had a rather strong repulsion toward the Yankees.
Since my first child was born almost 24 years ago, I’ve only been to two professional baseball games.
Instead, I got my baseball fix watching my boys play. Thousands of games. Thousands.
I just didn’t have the bandwidth to follow any other teams.
And, then last November, Leo and baseball got divorced.
He had worked his entire life to become a Division One baseball player. And once he did, he realized it just wasn’t what he wanted to do with his entire life.
The baseball lover in me mourned. The mother in me rejoiced, proud that my son was bold enough to break away from the only life he had ever known.
But for a year, I couldn’t pass a baseball field without feeling a pang in my heart.
And then, in the end of July, as I was flipping through the channels looking for something to watch to fill the void before Scandal and Nashville returned in the fall, I came upon a real-life drama. Wilmer Flores crying.
Around that same time, Yoenis Cespedes and Juan Uribe joined the team and it seemed like some excitement was in store for the Mets. So, I gave it a go. It wasn’t long before my heart started thawing and the baseball bug was back.
As it turns out, I couldn’t have stumbled upon a better team to follow. And follow I did. I followed the whole Cespedes yellow parakeet story, and Wilmer’s non-trade and watched Daniel Murphy make up for his glove with his bat. I watched them waltz their way into the playoffs and then sweep their way through Chicago. I watched one of the oldest guys in baseball throwing his weight around and one of the youngest playing a little chin music. I watched David Wright get it right again and Lucas Duda get it wrong. Way wrong.
I’ve always been a bit of a Pollyanna of a baseball fan. When my kids would win, I’d feel bad for the losers. When they lost, I’d congratulate the winners’ parents. I bucked the kids up when they didn’t deserve it and talked them down when their heads got the better of them. I watched baseball through a mother’s heart.
And I found when I started watching the Mets this year, I watched that same old way. I had sweaty palms and a pounding pulse when Steven Matz took the mound, thinking how sweet it is that he stays with his parents in his childhood home. I felt bad, oh, so bad for Daniel Murphy when he booted another ball in the field. And felt even worse when he didn’t hit a home run to make up for it. I beamed for Michael Conforto when he banged two balls over the fence and swelled with “Atta boy!” pride when the Dark Knight refused to give up the ghost.
I woke up this morning feeling really sad. I turned off the radio and turned the newspapers upside down. I thought about last night’s game and the couldas and shouldas of the season. And of course, being me, I couldn’t help but feel a tinge of happiness for Eric Hosmer, hauling it into home and Volquez doing it for his poor, dead daddy.
But most of all, I couldn’t help feeling just a little bit sad for all mothers of the Mets this morning.