This is not the first time I’ve written about this moment from 2016. It’s honestly probably not even the second, or third, time I’ve written about this moment. But of the 162 games the Mariners played this year, this is the one I keep returning to; this is the one that, in my mind, encompasses the 2016 season.
It was a Tuesday night in May against the Oakland Athletics, as all Tuesday night games in May seem destined to be. Nate Karns had a Nate Karnsian start, and Coco Crisp lived up to his Mariner-slayer reputation (moment of gratitude that he is far, far away from the AL West). If you’ll recall, this was the time of the season wherein the favorite narrative of the pessimists was that the Mariners simply couldn’t win at home. They’d lost a number of close games (and a number of not so close games) at Safeco, morale was low for the series and…
Actually, you know what? You don’t need another recap of the game. You can check out the heart-attack chart and Peter’s recap, and relive it for yourself. All I want to focus on here is that single moment.
The feeling of despair, in a two out, two strike, bottom of the ninth situation, is utterly familiar to Mariners fans young and old. On this Tuesday night the foreboding feeling was intensified by the fact that the M’s were down by two. Sure, there was a man (improbably Nori Aoki) on second representing the tying run, but we’ve all seen the Mariners RISP numbers. A lackluster 4-5 loss to the A’s, and a dreary trudge out of Safeco seemed inevitable. But then Leonys Martin swung, and the ball was flying through the heavy marine layer, and the crowd was roaring as it landed beyond the fence in right center field…or so I’ve read.
I was there, having moved back to Seattle less than 24 hours before first pitch, but my memories of Martin’s actual home run are entirely nonexistent. I remember sitting at the edge of my seat, hands obscuring half my face, as Ryan Madson went into his wind-up. A split second of quiet and then an epic crack. I don’t remember Martin’s swing, or seeing the ball sail over the fence, or even his gleeful bat toss which will live on in Gif-amy forever. It was a moment that felt like an epic beginning, both for the team and in my own life, but I can’t remember the moment itself in the slightest. And that’s the funny part about memory, isn’t it? Sometimes the memories we treasure most don’t truly exist in our minds; we’ve simply gone back and pieced them together from photos, or videos, or the accounts of others. Are these manufactured memories rendered less valuable because they’re not "genuine"? Or are they made all the more valuable because we were so perfectly present that our minds ceased to catalogue the minutiae of the moment?
I don’t need to tell you, reader of this baseball blog, that sports, and baseball specifically, are special in the way they can so easily inspire these moments. In many ways sports have become our modern Greek dramas, informing the way we narrate the highs and lows of life. Sometimes they end in tragedy but every so often they end like this Tuesday night in May, in a moment so glorious our own memories fail.