Over the weekend I joined the Mariners out in the Midwest, albeit in Appleton, Wisconsin, rather than Detroit or Minneapolis. My younger sister is training to be an opera singer, in one of the best programs in the country, and this Friday was her junior recital. Our family moved and traveled a lot when I was young, which often meant that she and I were each other’s de facto friends, and that togetherness in isolation strengthened our relationship. She’s the most important person in the world to me.
Three days before I was set to fly out I got a text from my mom, in her typically staccato texting style, “Sis feeling super cruddy, not able to talk. Meeting with her teacher today to see if they need to reschedule the recital. Keep fingers crossed!” We kept everything we could crossed, my sister drank more liquids than a camel filling its hump, and, come Friday evening, she absolutely crushed her performance, because the show must go on.
Yesterday was a blur of disbelief, bargaining, frustration, betrayal, and crushing disappointment. It’s only May, but already it feels as though we’ve lived and died a hundred times this season, and yesterday was a microcosm of that experience - from frantically looking up the legitimacy of Héctor Gómez, to becoming frighteningly well-versed in loop diuretics. And yet, despite the way the whole day felt as though we’d missed a step while walking down the stairs, there was still baseball to be played, because the show must go on.
In the Mariners clubhouse, Robinson Canó and Nelson Cruz own the corner closest to the entrance. Boxes and jerseys and expensive baseball flotsam overflow from their lockers, as does the chatter. It’s near-constant, in that comforting way that you might talk idly with a close family member while running an errand. Every player has their own locker, but so many of them, particularly the Latin players, gravitate to Cruz and Canó’s corner; perching on chairs, leaning against the lockers and, sometimes, each other. What will happen with Canó’s locker space? Will they give it to someone else? 80 games is a long stretch, and the show must go on.
Last year Guillermo Heredia’s locker sat next to Canó’s, and he spoke about the impact that his and Cruz’s leadership and coaching had had on him. Last night Heredia was hit-less until the bottom of the eighth, when he sent a ground rule double out to left field, and then came around to score the tying run after Gordon Beckham’s sac-bunt-turned-double. Those heroics could have been enough for him in one game, but the bottom of eleventh rolled around and, with runners at first and second, and Heredia sent one more pitch out to the grass. As soon as RyOn Healy crossed home, the team mobbed Heredia, as all good teammates do.
That’s how you hug someone, or something, that you treasure; wrapping your arms around their neck, tucking your chin and cheek to meet the top of their head. It’s a hug of gratitude, a you-did-so-good hug. It’s how I hugged my sister after her performance.
This game wasn’t for Canó. The narratives where a teammate falls, but the team goes on to succeed in their honor do a disservice to the other teammates. They devote their minds and their bodies to the game wholly; they were the ones who scored first, fell behind, and pushed through to win it. This win, like the 23 others this season, was theirs. And, though we did nothing to deserve it - fandom, despite how it may feel, does not entitle you to anything - this win felt like it was for us, too.
The show goes on.