Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Life's Better with Baseball

Blame Dallas and Joe for getting me all reflective on why I love baseball when I was writing this last night…

My earliest memories of the Padres came in 1998. Gwynn. Caminiti. Finley. Gomez. Ashby. Hoffman. I was 14 and I had fun watching a team with a legitimate chance at the Series go on to win the pennant and come within 108 outs of that ring. 108 outs! We put up a real good fight ‘gainst those Yanks!

But it wasn’t the Padres that really got me interested in baseball. In fact, from '99-'04, my only Padres memory is being excited about a game I was at in which Deion Sanders played for the Reds and got a hit. I liked Prime Time. So, for a long time, Deion Sanders on the Reds was my lasting Padres memory.

It took a player who I couldn't care less for to really suck me into the game.

On February 15th, 2004, A-Rod was traded to the Yankees and I read an article in USA Today that morning detailing everything that led up to it. More facts came out later when it was revealed that Boston had been ready to trade Manny for A-Rod and Nomar for Magglio. It was the spectacle of the effort behind attempting to move this massive contract that got me. But it didn’t happen for Boston and the Yankees traded Alfonso Soriano for the juicer…

…and the Red Sox won their first World Series in 86 years (with some juicers of their own).

That was the first season I really started to follow baseball. I had an instant craving for everything Hot Stove related. I loved how easy it was for teams to make trades (well, easy for New York) and the A-Rod-Boston-New York drama personified that. Maybe it’s the reason why I still secretly root for the Red Sox. And seeing Carlos Beltran dominate and play fun baseball for the Astros after getting traded from the Royals is definitely why I still have a soft-spot for the Minute Maid gang. The build-up and mechanics of a star player getting traded were fascinating.

And baseball's love affair with no salary cap made free agency a whole other season in itself. The first time I experienced baseball disappointment (besides losing the '98 Series) was Beltran signing with the Mets. I guess that was the fall I became a daily visitor to because I remember the buildup of Astros or Mets, Mets or Astros pretty vividly.

All of this led me to the Padres, oh doctor, the Padres. The Red Sox and Astros hooked me, but I still knew who my team was. Every night in ‘04 I’d check the box scores on Yahoo Sports. I watched as Phil Nevin, a baby-faced Peavy and a Mickey Rourke-faced Giles led the Padres into their new downtown stadium. Yep, I have my memories of The Murph, but I didn’t really become “a fan” until Petco. I was new. I didn’t know we should have signed Vlad at the time; I was excited about an All-Star named Brian Giles. I was a doe-eyed fan who just loved having a great ballpark and some interesting players.

Six years later, I’m still invested in the Padres, even if I haven’t been rewarded for it. In my first year as a season ticket holder, I’m even more excited about the strong start of the current squad. Things will change, of course, as they get better (hopefully) or worse (likely). Tim Stauffer is out for 6 weeks because he didn’t take good care of his appendix. And there’s a good chance we’re watching Adrian Gonzalez’ last year in a short-lived Padres career. But things are coming together and no appendix bursting or hometown player leaving will change that. Yes, that’s right, even if we trade Adrian Gonzalez, I still believe this is a Padres team forming into something great. And I’m glad this guy…

… and Carlos Beltran… and the Padres made me care about it all six years ago.

There it is, 2004: Alex Rodriguez to the Yankees. Carlos Beltran to the Astros. The Padres to Petco. And me to baseball fandom. Yeah, it was a big year for MLB.

Oh, and I’m pretty sure last night was the biggest win of the season, even if it wasn’t the prettiest.

1 comment:

Appendectony Gwynn Jr. said...

You see what the bullpen does to a man? Stauffer didn't have a chance.