Hope can be among the most beautiful of feelings. It’s the feeling of seeing, for the first time, little sprouts of soft green growth on the trees in spring. It’s the feeling of waking up one day and realizing, after a long winter, that there’s already blue skies and a bright sun warming the pavement. It’s the feeling of your newly-adopted cat finally warming up to you and choosing to nap on your chest.
Hope is also the feeling of having the best farm system in baseball, anchored by a pair of generationally-talented outfielders that are the perfect yin to each other’s yang, dynamic and charismatic and deeply driven to win. It’s what has kept this fanbase going through games (and frankly, lineups) like this. It’s the reason, other than an irrational love of this perpetually disappointing and heartbreaking franchise, to stay invested as a Mariners fan.
“One day,” we hoped, “the kids will make it, they’ll anchor the lineup, ownership will spend and build around them, and the Mariners will be good and fun again.”
Hope, unfortunately, can also be quick to sour. Better to have loved and lost, etc, sure. But there’s also something to be said about having sky-high expectations that are never realized. The disappointment can hurt worse than never having had a reason to hope at all, and we’ve certainly had plenty of let-downs. The Big Three, the Bed*rd trade, Jesús Montero. Cue me, sadly gazing at my Dustin Ackley jersey in the closet.
Hope can be so fragile in the hands of those who, used to seeing it slip through their fingers, clutch it too hard.
And yet, it springs eternal, even in the rotten, shriveled husks of hearts that live in the chests of Mariners fans. Hurt as we have been in the past, we dared to dream of Jarred Kelenic and Julio Rodríguez terrorizing the league, taking up a permanent residence in the nightmares of opposing pitchers. We let ourselves hope on these kids. So it’s no surprise that when they both struggled out of the gate this year, large swaths of Mariners fans felt that familiar sink in their gut, the sour bile rising in the back of their throats, the pre-despair, the disappointment. Same old Mariners.
Luckily for us, Julio and Jarred don’t give a fuck about our tragic backstory or our narratives.
The duo was given an opportunity for their first signature moment, and they seized it, on back to back pitches, no less.
J-Rod comes through for ✌️! pic.twitter.com/lsKtKowAGZ— Seattle Mariners (@Mariners) April 23, 2022
Jarred Kelenic got Seattle rocking on a Friday night! pic.twitter.com/znb2r2C0DO— Talkin’ Baseball (@TalkinBaseball_) April 23, 2022
As much as Julio’s rocket of a double had me yelling loud enough to terrify my dog, the play I keep watching over and over again is Kelenic’s triple. It perfectly exemplifies these two and how they approach the game - Julio crossing the plate with pure joy, exhilarating! Jarred flinging his helmet off his head with his typical vicious intensity (below), mildly terrifying! The balance that any championship team needs can be found right here.
Fired up pic.twitter.com/kPqzLwezjV— Seattle Mariners (@Mariners) April 23, 2022
The years of waiting for them both to arrive was one thing. The tension of these last two weeks while they’ve both struggled, though, has felt unbearable. But the magic of this moment lies in the hoping and the waiting for exactly this - a fearsome two-headed dragon living back-to-back in the lineup, one of them crushing a ball to get on base and the other driving him in, chest-beats and helmet-tosses included. If food always tastes better when you’re hungry, well, we’ve been damn near starving for this.
So sure, sometimes hope absolutely sucks. It can be crushing when you’ve been beaten down over and over again with nothing to show for it but excellent and painful niche Mariners memes. It’s much easier, after all, to let perpetual cynicism take over, declare prospects a bust before they’ve had a full season in the bigs, and clean your hands of the matter. That way, if the Mariners Mariner, you get the satisfaction of being right. If they don’t? Well, that’s obviously fine too. You get to watch your team be good.
But I’ll submit this. Last night wouldn’t have felt as monumental, symbolic, as perfect as it did without the core of hope, the undercurrent of promise that we’ve held onto for eons about Julio and Kelenic. If this team is going to go where we want them to go, it has to be those two at the center of it all - they will be the nucleus of this ballclub.
So, hop on board now, friends. Don’t be afraid to hope. It’ll make the nights yet to come that much sweeter.