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Coming home

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Baseball is aloe vera for the soul

Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

1) It had been way, way, way, too long. Adulthood has a way of providing endless excuses to avoid having fun, and I had used them far too often recently. After a last minute work trip sent me through downtown yesterday afternoon I got a simple text from my wife:

"Is there a game?"

"Yes, 7:10."

"You should go."

So, I went. I finished work and, for only the second time all year, bought myself a ticket and went to a baseball game. I wondered around while the Mariners finished batting practice. I sat in silence, and took it all in. The sounds, smells, the energy of these incredible athletes bouncing around, preparing for another day's work.

A small child ran up to the Mariners dugout as the players headed for the clubhouse. Despite there being almost no room he bravely mashed his way through some grown ups, thrust out his hand, and yelled as loud as he possibly could: "HIIIIIIIIII GUTI!" Guti smiled, and reached out to high five the kid as he jogged by. The child returned to his mother, wide-eyed, staring at his hand. Magic.

2) The first Nelson Cruz home run was a hit in three acts. First, it was a pop up. A truly major league popup, of course. It was the kind of atmospheric scraping out that only someone with Cruz's cartoonish strength could hit. Then, the ball simply kept climbing, as though heaven had bound a string to it and was yanking it playfully away from the silly men who though they would be able to catch it. It rose, and rose, and then rose still more; like an early 2000's tech stock, it would simply rise forever.

Of course it came down, because despite my imagination and romantic fervor the laws of physics are immutable. But by the time it did it landed well beyond the center field wall for a first inning two run home run.

I was leaning on a rail in centerfield, and it felt as though the ball was hit directly at me. It felt like a welcome back, to me, and to the Mariners' winning ways.

3) Trying to analyze a game in person is a difficult task. Pop ups look like home runs, and vice versa. Pitchers, unless you are very wealthy/lucky, are almost certainly too far away to observe with any meaning. Plus there is the constant, pleasant distraction of friends, beer, PA announcements, and on and on. What a game in person gives you, is a sense of rhythm, a fullness of experience beyond what the camera chooses to bestow upon you.

In the second, with a runner on first, there is a loud "crack". By the time my eyes adjust to where the ball has gone Kyle Seager's body has already casually shifted a half step to his right, and then is moving back to his left. His hands don't so much field and throw the ball as softly deflect it to second, like a pinball bumper wrapped in styrofoam.

It all happens in a dizzying, legato allegro. But Robinson Cano is a showman, and he knows you cannot simply end the piece without a sense of theater before the finale. So after Seager's deftness, and before his two-hundred-forty-million dollar right arm whip the ball to first, there is a casual, graceful, ritardando. Two outs.

4) Shawn O'Malley may be in his final week in the major leagues. He hasn't hit, his outfield defense is barely passable, and with Leonys Martin scheduled to return on Friday he could very well be the odd man out. He knows it, I'm sure. So when he finally hit a ball into the gap last night he ran, which is the one skill he has that translates regularly to the major league game. The ball had no business being a triple, but it was, because Shawn O'Malley is fast, and he didn't get here by holding back.

As he belly flopped into third like your uncle's idealized version of Pete Rose, Juan Uribe's tag came hard across O'Malley's face and there, a thirty-seven year old Dominican dominoes master checked on a twenty-eight year redass from the Tri Cities. It was a brief, respectful exchange. Juan Uribe is in his sixteenth major league season, and I doubt he knows who Shawn O'Malley is. But, for the moment, they are peers, and yesterday Uribe acknowledged O'Malley as such. It was small, it was largely insignificant, it was very baseball.

5) It ended so suddenly. Wade Miley's pace, observed first hand, is startling. You turn for a quick comment to a friend, and before you finish the next pitch is already on its way. As a result a 7-1 Mariner win was over in two hours and thirty-eight minutes, well before I was ready to leave. As I hurried to my car to catch a ferry, it's Wednesday now, and real life never stops, I found myself dreaming of the next time I could come to Safeco.

I'll confess I've been feeling worn out by the site the past few weeks, and that watching Mariner games on TV was starting to feel like the one thing I never wanted it to: a job. Yesterday was the tonic I needed. It was a chance to remember the beauty of the game, and not worry about game threads, or recaps, or moderators. It felt, simply, like coming home.

uribe

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