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What the LL Staff is ThankfuLL for in 2020

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hint: it is not most of 2020

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Seattle Mariners v Los Angeles Angels Photo by John McCoy/Getty Images

We write these “we are thankful for…” pieces every year but to be honest, this year feels different. The feelings of gratitude are both acute and immense, in a year in which so many people have lost so much. This year, we as a staff are grateful for the circumstances of our lives that make it possible for us to continue to do what we love in writing about baseball. We are thankful for that every year, but maybe no other year more than this one.

We are thankful for other things we might have heretofore taken for granted, as well. We are thankful to be able to go to the store and purchase the food we need. We are thankful to see the family members it is safe for us to see, and thankful for the continued health of those we must keep at a distance for now. We are thankful, even though we also hate them, for Zoom calls for socially-distanced hangouts, and that people listen to the podcasts so we have an excuse to continue getting together for audio meetups, even as a five-mile drive looms impossible. We are thankful the 2020 season concluded safely for the Mariners, and for the baseball we got to watch, and for the foreign leagues that have given us other ways to experience and learn about the sport.

And we are thankful for you, dear reader, and for everyone who opens the site and reads our articles and shares them out and comments and FanPosts and interacts with the site, even in a lurk-y capacity.

Most of all, we are thankful for our spirit of hope and shared insistence that things must, and will, get better. Because things will get better. They might get worse again, no promises about that, but they will first get better, and we all need to be around in order to see that, so everyone adjust your goggles and tighten up the strap on your helmets as we bottom out through the splash pad of this year.

Baseball doesn’t really matter, does it, in the face of such widespread human suffering, but also sometimes it feels like it’s the only thing that matters. Here’s what mattered to us this year, and what we are thankful for:

Kate:

One of my favorite poems is Jane Kenyon’s “Otherwise.” In it, the poet recounts a normal, quotidian day—a day which, I now realize, is entirely spent in the confines of the poet’s house. Breakfast, work, a noon-time nap, dinner at a table set with silver candlesticks, and finally, to bed. It’s a quiet day, a precious day. Kenyon struggled with mental health issues and later, close to when this poem was being written, the leukemia that would kill her in 1995, making the closing of the poem—”But one day, I know,/it will be otherwise”—particularly gutting. I didn’t realize how much I depended on the everyday rhythms of baseball shaping my days from spring into summer until it was gone, until it was otherwise, making me grateful even for a sleepy 2-1 loss to the Astros in late August that I took as an excuse to show off my collection of houseplants. (I’m sad to report the peacock spikemoss did not make it, much like its big-league counterpart.) I look forward to being mildly bored by a quietly plodding baseball game again, but I don’t think that will happen for a while, as the taste of Otherwise promises to linger for quite some time.

Eric:

I consider myself exceptionally lucky for the fact that I actually got to witness live baseball in 2020. Four games, in fact. Mariners games, even. They didn’t count for anything, except for being a strand of sanity for my brain to cling to, but they were real, live baseball games in warm Arizona weather that I got to witness. A week later, baseball stopped. I often go days, sometimes weeks, in between remembering the fact that I got to go to Spring Training at the end of February/beginning of March as part of an old friend’s bachelor party. Looking back on everything I did there in those 4 days, it feels like someone else’s life and not a part of this reality. I spent hours on the practice fields in Peoria. Ichiro walked right by me. I overheard a touching conversation between Dave Sims and Dee Strange-Gordon. I watched Julio Rodriguez do outfield drills and heard him talk to himself. I went to a video game arcade bar. I sang karaoke at a dive bar in a Tempe strip mall. Can you even imagine doing that right now? Sorry, I didn’t set out to brag here, but I just wanted to lay all that out because it happened and I am grateful for it, no matter how much my brain wants to push out those memories in favor of negative things. I was there, the Mariners were there, and all was glorious in my world for a few sunny days. We’ll get back there again, some day.

Amanda:

There’s a heart to baseball that persists. It doesn’t rely on the major leagues or the minor leagues. It’s why baseball has survived gamblers and steroids and every other threat to its existence. It’s why baseball continues to evoke romance and why it will survive even as the guardians of the professional game try to destroy it. I saw it when I was researching baseball in 1918, when community baseball teams were the heart of baseball in Seattle. I saw it in the major league players during the short 2020 season.

I saw its steadfast, persistent beat in my 4-year-old and 2-year-old as they whacked foam balls off of a Fisher Price tee in our backyard. This year has been filled with the relentless monotony of parenting young children without a reprieve. We try to go outside every day and remember that the world is bigger than our cozy house. They drag out the tee and their balls and their bats. Before hitting, they hold the bats out in imitation of Ichiro (a player they love despite having no memories of watching him play). They circle the bases multiple times after home runs. They play with a joyousness that cuts through the sleepless nights and the anxiety of 2020. This year, among the many things I’m thankful for, I’m distinctly grateful to the heart and essence of baseball for helping me believe that someday, everything will be okay again.

