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This will be the Julio Generation

The extension: if it all goes right

Julio signs autographs for several children
The region is yours
Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

For an entire generation of the Pacific Northwest, he will define their childhood. Julio Rodríguez has chosen to stay in Seattle, and for the children, it is a blessing.

Because their icon wears 44, when their Little League uniforms are handed out, they’ll fight with their friends over who gets 4. And over 8, since that’s 4+4. And over 16, since that’s 4x4. When they play baseball in the backyard, they will do a stutter-step hop before catching a flyball, just as their parents raised their right arms out and pulled back their sleeves before settling into a batting stance.

Since he will be here forever, he will be a source of stability throughout their childhood. When their lives are disrupted by their parents’ divorce, they will still have Julio. The year that their best friend moves away, or they have to start at a new school, or the bully picks them as a target, they will still have Julio. For the next two decades, they will always have at least one ray of sunshine in Seattle’s rainy skies.

And that ray of sunshine won’t be just any great talent, but a role model too. The Julio Generation is blessed because their teacher will be the man whose motto is “I don’t lose; I win or I learn.” So they will learn grace. And while every star’s play is a spectacle that brings joy, this star will play with a smile that lights up the city. So they will learn to be joyful.

And Julio’s extension will be a blessing on their parents too. Their parents’ hearts will melt when at four years old, they run around the house screaming “I’m Julio!” because they will know they have passed on the game they love. Julio will be a shared secret between father and daughter when he lets her stay up past her bedtime because Julio is coming up in the next half, even though mom had said to go to bed.

As they grow older, they’ll throw away remnants of their childhood. Some of these things will be things they’ll later admit were a little stupid, the Julio Generation’s version of Mystery Date or Pokemon cards. But they’ll never throw away their Julio shirseys, never be embarrassed to have loved him, because when he hits his 500th home run, their awe will make them feel like they’re children again. He will remind them that they still have the same capacity for wonder as they did when they first saw him. But their wonder will also be more substantial because they and Julio will have grown up together. They will be old enough to understand just how special Julio is and how rare their relationship with him. And then the weight of that understanding and the twinge of nostalgia will make them feel grateful for what he brought to their childhood.

Seattle Mariners v Los Angeles Angels Photo by Michael Owens/Getty Images

And Julio will keep them tethered to the people they lose. Julio will rob a home run, and they’ll smile. Then they’ll think, “Grandma would have loved that.” And that’ll make them smile a second time. When he enters the Mariners Hall of Fame and someone asks them, “What does Julio mean to you?” they will talk of a dusty Julio bobblehead left to them by their father. And everyone will know what they mean.

I’m writing this four miles from Nationals Park, where an object lesson has just taken place in what it’s like to lose this. Our time with Julio could have been like Washington’s time with Juan Soto: ecstatic but too short. Instead, Julio will be ours forever. To have a superstar go supersonic means that they belong to everyone, but the connection Julio will have to these kids will be different. Because not only is he theirs, but they are his. They are the Julio Generation, and they have been blessed.