When I was in high school, I was obsessed with thrift stores, antique malls and estate sales. I loved getting my hands on things that were old, that had history; things I could drag from the past and love into relevance. Sometimes these objects transported me. I remember once picking up a card of Christmas-themed enamel pins that had been displayed in a drugstore window in the 60s or 70s, the gloss dulled to yellow on the merry Santa faces, and having a clear flash of seeing the pins through the window, the night rainy, red and green stoplights blinking in the distance. Clearly, I was never there, standing outside that five-and-dime on a rainy December night thirty years ago. But for a moment, the experience of holding that card—heavy and stiff with its pins, smelling like the book storage closet at school—plus the cauldron of my own imagination, enriched by dusty paperbacks and old movies on cable TV, led me to experience a time and place I’d never known.
I’ve been searching for years for a word to describe this phenomenon, the feeling of out-of-timeness, nostalgia for a thing that’s never been yours. The closest I’ve gotten has been in non-English words: saudade, toska, sehnsucht. But none of these capture exactly the essential loneliness of aching for a time that was never yours to begin with. None of these truly express the desire to live in a world that’s much like this one, but tweaked just slightly. None of these explain my feelings as a Seattle Mariners fan.
I would very much like to have been at Safeco tonight, attempting to win an iPad and cheering on this ridiculous, lovable team in person, but I wanted to write one last recap for the season, and send it off right. I don’t know what my recap score is—it seems to me like I’ve written about slightly more wins than losses; mostly solid, reasonable affairs mixed with a few wild outliers. It occurs to me that this would not be a bad way to tote up one’s life, when the time comes. I have enjoyed writing every single recap, because language is how I experience and explain the world to myself, and I very much appreciate you who have read my (often overlong) recaps as I attempt to frame up the structure of the games, and so the season.
If I was nostalgic for a time I’ve never known, it would be the slightly alternate universe in which the Mariners win, like, five more games, and are guaranteed a trip to the post-season, at least for one game. I don’t want this to be my last recap of the season already. I have a list of ideas I still want to use. I want just one more, and then another one after that.
This is the irony of baseball: it will give you 162 chances, an incredibly generous amount, and when you get to the end you’ll always wish for just one more. I suppose this is why people will insist on reading it as a metaphor for life.
Tonight was the kind of game that, if this was a game on a Tuesday in May, you’d be tempted to call boring. After an initial offensive explosion that saw the Mariners put up five runs by the third inning on four home runs, including an entirely unlikely no-doubter by [adjusts glasses, blinks, takes off glasses, cleans glasses, replaces glasses, takes off glasses again because I don’t wear glasses] Norichika Aoki and not one but two by Robinson Canó, the game settled into a quiet rhythm in which the only other run scored was a solo shot off the bat of the hot-hitting but weird-spelling Ryon Healy. But it wasn’t exactly a dominant pitchers’ duel, either. The Mariners chased A’s starter Raúl Alcántara, who was pitching to AA batters back in July, after he gave up his fourth home run to Nelson Cruz on a ball that just leaked over the fence and out of the glove of Jake Smolinski, because a pox upon your head when you are in the King’s house, Jake Smolinski and your disgustingly large wad of chew. Alcántara didn’t look bad, exactly, flashing a mid-90s fastball mixed with a change-up and a slider, but he left a few too many balls in the middle of the plate for the Mariners hitters to punish.
For his part, Taijuan Walker wobbled but didn’t fall down, managing to keep the A’s off the scoreboard despite issuing five free passes over his six innings of work. Tai struggled with his command tonight, missing high and outside with his fastballs and never really commanding his curve, although it improved over the course of the game in both location and break. His change-up was probably his best pitch tonight aside from the fastball and the one he had the best command of, and he leaned on it heavily when he fell behind in counts. Fortunately, the A’s were only able to touch up Tai for two hits and one run, on a mistake pitch to Healy at 94 mph that he left over the plate. Unfortunately, hitters were able to make a lot of contact with the change-up in the form of foul balls, which, in addition to his command struggles, led to Tai exiting the game in the sixth with a pitch count of 113 (61% strikes). Scribner, Vincent, and Cishek all came in and pitched consecutive 1-2-3 innings to end the ballgame and it was a remarkably calm experience.
Tonight was the kind of game you might call boring several months ago, or in that other alternate timeline where the Mariners are well and truly out of any kind of postseason contention, and just scrapping with the A’s over who has to take the bottom bunk in the gulag of the AL West basement. Or maybe you’d call this game boring if, like Texas or Cleveland, you were reclining on the golden palanquin of a guaranteed post-season spot, watching the teams fighting over a Wild Card spot in the arena below you with the haughty detachment of an emperor whose entrance hall is paved with the ground bones of his enemies. But we’re Mariners fans, and so caught in this middle place of caring; of wanting something so much, and having no guarantee it will happen, no guarantee beyond one day more and the day after that, when all we really want is one more day.
If I could make you do one thing it would be this: start keeping a book of the quotes that mean the most to you. It’s just as much a record of your years as a diary and far less banal or incriminating. I started at eighteen and I wish I had started sooner. Start a vocabulary journal while you’re at it. The comforts of language are many and eternal. I am not religious but when I am emotionally at odds and ends I flip through it, and find comfort in the words there. Tonight, when the great sadness of realizing I’m probably typing my last recap for the season came and sat on my chest, I flipped open my quote book and landed on this:
Animals have more hope than men. They don’t know. Do they care? Men care, and know. It’s almost too much for them. They want to stop. Don’t stop, don’t stop, whatever the lure. Who knows who then will care? -Douglas Woolf, Ya!
Even as a teenager, I was afraid about leaving things behind in the past, unloved; I still have a jar of vintage buttons on my shelf waiting to be pressed into service. I’m not ready to stop loving the 2016 Mariners, and I’m not ready for everyone else to stop loving them too. But to love something is to love it in spite of the fact that it will end; especially loving something like a baseball season, which has a sell-by date that’s stamped weeks or months in advance. To love something is to recognize that at some point, all that will be left is someone far off in the future, picking over the record of the love you built, and to love it as hard as you can for the time while you have it, and letting that be enough, even when all you want is one day more.