Matthew:

I covered most of what I’m thankful for here, which really was just a long-winded way of saying I was thankful for any hit of Mariners I could get.

Thankfulness, for me, takes on a bit of ridiculousness this year. As others have said, in a year filled with countless tragedies and real-life consequences, it feels a little silly to talk about how thankful I am for a chicken wing recipe I found online. But at the end of the day, those minute details are most of the crops in the fertile field of existence. Being able to still harvest those crops, as small as they may be, is something to be thankful for amid a deadly pandemic.

I’m thankful to have the platform I do, which allows me to share my ideas and interact with Mariner fans across the world. I’m forever thankful that any of you give a shit about what I have to say, and I’m thankful for those who continue to show support. I’m also thankful for Brodie van Wagenen, incompetence that directly benefits me, and the New York Mets, in that order.

John:

Every year I’ve written here I’ve offered thanks, publicly and privately, for the way LL has hewn together my community and connections to the things I love. In watching a LIDOM (the Dominican Winter League) game the other day, I was struck by how much I missed watching Yohan Ramírez pitch. I can’t say I have a thorough explanation for this, as I saw Ramírez himself pitch his typical whirling dervish of limbs, strikeouts, and guesses on location. But I had missed it. I miss everything about the Mariners playing and am thankful for it every time they roll around. That said, it is so very special to watch the Mariners play games that matter, and I hope we are back to that in 2021. We had a few games that mattered in 2020, but as I predicted at the time when I recapped it, this game in Texas has been one I’ve gone to on tougher evenings, like a bowl of perfectly decadent mac and cheese to soothe the soul from a state of distress.

It is food for the soul that has to match our body’s actual fuel, ensuring a purpose for which to enter each next day: the prospect of sharing life’s joys with those we love, the possibility of sharing another Mariners game here with all of you. Thank you, and please dig in.

Tim:

You count on it, rely on it to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive, and then just when the days are all twilight, when you need it most, it stops. Today, October 2, a Sunday of rain and broken branches and leaf-clogged drains and slick streets, it stopped, and summer was gone.

I don’t know that I’ve ever felt the impact of Bart Giamatti’s seminal essay like I have this fall. No, the game didn’t exactly begin in the spring in the way it usually did, and we had to wait through the early summer for that oldest of baseball traditions—the labor dispute—to resolve, but this fall, when the game stopped? I felt it so deeply. Knowing that ahead of us lay increased disease, oppressively cloudy and damp days, more stay-at-home orders, fewer places to get out and see with your spouse or your children—I knew as the innings wound down on the season that, LIDOM or no LIDOM, I was going to miss baseball and summer like never before.

So what am I grateful for? I’m grateful for my fellow staffmembers, who have been wonderful friends to me through a little Mariners and a lot of hope; I’m grateful for silly and serious baseball stories, new and old; and I’m grateful for this community, which, baseball or no baseball, is a genuinely fun place to hang out on an internet that has fewer and fewer such places. Whether we’re bickering in the comments about which of our second basemen is best or hoping together that we’ll land our next Robinson Canó in free agency, Lookout Landing is a wonderful place to be with a wonderful set of voices, writers and commenters alike.

No matter what this winter brings, I’ll see you all on the enclosed green field of the mind.

Connor:

I always find it a little hard to pin down what, exactly, I’m thankful for. Family and friends, while evergreen, is cliché at this point, and frankly, figuring out what to be thankful for in a truly catastrophic year feels hollow.

In any case, there are reasons aplenty. I’m thankful for managing to avoid the ‘roni thus far (that sound you hear? Just me pounding every bit of wood in sight, nothing to worry about). I’m thankful to have somehow been a part of this community for over a decade, and on the masthead for nearly three years. Like Eric, I’m beyond thankful I was able to make the trek down to Arizona to catch some spring training before the earth stood still. But this is a baseball/volcano blog at the end of the day, so I’m also thankful that the Mariners managed to play all sixty regular season games without a COVID outbreak on their end, for the breakouts of Kyle Lewis, Justus Sheffield and Dylan Moore, the steady, calming presence of Marco Gonzales, and the defensive wizardry of J.P. Crawford and Evan White. And yes, I’m a little thankful that the team stupidly played a doubleheader under a blanket of smoke, because it gave us some magic:

All indicators show that this upcoming winter will be long, dark, and lonely. But for the first time since March, a light has started to flicker on at the end of the COVID tunnel, and that, above all, is what I’m thankful for in this moment.