For something that is labelled as the Great American Pastime, baseball can be quite emotional. That should sound normal as all sports are emotional. Baseball though is different. In hockey, football you can get fired up, by an aggressive hit; in basketball an aggressive block gets everyone on the team and in the stands pumped up. In baseball however, if you get too fired up, you may throw your fastball harder, but what you gain in velocity you lose in control. It is the same offensively as more often than not, if you swing harder, you’ll strike out. That’s what makes baseball so difficult compared to any other sport because to be successful you normally need to take your emotion out of the game. It makes even more sense when you realize that the best baseball hitters fail 70% of the time and therefore you can’t hold on to those pent up emotions to be successful, you just have to deal with them.
End of season baseball however is far from unemotional. Look no further than the series finale between the hopefully, playoff-bound Blue Jays and the young Yankees to see how easily tempers blow over. Benches cleared a couple of times within the span of an inning. It’s entertaining, that’s for sure but it is also costly. Not because they lost the game as it seemed to wake up the sleeping Yankees, but more so because the little bru-ha-ha caused injuries to 2 Blue Jay players. Second baseman Devon Travis and relief pitcher Joaquin Benoit each got injured during the scrum and with just a few games left comes at an inopportune time. Travis will miss at least one game and possibly more in the most important series of the season against the Baltimore Orioles. Benoit is out at least for a couple of weeks and may be able to return for the American League Championship Series should the Blue Jays be fortunate enough to make it there.
I understand the need to protect one’s players and to follow those “unwritten rules” of baseball, but there are only a half dozen games left and you are fighting to the death for a Wild Card playoff spot and for the game to be played at home. Playing at home doesn’t guarantee a win, but I would rather be in front of 50,000 screaming Jays fans, a place where you have a winning record (45-33) and avoid going to Baltimore or Detroit. This is one of those times where you can put the “man code” rules of baseball aside, calm your emotions and just concentrate on winning.
There is however, a time in baseball where emotion causes something so inexplicable to happen, something way beyond the realm of sports, that you can’t help but believe that some kind of divine intervention took place. Monday night in Miami was one of the most bittersweet moments I have ever experienced. I watched the tribute for 24 year-old Jose Fernandez who tragically passed away on Sunday and did what I could to prevent the tears from flowing. I heard the heartfelt musical rendition of Take me to the Ballgame and fought off the tears again. Seeing the Miami Marlins honouring their ace pitcher Monday night by having the entire team wear a #16 Jose Fernandez jersey was something special. Hearing that they were then going to officially retire #16 showed tremendous class.
— Hartz (@nikkibuboo) September 26, 2016
As the game began, I thought we were on the first steps back to normalcy. Then, 160-pound leadoff hitter for the Marlins, Dee Gordon stepped to the plate wearing Jose Fernandez’ batting helmet. For the first pitch he batted right-handed in honour of his fallen teammate, Ball 1. For the second pitch he went back to the left-hand side, Ball 2. It wasn’t the fact that he hit the next pitch for a home run… his FIRST of the season. It wasn’t even the fact that it went into the upper deck although how that happened is beyond any rational, scientific explanation. In fact as Dee Gordon explained it in a post-game interview, “I ain’t never hit a ball that far, even in BP. I told the boys, ‘If you all don’t believe in God, you better start.’ For that to happen today, we had some help.”
— The Fanatics View (@thefanaticsview) September 26, 2016
But above all of that (which in itself still is a lot to take) was watching a grown man struggle to keep those emotions in check that made this moment so special. By the time he reached second base tears began to fall and as he crossed home plate he was sobbing. Gordon was still trying to hold back those tears, hiding his face as he hugged his teammates. He failed. Mind you, the millions of people who were watching (including yours truly) failed with him. It seemed we all needed a good cry and it felt good to let out all those emotions that were bubbling under our skin. Mr. Hanks was incorrect. There is crying in baseball and there isn’t a damn thing wrong with that either.
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