Saturday, April 18, 2009

Why I Love Baseball

If I could go back in time, it would be to my tween and early teenage years to go back and play baseball. I love baseball. Some of my fondest and most cherished childhood memories took place on the baseball diamond. If I had a few options for going back in time, my other choices would be to go back to the 1987 and 1991 World Series wins for the Minnesota Twins. A lot of other great childhood memories come from watching and listening to Twins games with my family. We all got into it. We cheered together, and celebrated Twins victories together, and complained about Rick Aguilera together. Those were some great times that I'll always remember. I can't wait to make such memories with my own kids.

Personally, I enjoy listening to Twins games rather than watching them. Just like the Twins players were a huge part of my life when I was a kid, so was the radio announcing crew. Another one of my cherished childhood memories is hearing John Gordon scream "Touch 'em all, Kirby Puckett!" whenever he or any other player hit a home run (game six of the 91 world series is especially sweet, as Gordon screamed "Touch 'em all, Kirby Puckett!" about a half dozen times in a row when Puckett hit a walk off home run to force the series into game seven - I'm getting goosebumps as I write this, just thinking about it).

Last night, I turned the Twins game on while I was doing homework. I specifically bought a small radio that I could plug in in my home office for just that purpose. After the seventh inning, the Twins were getting beat 8-3, and I figured the game was pretty much over, so I shut the radio off and concentrated on my homework. This morning, while I was at my parents' house, I noticed the front page of the sports section sitting on the kitchen table. The banner headline read, "Vicious Cycle." I immediately assumed that meant that the Twins' woes had continued and they fell to the Angels the previous night as I had suspected they would. But something was off: the picture below the headline was of several Twins celebrating around home plate. It didn't make sense that the Twins would be celebrating a loss, so I looked for the final score: Twins 11, Angels 9! I was flabbergasted, and immediately began kicking myself for losing hope and turning the game off before the comeback.

As I continued to read the story, I learned that Jason Kubel hit for the cycle (in other words, he had a single, a double, a triple, and a home run - actually a grand slam). I started to kick myself even harder. It's not everyday that you get to see your team come back from a five-run deficit, let alone to see one of the players hit for the cycle. It's only been done 9 times in Twins history. It's an incredible achievement. Now I was even more mad that I had missed the game. Plus, I was irritated that I wasn't able to hear John Gordon going crazy as he announced the hit (I can just hear him, "Hey! Touch 'em all, Jason Kubel! Touch 'em all, Jason Kubel! Touch 'em all, Jason Kubel!"). Later in the afternoon, I got on the internet to see if I could watch the progression of Kubel's hits. What I really wanted to do though, was hear John Gordon's commentary. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find it anywhere. But check out Kubel's cycle if you haven't seen it yet:

I've probably watched this clip a dozen times by now, and I get goose bumps every time I do. I love watching the crowd go wild when Kubel smashes that grand slam into right-center field. I love hearing the excitement in Dick Bremer's voice "A high blast to right field! Up...Back...Gone!" But most of all, I love the two kids at 1:05. Seriously, if you didn't watch the video, check it out, it's worth it. They both have their baseball gloves on, in hope of the off chance a ball would be hit their way (I did the same as a kid, and I was devastated when I didn't catch a ball). The kid on the right is clapping into his glove, celebrating the homer. The kid on the left is awesome: his jaw is literally on the floor. He can't believe he's just witnessed what he has: his home town team, staging a dramatic comeback for the win, achieved by a grand slam home run from a man who has just hit for the cycle. It's a memory I'm sure he won't soon forget, and it will drive his love for the game.

I am that kid.

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