So I’m packing my laptop and saying goodbye to the Springfield media members I’d been sharing the press box with for the last several days. We’d just witnessed a rather remarkable minor league game. One that actually felt different. The crowd, albeit smaller than a typical regular season weekend throng, reacted differently than normal to the ebbs and flows of play. They knew something was at stake. And, well, the Riders lost. I can’t even tell you the number of times I’ve been to a minor league game and had no idea what the score was. It’s just not really a priority for me or my interests. But this time I knew what the score was, and it read, Springfield Cardinals 2012 Texas League Champions.
As the visiting media raced to file their stories, photographs, and live shots, I just packed up my stuff and walked around. I took some pictures, said “see ya next year” to some familiar faces, sent some tweets, some texts, and some direct messages, and generally just wandered around a nearly dark stadium. I wasn’t sure I wanted to go to the clubhouse. I had specific questions to ask some of the guys, unfortunately none of the questions dealt with the loss they had just suffered. So after hemming in a hallway contemplating my next move, I decided to head home and call it a season.
Walking out the administrative exits, past the waiting wives, girlfriends, and the genetically inclined kiddos of the ballplayers, I strolled towards the parking lot. My head was swimming with the emotions of the end of perhaps the best season the Texas League has ever seen, so I check Twitter one last time. Ohhhh, shit. Grimm AND The Fontster Monster? Big leaguers? Now? OK. So I head right back from whence I came. Past the wives, etc, past the friendly security officer and here they come. Lots of ’em. The ballplayers, I mean. Some look as though they’ve just suffered a great tragedy, others aloof, some are smiling, some are doing the exact opposite of smiling. I greet the ones I know, tell ’em to stay healthy, and I’ll see them somewhere down the road, but I follow Font as he leaves. He recognizes me and, in the dimly lit parking lot, away from some of his disappointed teammates, he lets loose a colossal and unbridled smile. He shakes my hand as I congratulate him. Despite his hulking size, he is a rather soft spoken guy, especially with his English, which is actually quite good. I asked him what the plan was and he said he was heading to Arlington “right now”. It was 11:30 and I’m pretty sure he was serious. Searching for a broad question, I asked the still beaming Monster if he was ready. A quick, firm, “Yes”. “It’s why I play. To play in the big leagues. To play for the Rangers.” We spoke briefly of the team’s upcoming trip to Anaheim, then I told him I call him The Fontster Monster. He smiled and chuckled, “Oh, it’s you?” Crisis averted. At this point, Grimm approaches with his huge Ranger-emblazoned equipment bags. I introduce myself to him again and he unleashes the same smile Wilmer had. He’s been on this road before, so he knows what’s ahead, and gave a savvy answer to the same questions I asked Wilmer. “So excited to be going back up.” “I’m really excited to get a chance to help the guys out anyway I can.” I almost fired off a question about the slider he’s been working on, or why he doesn’t throw the 2-seamer more often, but I thought better of it. His head was swimming 10x more than mine. He has a far greater grasp of what is about to happen than Wilmer does, but both will be wide eyed as the intrinsic intensity of the last few weeks of the Major League season play out.
I could offer some scouting-ish insight as to what these guys throw, but I’ll save that for when/if, they actually appear in a Rangers game. Saturday night was about a lot of emotions for a lot of people, but as you know, I like joy. I like happiness. I don’t always find it, but I always seem to be looking for it. I know you weren’t there, no one was, but if you ever find yourself in a pissy mood, desperate for something nice, just imagine what the smiles of those two young men looked like that night. Now imagine they’re even bigger. There you have it. Dreams fulfilled.
(Special thanks to the media relations folks for the Riders. Alex Vispoli, who is a tremendous talent and a true 80-grade OFP(overall future potential) play-by-play guy. Seriously, he’s one of the best young guys in the entire game. And talented young gunning interns, Jerah and Michael. They work about 90-hundred times harder than I ever did in college)
Take care of yourselves and your loved ones. Keep it all in perspective.
As always, enjoy baseball. Love Ya!