If everyone in this bar could take a moment to raise a glass to Franklin Gutierrez, I would love to say a few words.
Guti, your story is one that has been told many times by many voices that speak far more eloquently than I do. You were a broken man turned whole again, a chuckler in the face of gastrointestinal issues and Bekhterev's Disease. Your tale of perseverance has probably gone unnoticed by a large portion of the baseball world, but it's known by every single Mariner fan, and it is cherished.
You see, Guti, my respect and appreciation for you has always been strong, but it was ramped up to another level two years ago when I too began suffering from severe gastrointestinal issues. While I was unable to convince myself to get out of bed most days, you were off attempting to continue a career that demanded you be in peak physical condition. While I spent endless hours moping around, you put up a relentless fight to reclaim control of your own destiny. While I was doing a bunch of nothing in 2015, you were doing this:
I'm ashamed to admit it, Guti, but there was a part of me that feared 2015 was going to be a fluke, that you were still a fragile man who just had a streak of good fortune that could never last. I can personally verify the fact that gastro issues can go away for a short while before coming back with unforgiving authority. But here you are, Guti, still getting it done in 2016. There's been a bit of a decline from your torrid pace last year, but a .241/.315/.469 slash line is more than admirable, and I'm certain I still haven't collected all the pieces of my jaw from the floor after you hit a ball in Cincinnati that landed somewhere near Seattle.
I have watched you play baseball in 2016, Guti, perhaps with more intent and attention to detail than I've ever watched anyone play, and I am convinced your career is yours again. No longer are you playing with the hope that your body will cooperate with you on a day-to-day basis. You are simply playing.
Last Tuesday, I decided to take a drive up to a hiking trail on the outskirts of town. The trail is small, but steep; a mini trek up the hills that loom over the edges of the valley. Had it been a month or two prior, back when my GI tract was still a wonderful game of "Guess Today's Symptom", I wouldn't have even considered the trip. The thought of being all alone in the middle of nowhere with the feeling of a knife in my gut or an ever expanding ball of gas in my chest would've been enough to deter me.
And yet, here I was, hiking up the steep slopes in my old, beat up running shoes and a half-filled, navy blue Hydro Flask. I walked quick and determined, on the hunt for the 'magical view' so many people had told me about. The trail eventually spat me out into an open area on a hill with large trees blocking every potential line of vision. Figuring I just hadn't found the correct spot yet, I began to hike up a lightly-traveled trail through the thick, tall grass of the hillside. The incline grew steeper with each step, and my energy lesser. By the time I reached the top, I was a heaving, sweat-seeping mess.
The view I was promised was okay. I could see a few barns off in the distance and a large pasture. I could make out what appeared to be a man walking two horses. A dark cloud hovered close by. It was pretty, but it wasn't 'magical' by any means. I figured the hike, as uphill as it was, wasn't going to be as rewarding as I anticipated. And then I turned around and saw it.
High above the trees that had blocked my vision only a half hour before, up above the large country homes, up above the towers and cars and places of employments and banks and hospitals and pharmacies, there was this view: a vast portrait of the entire valley for miles and miles. It was, for lack of a better word, magical.
And it was all mine, thanks to a gallon of gas, sweat, and the belief that if someone in a situation like mine could play professional baseball, I could climb a stupid hill.
So have a beer, Guti, and know that your story touched more lives than you know in ways you couldn't begin to imagine.
To Guti. goms.