Warehouse Windows

This novel was inspired by years of following baseball as a Mets fan, interning with the Minor League New Jersey Cardinals and the Baltimore Orioles, and culminating with landing a dream job with the New York Mets. These posts are some of those moments and events that inspired me.

When the Bubble Bursts

I was in the press box at Camden Yards when Cal Ripken Jr. grounded out to end the 1996 American League Championship series. If my memory serves me right, he made a desperate slide into first base, disappearing into a cloud of dust. Even down 4 runs and two games in the series, I thought a miracle was still possible. But it wasn’t.

I was in the control room at Camden Yards when Roberto Alomar struck out to end the 1997 American League Championship series. I don’t know why I was there…it wasn’t my normal spot, but there I was, hoping against all hope that Alomar would keep it going…produce some magic. But he didn’t.

I was home, alone in my living room in Queens, New York, just four days before my wedding, when Kenny Rogers walked Andruw Jones with the bases loaded in the bottom of the 11th inning, ending the magical 1999 National League Championship Series. That series was so full of miraculous moments and I believed, with all my heart, the Mets had a couple more in them. But they didn’t.

I was in the center field bleachers with my old roommate, co-worker and friend from my days with the Orioles when Mike Piazza drove a ball deep off the legendary Mariano Rivera with a runner on and down by two to end the 2000 World Series. I remember my friend grabbing my arm as we lept up in our seats thinking the ball might go out. But it didn’t.

Heartbreaks of your team losing in the playoffs or just barely missing them are profound when you are just a fan. When you work for the team, however…it’s like a dagger deep into your soul. There is so much intensity and hard work and sacrifices that happen on one of these runs. Night after night away from friends and loved ones. Missed family events. Early morning and late nights. Days that bleed into each other. Sleep is elusive, even in the rare moments when you are actually able to try and get it. The deeper your team gets, the more intense it gets and you are only surviving on takeout, stadium food, and adrenaline.

And then, in a flash. On a ball four or a weakly hit ball or a strike without the bat leaving a shoulder or a deeply hit ball, it is just over. Weeks of preparation and timelines and pressure are just gone in an instant. There really is just nothing like it that I have experienced. In one moment you go from having no time to all the time in the world. It is so bewildering, for lack of a better word.

I was lucky enough to see playoffs in four of the five full seasons I worked in Major League baseball and I would never, ever trade those moments, but the all together expected shockwave the end brings is so jarring…like getting punched in the stomach while enjoying an ice cream cone.

In each of those four ends, what I remember most is that for the first time in weeks, I felt the cold autumn weather. It was there and I was dressed for it, but I don’t remember the cold in all those October games in the press box, or in the stands or wandering the concourses. However, at the moment that it ended, I could feel the cold hit like a steam train.

It leads me to this image of this awful Winter figure (looking very much like Snowmiser) suddenly grabbing you with that last out and throwing you into winter. Summer disappears at that moment and cold, bleak winter begins.

After the 1997 ALCS, I ventured down to the press box and sat in my manager’s seat upfront and just stared out into the field, desperately fighting tears (F you, Jimmy Dugan…you are just wrong). It is really a blur. I think I was waiting for one of my best friends to wrap up her game duties before venturing back to the office in the warehouse. As I sat there, this guy, with bloodshot eyes and one of those 1980’s era satin Orioles jackets stood up on one of the seats to peek into the press box. His hat was kind of off to the right and his hair was attempting to escape out from under it. I recognized him as one of the season ticket holders who would stop by and talk to various people in the box.

He looked at me and asked me, in a voice that was clearly trying to choke back tears, “When is Opening Day?” I didn’t have an answer for him and just kind of blankly stared at him. He could see that I didn’t know and just sort of nodded at me, climbed down from the chair, and walked away.

That is such a powerful question for me and it really just sums up baseball for those of us that love this game. Yeah, baseball breaks our hearts and rips out our souls, but hope is always out there. Whether it is the next batter, next inning, the next game, the next series, or the next year. “When is Opening Day?” There is just so much damn hope in that question, even in a moment that feels absolutely hopeless.

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