Friday, June 10, 2005

Nothing like it in the world


There is a time when you realize that your attachment to a team is inextricable. It heralds an all-encompassing feeling---a compulsion, even: an affinity, a lust for knowledge, a deeply-held desire to care. You are hooked, and that's all there is to it.

In some respect,
June 10, 2005, might represent the day of that realization for fans of the Washington Nationals. I hesitate to say so definitively, though, because there are so many days on which we have already had occasion to walk the blessed gangplank, so to speak. Of course, everyone's experience is unique, but some previous possibilities include:

---> the moment you believed there existed a likelihood the Expos would relocate, and you started following them in anticipation;
---> the people at which the DC vs. NoVA debate crystalized;
---> when MLB announced the relociatoin;
---> during the stadium deal, uh, experience;
---> when the logo was unveiled;
---> when the RFK refurbishings began;
---> the first front office moves, including hiring the general manager;
---> the initial personnel transactions and acquisitions;
---> the start of spring training;
---> the radio deal ordeal;
---> the television deal ordeal;
---> the first time you ever read an article by Barry Svrluga;
---> the first time you heard Brad Wilkerson's drawl;
---> the first time you saw Livan pitch;
---> when young Ian Desmond helped the Nats rally against the (Baltimore) Orioles in that spring training game;
---> the moment you heard Inning-Endy had been demoted;
---> "Ballgame." ---a real one;
---> the ninth inning rally against Danny Kolb (in retrospect, perhaps not that impressive);
---> Brad Wilkerson's cycle;
---> when flashbulbs popped at the Home Opener;
---> the death-mark placed on Lance Cormier when he hit our guy, Vinny Castilla (while Castilla was going for the cycle);
---> the West Coast swing;
---> the moment you heard that Inning-Endy had been traded;
---> the miserable Cincy series;
---> the first time you heard Charlie Slowes yell, "Bang! Zoom!" (reaching the point of parody already, unfortunately);
---> ¡LIVAN! 's 150 pitch outing; and,

Today. What happened today?


What didn't happen today?

First, the Nats made a trade. It was a fairly minor trade, really, and judging by some of the comments made by fans of the other team, maybe the trade benefitted Milwaukee more.

But it was the reaction to the trade, as well as to a companion move, that was significant for Nats fans. Check out the message boards (like this one); check out our little chats over at Yuda's place (linked at the beginning of this entry). The trade inspired our attention, our analysis, and even, in some cases, our anger. I'm not sure I've seen such focused, concentration of the Nats by its core, passionate fans yet.

For an illustration of this rather remarkable and newfound interest in the franchise, I refer you to the legion of bloggers. It is currently 11:00 pm, and I am well behind the times with respect to the trade. But I started this at about 6:15, and I was already incredibly untimely. Nationalz Shane posted this before I started my post here, and there were already at least four analyses of the deal by the bloggers.

Yet, if the Okha-for-Spivey, with Drese on the side development had been the only news of the day, maybe June 10 would lack staying power. But it wasn't; earlier, outfielder Jeffrey Hammonds retired. Hammonds never lived up to his promise and for a time he was among the most overpaid players in the game (thanks, Coors Field!), but he left the game with genuine class:


"People ask me, am I disappointed about the injuries that I've sustained during my career, that prevented me from fulfilling my potential," Hammonds said in a statement. "My answer is, 'Are you kidding?' I have played with the best ballplayers in the world, at all levels, from high school, to college, to the Olympics, to the major leagues. That is a dream in itself."

Even as the day closed, however, the evening produced a great story, a story that adds significance to Hammonds' parting words. Rick Short, a career minor league who earned his first major league action the old-fashioned way, figured to be on the next train out of town after Junior Spivey. Circumstances appeared to dictate Short wouldn't even sport a Moonlight Graham career on the back of his baseball card. But Frank Robinson gave Short one shot tonight, as a pinch-hitter; Short came through with an RBI single. As Dave Shea said on the radio broadcast, "They can never take that away from [Short]."

Trite, but true.

Shea's words capture the essence of our beloved Nats, too. This has been one thrilling run: 10-1 on the homestand, on top of a victory at St. Louis to preface it. They've held first place for almost a week now, and we are getting used to it as fans.

Of course, we all know---deep down, if some of us are not willing to admit it---that this likely won't last. The NL East crown is generally attainable (as opposed to set-aside for the Braves), but it likely won't be the Nats winning it; the wild card berth doesn't seem too likely down the road, either. Maybe I'm wrong, but I'm trying to be realistic. No matter the result, though, some hard times will confront the team eventually, as they do with all teams.

But nothing can take this stretch away from us, and no one can take this day from us. This is our day: to say goodbye to a classy guy, to discuss the Nats' roster, and to celebrate an old vet's one shot at glory.

Comments:
I've been following this team through all the points on the timeline, and this is the first day I really believe that something great is happening. I've been a baseball fan for decades, and I haven't been this excited since 1989, perhaps.
 
Hey Basil, what happened to the comment link on the previous (geographically) post? I got Ohka on the Brain!
 
Harper, it got spammed by a guy who was touting a certain line of (at least 200) performance-related products.

For some reason, the little "trash can" couldn't come up to delete, so I just hid the comments and locked it.
 
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