CLEVELAND (92.3 the Fan) – “How can you not get romantic about baseball?”
Those were the first words I read when the Cleveland Indians had their 22-game win streak snapped by the Kansas City Royals, in a text I received from my best friend and the best hitter I ever played with growing up. The quote coming from Brad Pitt as Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane in Moneyball, a film quoted and referenced so often (and for the last time here) during the streak.
There is an idea to protect objectivity as a journalist, something you strive for in the profession, whether covering a political mess or something as relatively unimportant as baseball. The idea is a good premise, but one I never cared for entirely, because removing emotion from a game is removing its heart.
Objectivity is something that can be turned on when necessary, but still waived when the less pragmatic aspects of sports are the focus. It is still possible to be critical while hoping for the personal success of someone you have grown to know on that level. It is also possible to want to witness history and joy.
That is what the Indians’ streak was.
Each win only aiding their playoff odds slightly more than the last simply because of the amount of games less to clinch the division. Not one game of the 22 gave the Indians any more of a chance to win in October than another, but that was OK.
The streak was an emotional rallying point. For the Indians, for the city. A prelude of what is to come.
So why not enjoy it?
The Indians did. Even in defeat, they acknowledged the fans that had packed into Progressive Field, filed into their clubhouse, and kept the music playing, normally reserved for wins.
For most, I imagine the most memorable part of the streak will be Francisco Lindor’s game-tying double, Jose Ramirez’s hustle double, or Jay Bruce’s game-winning double in the final win.
For everyone, there will be something else that sticks out about the run. For those who made their way to Progressive Field, there was likely something special they will carry with them.
When I arrived to the park for a noon game on Wednesday, September 13th to potentially witness history, I received a text from my grandfather.
“Mark and I will be at the game today. Hope to see you.”
There are no ways I would rather watch a baseball game than with the man who brought me to games as a child, sitting up the third base line, close enough to the action that Fred McGriff once fouled a ball off of my head.
In a surprise 15 minutes of availability, I jetted over to see my grandpa and my uncle in the Platinum Suites at the park to have a quick conversation. We talked about the streak, discussed the potential post-season roster, then about Yandy Diaz’s defense at third.
My two declarations for the day were: Diaz is underrated defensively, and that Roberto Perez – my uncle’s favorite player – has a knack for the clutch and would do something that day.
When Diaz made a crucial throwing error in the 6th inning, I looked towards the suites, where I found both my grandpa and uncle with their hands in the air, looking right to the press box as to say, ‘nice call, idiot.’
When Perez gave the Indians some breathing room in the bottom of the 7th, I did not think to look over immediately, updating my scorecard instead. Then I remembered.
My two family members were still there, looking over at me with hands and thumbs raised.
It is hard to put into words what it is like to see two people you love and respect in a moment of unbridled joy, albeit from a distance, and see them looking back to have that same connection from about 300 feet away.
Their joy was for what was happening, mine was that I was getting to witness history, and also witnessing their joy. It’s something I will never forget in my life and will always cherish.
Even if it was not just that of someone you knew personally, nothing feels quite like 34,000 of the closest strangers reacting with joy to the same thing.
The point is, I suppose, that it will always be important to step back and take in something that is happening in front of you. To make sure you reflect on what just happened.
The streak meant nothing to a lot of people, and it means virtually nothing to the potential to raise the Commissioner’s Trophy when things are all said and done.
It did mean a lot to those who were a part of it, in whatever capacity.