There was a man who stood along the fence on the top step. He wasn't special except in the sense that all of us are. We have all come to the point in our lives where we measured too short. In this moment, so had this man. He pawed the dirt with his shoe before walking towards the mound. He did so wiping away a single tear. He takes the ball, and eventually, that ball was taken from him and given to another. Since the team across his chest had made the postseason, eight other men had come and gone. Already, another arrived. As Lloyd McClendon walks towards Felix Hernandez, their team now eliminated from the playoffs, he thinks of all of this and none of this, too. It must be simply enough to know that he exists in this moment.
The realization comes to us all in vastly different moments, across a great expanse of relative time. Yet, the realization, one day, will come. This too shall pass. This happiness, this grief, this life, it all goes away. There is, perhaps, no sport to greater realize this sentiment than Baseball. Every sequence of action of action is begun separate from the previous. A strike has no relation to the ball before, and no relation to the single into center that follows. A single swing of the bat can flip the entire emotion of a contest.
I find myself continually surprised at the nature of this particular season of Mariners baseball. The opening homestand sweep, the incredible May, the injured June, and the slow death of July. Then there was August where, once again, it seemed like an inevitability that this team was going to shed its collective, fifteen year old weight, and realize its potential. Until they didn't. Yet here we are, again.
The 2014 season never felt this way to me. Sure, the team was contending and right in it, in fact, two years ago tomorrow was that fateful night we all know as Night Court, but it never felt quite so emotional. The toll this season has taken on the heart feels greater, the moments and swings have been higher and lower. I cannot say if it is the weight of the previous season's failed expectations, the knowledge that the window with this group of players is closing, or something to do with simply how easy this group of guys has been to love, but it's meatier. The gravity pulls harder.
Baseball is a game of great stakes. The determining actions, by design, take place in short spurts over the course of a contest made long by both procedure and tradition. In nine innings of actions, at an average of three hours to complete a contest, only 18 minutes of that time is when a baseball is in play. That's 10% of the time period where the sport is actually occurring. Coincidentally, 10% is about the odds the Mariners are currently given to make the playoffs. Ten percent really ain't much at all.
But there's one thing that that man on the dugout fence knows, one thing you know too, maybe. We are all damned, together. All of us are backed against a wall, from the day we are born. You have a finite number of days with which to make your mark and then you have no more. You will, on some future day, have provided the carbons and nitrogens and oxygens that make up some new human. Just as some human did before you, and anon. Baseball, like that army of steamrollers, has trudged on in this way, too. There is nothing new about the skeleton of the game, simply different actors upon the stage.
And that is what I am writing about, really. About this current troupe of actors upon this current stage and the curtain coming. Nineteen contests remain for this group of Seattle Mariners. You have nineteen more times before this team becomes another page on a reference site, a collection of simple memories you smile about, maybe remember a game you attended, and then quickly move on to another thought. Personally, I'm not ready to let go. Not of Leonys Martin and his wild exuberance, Adam Lind's weirdness, Edwin Diaz's fire, smooth Robbie, Nellie's bombs, Kyle's career year, Kuma being Kuma. I'm not ready to let go of Shawn O'Malley, even. There are nineteen more times before forever happens.
If there's one thing I may suggest doing, it's selling out for this final stretch. Sell out for ten percent odds, for nineteen times. If there's one thing we know it is that those with nothing to lose are the most dangerous and unpredictable of creatures. The Seattle Mariners are 75-68, seven games over the five-hundred mark, and seven games better than they were at this time last year. There's plenty to celebrate, but there's also a whole lot of forever staring them in the face in the form of October 2nd. After that, well, everything changes.
The greatest secret is not the first lesson. No, Life has a way of punching us all in the mouth at some point. Of shaking us to our very core. That's really no secret at all, more of an inevitability. No, I think the greater lesson, the one that not everyone learns, is what it takes to get back up from the fall. It is impossibly hard. Yet, what your existence ultimately comes down to is whether or not you make that choice. It is the very defining action of your being. And I'd suggest you rage against that fall, against the odds. There is precious little time we are afforded and the world cares not for your acting small or your meekness.
For the Mariners in 2016, the path is quite clear. They've made it this far and now it is time to get the reward. Now is this time to live.