Yesterday, Ariel Miranda, Blake Parker, and I stepped out into the meticulously gardened mound of Safeco Field in front of a crowd of 33,369 and threw our first meaningful pitch in a Mariners jersey. It might be presumptive to say this was a dream come true for each of us, but I’m feeling bold.
Much like our baseball pedigrees, our pregame routines varied slightly.
Parker - Some cursory warmups, but his full preparation would not begin until at least the 7th inning.
Miranda - Beginning his long toss routine.
Me - Halfway through my short toss routine of peanuts towards my mouth and elbow flexion tests using a pint from McRory’s as ballast.
Parker: Perhaps going over the scouting report for the Red Sox, or playing flip in the bullpen. Being a relief pitcher at any level is like being an aunt or uncle: pretty chill 90% of the time but then one weekend your nephews stay at your place and oh my god they're destroying everything how do I control this?
Miranda: Fully loose and ready, he makes his way to the mound in the bullpen to begin his first tosses off a mound of the day.
Me: Having marched alongside a bagpiping band and a crew of fleet-footed Irish dancers, I enter the stadium and receive the plan from two genial Mariner employees. First pitch at 7. They ask if I want to warmup and tell me I can throw in the hallway where we entered from right before the pitch. I absolutely do.
Miranda: Finishing up his warmups from the mound in the bullpen, he throws on a jacket and prepares himself for his first start in the major leagues. He's ready.
Me: Chasing an errant throw and scooping it up just before barreling into the Color Guard as they march onto the field. There is a practice rubber and plate taped on the ground in the hallway, however it is ~2 feet from the wall. The result is the impression of a right handed hitter in the batters box as well as another standing next to me rudely.
Me: The PA announcer introduces Jim McDermott, and I walk out alongside him. I am suddenly aware of the minimal traction my 7-year-old sneakers offer on a dirt mound.
Miranda & Parker: Definitely wearing cleats, wherever they are.
“Throwing for the injured McDermott will be his godson, John Turpin.”
As it so often will have to be, close enough.
Stepping up to the mound, my mind idly reminds me the last time I threw from a mound needing to throw a strike was three months ago. I glance at the plate, and see it’s Luis Sardiñas crouching, smiling.
When you’re a kid, nothing seems strange about dreaming of pitching on your hometown field. When you've just graduated from college and your own baseball career has concluded there as well, it's a different feeling.
I lift my hands above my head to start my windup.
Edwin Diaz, our electric, joyful new closer, is ten days younger than me. I'm sure for many fans the feeling of realizing that the team you're rooting for is made up of their peers, or their children’s peers, is one that changes the way you approach your fandom.
My hands come down and bounce twice at my waist, a habit borne of an effort to pace myself.
Is it mature and reasonable to still be this excited about a dream that began when I was a child?
As my leg lifts, I turn slightly away from the plate, as years of watching the King, and drive down the hill.
Should I be ashamed to take pride and joy in this?
Ariel Miranda, at least for one game, performed like 2013 Wade Miley, which would be an appealing return on a trade many folks, including myself, were... lukewarm on.
Blake Parker, who I cannot prove is not Dustin Ackley with a beard comb, flirted with disaster in extra innings, but settled in and delivered the hot potato of bullpen work to Cody Martin’s now singed hands.
I threw a borderline strike to Luis Sardiñas and didn't fall over, then went and had a beer with my family and watched a baseball game.
Sometimes dreams do come true.