Friday, September 27, 2013


It was perhaps their most unimportant game in nearly two decades. And yet the stadium was packed.

For me, and most of those assembled, there was an utter irrelevance to the early innings.

And then he began those familiar stretching exercises and we understood why we were there. The crowd turned its eyes away from the action on the field, and we waited for the call for one last time.

When it came, in the eighth, the battle on the diamond had long since been decided. But we focused only on his trot, and tried to cram a lifetime of memories in.

It felt nothing like the final innings of the final home encounter of a dismal season. This was its own universe.

When has a rival team ever applauded the entrance of a foe? When have all these grown men, weary from a season that lasts from here to forever, stood as one in their dugouts and in their bullpens? When has there ever been such appreciation for greatness?

As the screams swelled, the outs were made and the inning ended. We caught our breath, regenerating  for one last frame and everything it would mean.

My daughter was standing next to me, tears welling up in her eyes.

One out and then a second. No hits allowed. The only thing missing was a broken bat.

From the dugout arose two figures, Derek and Andy, with jackets covering their numbers if not their identities. They would be together on the mound for one last moment, the last vestige of something unique.

His head buried into the shoulder of the pitcher who had come to fetch him, the gravity of it all seeming to finally overwhelm him.

When he walked off the mound, and removed his cap, he tried the best he knew  to return the love pouring over him.

And when it was over,  there was one final trip taken to the hill. A fistful of dirt was gathered, a piece of his life held firmly in the palm of his hand.

Now there is but one. As we left, the tears of the thousands may have been in the sadness of saying goodbye not only to the best there ever was but to everything that seems to be slipping away.

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