It's been a rough stretch here in Mudville. And for a girl whose desk, up until yesterday, was covered with Giants' paraphernalia, it's been a shameful week. I work with men as a majority, and men don't care about fondness for a player or players, or even understand how I can have a fondness for THESE players, and I can't help it, which makes it worse.
When I joined the club called "Giants' fans," I was a long-time dormant baseball fan. The best part about baseball back in the states was the location of my apartment to the minor league ballpark and how they set off fireworks every other week right over my balcony. My first baseball game ever was in SBC Park (as it was called then)--I never saw the Cardinals or Royals play, or, even further back in the states, never saw the Tigers, Reds, Indians, or any Chicago team play (those were the closest geographical baseball locations in my childhood). My last passion for baseball was the Twins' victory in 1991, and that's because I had a crush on Kirby Puckett. And why did I have a crush on Kirby? Because he was a freak of nature--he didn't look like an athlete. From the point that I was aware of Kirby I started an unconscious hunt for players like him, players who didn't look like athletes, and I found a lot of them in baseball. Football players, basketball players, boxers--they all fit stereotypes most of the time, but not baseball players. In those days, baseball players looked like real people.
And then Kirby took drugs and went blind and died, and Sammy Sosa and Mark McGuire came along, and with college and work and steroid use by a lot of players I sort of forgot about baseball. I remembered it again when my brother took me to a game my third month here, but then it went back to sleep--the Giants still had Bonds at that point, and I wanted a team of real people. Post-Bonds (ironically, that looks like a sign you'd see on Bryant and 7th), I started to pay attention, and went to more games. The field was full of regular guys again--my favorite one at that time being Mike Matheny. Mike was followed by Omar, Dave Roberts...and I started knowing the names of the players. This year I knew them all, up until yesterday, and I knew their quirks and their challenges and their strengths. I knew their rituals. I knew their good-luck charms.
According to the men I work with, knowing these things are laughable.
Yes, Molina can no longer heavy-hit. Yes, Molina is a heavy runner. There are a million reasons to trade him. But here's what I'll miss...the big guy that calmed down pitchers, the gentle role model that jogged out to the Junior Giant standing at home plate who was waiting for a signed ball in Molina's girlish scrawl, and that grin...that grin that was so difficult to produce and nearly always impossible to see behind the mask, but that you'd catch from a team photographer occasionally. I'll miss, too, his brother coming to visit with the Cardinals and the way they greet each other at home plate, Yadier and Bengie, two big guys with the egos of monks.
In other words, I'll miss his special brand of humanity. Each of the Giant players has their own--Wilson with his crossed arms, Rowand and his magnetic physique that keeps drawing pitches, Pablo and his dance up to bat, Lincecum's hurl, arm back there somewhere in McCovey Cove, and then whiplashed past that hair and through the strike zone. Yes, they suck right now. We all suck at certain points in our lives, and get paid a lot less than these boys to do it. And goodness knows I would love to see wins or a pennant or anything substantial in the second half of the season. But those aren't the main reason I go to the ballpark. I go to see my boys. I can't help it. In the words of Dido--"I'm in love, and always will be."
Only a girl could bring Dido to the field. Swing on, dear hitter. Thanks, Bengie.