(photo from Yahoo! Sports)
So that happened.
You ever get that feeling like you’ve just snorted twenty-eight Pixie Stix through a gasoline hose and followed them with fourteen shots of ghetto Jack Daniels while doing jumping jacks in 108 degree heat? That’s kind of what that felt like.
Lemme say it slowly so we all understand. Jason. Varitek. Hit. His. FIRST. CAREER. GRAND. SLAM. And the best part? I was there. I. WAS. THERE.
Apologies for the excessive use of punctuation but I think it’s necessary so that we all understand the magnitude of this. Maybe it doesn’t mean as much to everyone else but I’ve had to endure the “Why does Varitek suck like a Hoover with the bases loaded?” question for years. And now I can say, “Um, he doesn’t, actually.” That’s gonna feel good.
Because here’s the thing about having a favorite player – especially when the entire WORLD (or the Sox-blog reading world), knows that you have a favorite player – you have to endure the slings and arrows when they strike out on a high fastball with the bases loaded for the umpteenth time, but you also get the back slapping and the atta boys in their stead when they hit their first career grand slam. And your chest swells and you feel unspeakable pride until all you can do is jump up and down, hug strangers and scream your fool head off.
Steve called: “There’s speculation on the board over whether or not you’re still alive.”
I believe my response was something like: “AHHHHAAAAHHHHHYYYAAAAYYY!”
Listen, I don’t know Jason Varitek. Jason Varitek doesn’t know me. But when you pick a favorite player, everyone associates you with that player for better and for worse. It’s a choice you make, and if you’re a Red Sox fan, you stick with it. Ask Beth about Keith Foulke. She’s riding it out, despite every reason not to. But if a DL stint and a few blown saves – or eight years in the majors without a grand slam – were enough to make us turn against someone, well we wouldn’t be very good fans, would we? So I feel like I’ve been validated somehow. Like my choice was a good one. Like Tek’s my boy and I can be proud of that. Well, more proud.
As for the rest of the game, I fully expected the next installment of “Adventures in Outfielding: The Kevin Millar Story” and I was not disappointed. I was sitting in the left field grandstand so I couldn’t see the balls hit down the line. But I can count and I know that it doesn’t usually take eleventy billion years for a left fielder – even Manny – to get a ball back into the infield. Millar must have been planting peonies down the line for it to take that long. In the meantime, three runs scored.
Matty didn’t necessarily look scared in the early goings. Not so much as he looked like he didn’t have his control. And for a while there, things didn’t look good. I reflexively cringed when Tek attempted to throw out a runner stealing second as I watched Matty hit the deck like an Air Raid siren had gone off. Poor guy, flashbacks must be hell. But his catcher, after scaring the everloving crap out of him, picked him up. With his first career grand slam. Heh. Just wanted to say that again. In the parlance of the overexcited 7-year-old that I felt myself to be, “The game just got way funner.”
And let’s talk about Edgah for a second and what a freakin’ game he had. Let’s talk about his 3 for 4 afternoon and his 4 RBIs. You know, I give Edgah shit – frequently – but he certainly deserves the praise today. Nice work, Edgie, they don’t win this without your contributions. And merely a few hours after getting smacked in the noggin’ too.
I can’t imagine what it must be like to be a Kansas City Royals fan. Even Millar’s defense looked gold-glove worthy next to the Royals production of “Adventures in Defense: The Kansas City Royals Story.” Poor buggers. I declared the Royals my “Aw, shucks” team at the beginning of the season because it’s entirely possible that the whole of the roster is made up of players from the scrap heap of a Missouri Junior Varsity team, and watching them boot the ball around the infield like it’s futbol can’t be fun for their fans. In one memorable instance, second baseman Ruben Gotay evidently fancied himself a hockey player as he attempted a hand pass with his glove hand to shortstop Angel Berroa as he covered the base on a grounder to second. The runners were safe. The ball ended up somewhere on the basepaths. The utter implosion of Kansas City defense continued.
That said, I don’t mind too much when the Sox benefit from said pratfalls.
It’s also worth noting that certain players have idiosyncratic behavior that becomes apparent when you’re present and watching them. The camera doesn’t tend to focus on Bill Mueller when he’s standing near third (and if you ask me, the broadcasts are the poorer for it), but he crouches down and gets in his “ready” stance for every pitch. Every one. He leans forward and approximates a football three-point-stance and when the pitch is thrown, his body gives a near imperceptible twitch as he jumps forward, anticipating a ball hit his way.
Tek, who must not have a recliner in his living room and likely watches “American Chopper” or “This Old House” while crouching, seemingly can’t stand up straight for more than twelve seconds at a time. When he reaches base and isn’t running or leading, like during a pitching change or meeting at the mound, he assumes his catcher’s stance. Force of habit or for stretching purposes, I don’t know, but it’s something to behold. I mean, neither of them are exactly Nomar out there, but at least Buelly doesn’t spend all his time kicking the dirt like a petulant child a la A-Rod.
Finally, there’s nothing like the feeling that Fenway has been plugged into a giant electrical socket. When everyone stands as one and claps until their hands turn red. That happens when Curt Schilling comes out of the bullpen. And I will never get tired of that. A small hiccup in the form of a leadoff home run to Kansas City captain Mike Sweeney (and he wears the “C” too, so there), and Schill retired the next three in order. A fly out and two strikeouts. And there’s nothing like a Curt Schilling strike out to complete a game and sweep a series. Dirty Water indeed.
Edit: I would be remiss if I didn’t offer up a HUGE THANK YOU to my coworker Billy and his fabulous friend Laura, and, by extension WEEI for the tickets to today’s game. I guess an unhealthy love for Jason Varitek CAN net you some rewards after all.