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Guillermo and Goodbyes

A dual farewell, though not forever

Seattle Mariners v Minnesota Twins Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

I was in a Starbucks somewhere between Kent and Federal Way in the summer of 2016, when the Mariners announced they were calling Guillermo Heredia up to the majors. The shop was sandwiched in an industrial business park, with construction for blocks and scarcely anything but beige buildings as far as the eye could see.

The M’s had signed him a few months earlier without much fanfare and, despite his quarter century of life experience, had sent him to Jackson, Tennessee to play for the AA Generals. 58 games and a .293/.405/.781 line later he was on a plane to Tacoma, to join the AAA Rainiers. Again, he crushed it, hitting .340 with a .385 OBP in just 26 games before they finally wised up and promoted him.

I was killing a few hours between job interviews when the news broke, biding my time between one smarmy, scarcely legitimate marketing company and the next. They were garbage opportunities, I knew that from the start, but I’d been job hunting long enough that I was desperate; for work, for a sense of purpose, for some small semblance of personal validation.

Heredia’s first stint in the big leagues was brief - less than two weeks after they called him up they sent him back down, but that was still enough time for him to be a part of Mariners history.

Five days after my interviews (none of which, unsurprisingly, resulted in genuine employment opportunities) I sojourned to Safeco Field to watch Wade LeBlanc take on David Price and the Red Sox. Unlike other games in the past, I took copious notes during the initial innings, because it was going to be my first recap for a little site called Lookout Landing.

It was a terrible game. Wade battled admirably, but the Mariners offense was silent until the 8th inning, when Mike Zunino homered to left. Then Luis Sardiñas singled, then Leonys Martín singled, and then Heredia was up. Price threw four pitches but Heredia stood still, letting two balls and two strikes pass him by, until the fifth offering - a 93 MPH fastball:

One batter later Robinson Cano took Fernando Abad yard, to give the Mariners a 5-4 lead. And then came the Mariners history because, for the first time in his career, Edwin Díaz emerged from the bullpen in the top of the ninth inning, with “Pour Some Sugar On Me” echoing in the early-August evening air. Díaz struck out Jackie Bradley Jr., Sandy Leon, and Andrew Benintendi (also in his debut game) to earn his first major league save.

I wrote frantically into the night, my hands still shaking from the adrenaline, desperate to do the game justice and to make my own debut count. Finally, at nearly 1 AM, I published “Waking Up.” My recent, disheartening interview experiences were still clearly fresh in my mind, and I wove my anxieties about the future - of complacency, unhappiness, a life not fully lived - into the story of the game.

I ended it on this note:

We both fear, and are comforted by, the monotony of life. It’s so easy to simply exist, and allow your heart to beat in that steady rhythm, but what is there to be gained from a monotonous existence? Tonight the Mariners shook off that cloak of tedium and gave us all a taste of how good it can be to leave comfort behind, to give that dream a try, and allow your pulse to race.

It’s been a little over two years since Guillermo Heredia’s major league dreams came true, and now he’s leaving Seattle for a new opportunity. So am I. While Guillermo makes his home in Tampa, Florida, just a few hours from his off-season home in Miami, I’ll be settling in Cooperstown, New York. As he prepares for the 2019 season with the Rays, I’ll be preparing for the 2019 National Baseball Hall of Fame inductions, as the Hall’s new Digital Communications Specialist. And, much like Heredia, I am so grateful for all the opportunities and support from the Mariners community these last few years.