The seventh inning

Bottom 7th, 6-3 Blue Jays – Jose Bautista hits a home run, Ryan Goins scores, Josh Donaldson scores.

I gripped the arm of the couch, impossibly tense. One more inning, I’d told myself. Then I would go see my girlfriend. Yeah, that went well.

I couldn’t remember ever feeling like this. At home, in my living room, my brother watching with me, I was gripped by this game, this dumb sport that I’d followed and enjoyed for years. I was anxious. But the good kind of anxious. The anxiety that comes from being certain something good was going to happen, and wanting it so bad. Of being invested in something with so many other people, and knowing you’ll share it with them when it goes well.

I wanted the Jays to win. I needed it to happen. The season, the excitement, everything that I’d seen and experienced as a fan, had led up to this. So close to it all ending a couple days before, and even forty minutes prior, when the Jays had gone down on a bizarre play.

I didn’t know it then, but I’d seen so many things that inning that I’d never seen before, and would likely never see again. But I wasn’t thinking about that. I was thinking about dinner, with my girlfriend- I was already late because of this inning, this wonderful inning, with so many ups and downs, elation and heartbreak, everything that makes being a sports fan exhilarating and depressing all rolled into one. I was on the edge, wrung out. But I still needed *more*.

Jose Bautista swung, the Rogers Centre erupted in a deafening roar, the cameras shaking as he circled the bases because it was so loud in the stadium. I jump up off the couch, almost screaming as I pump my fist. I enjoy the moment. I relish in it. The culmination of so many moments I’d had as a fan, and the build-up of that incredibly long, impossible to describe seventh inning.

But I had to go. I had dinner plans with my girlfriend, and I’d already mentioned I was going to be late. I loved the Jays, but she was more important. “Ballgame,” I say to Dennis, confident and certain of a Jays win, smiling as I pulled on my coat haphazardly. “See you later.”

End 6th, 2-2

I haven’t worked for a while. It’s a problem, sometimes. People say, “What do you do?” or “How’s work?” and I have to find a right way to say that I quit my job because I didn’t like it. I didn’t have a plan. Maybe I should have. Maybe that would have helped.

I felt like I didn’t have a lot going for me, back in October. Baseball helped. It was an escape, something fun, somewhere I could go and not have to dwell on how much I felt like I’d failed, or how frightened I was about an uncertain future, or how much I’d been defined by being a banker, and how not having that definition made even the slightest conversation incredibly awkward.

My family, my girlfriend, they stood behind me, even when I couldn’t quite figure out why. I’m always anxious, always unsure of myself, and they wouldn’t let it happen. So when I got excited about the Blue Jays, about them having success for the first time in twenty years, they indulged me. They let me have it, let me enjoy it, let me escape to it.

Top 7th, 3-2 Rangers – Roughned Odor scores on an error.

This wasn’t in the plan. In life, as in baseball, you see things you’d never seen before. And I’d brought that to my doorstep, by leaving a job I’d been at for several years. I brought it on myself, without a net, without knowing what would happen next.

It was Odor that scored the run. Of course it was Odor. He’d been torturing the Jays the whole series, and scored on the most bizarre play I’d ever seen. Aaron Sanchez makes the pitch, Martin casually throws it back, it bounces off Shin-Soo Choo’s bat, and he alertly comes home from third.

I was in a dark place as the umps tried to figure it all out, each minute of them in a headset making the inevitable result agonizing. It can’t end like this. Not on a fluke play, something that no one on either team knew quite how to handle. Don’t let them lose here. It was dumb to be that invested in it as a fan (really, it’s dumb to be that invested in anything as a fan), but in the moment, I was. I needed this.

Bottom 7th, 3-2 Rangers – Russell Martin reaches on an error.

Karma isn’t a thing in life. You don’t get or deserve anything because of something you did in the past. There’s no cosmic balance, nothing to tip the scales in your favor. You do good for good’s sake.

The idea of starting over somewhere else is inevitable now. I’ll have to prove myself to new people, demonstrate how capable I am of doing the job. And I can do it, really. I know that, somewhere deep in my heart. But I get anxious in showing people that. Maybe the fear’s good, though. Maybe I’ll learn something new. That’s the exciting part.

It was Russell Martin who bore the primary blame for Odor scoring, so him reaching on the error by Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus was somewhat karmic. Martin said after the game that he hoped he’d get another chance, and he made the most of it. The Rogers Centre woke up, cheering mightily as Martin crossed the base.

Bottom 7th, 3-2 Rangers – Kevin Pillar reaches on an error, Russell Martin to second base. Dalton Pompey in to pinch-run for Russell Martin.

There was no logical or rational reason why I quit. I didn’t love the job, sure, but no one likes their job all the time. That’s not a thing that happens. But I needed to. It was the right thing to do, in my mind. I can’t justify it or explain it. I had to take that chance, and now, I just need to keep plugging away, putting my name out there until I get one break.

The Jays quickly got another break, with a ground ball going to Rangers first baseman Mitch Moreland. His throw to second bounced, and Andrus (remember him?) couldn’t handle it. I had a hard time blaming the shortstop for that one- he was culpable on the Martin play, but this one, it was on Moreland.

The Rogers Centre got louder. I’d never heard it that loud, in all the Jays games I’d watched. Something special was happening. We were all sure of it. The Canadian, Dalton Pompey, came in to pinch-run for the catcher, drawing even more cheers.

Bottom 7th, 3-2 Rangers – Ryan Goins reaches on an error, Dalton Pompey to third base, Kevin Pillar to second base.

I thought it was loud when Pillar got one base. It got louder when Goins got on too. He bunted down the third base line, and I felt my heart sink as Adrian Beltre fielded it, turned, and threw to third to get the lead runner- it was perfect. He’d made the right play.

And then Andrus dropped it.

Even in the moment, as the elated fan in me lost his mind and jumped and cheered in the house, I felt bad for Andrus. He was normally a great defensive player, and had been involved in all three gaffes by the Rangers that inning. Two of them he just flat-out dropped.

That had been a problem, at work- I felt things too keenly, couldn’t separate what I needed to do from what I wanted to do. I’d sell, and feel terrible about it, and then not sell as much as I needed to. I wasn’t a salesman. Not as good as they wanted me to be, and not good enough to avoid feeling anxious about the work when I left the office.

Right then, I was glad I wasn’t Elvis Andrus, surrounded by disappointed teammates, and fifty thousand fans in a deafening dome, failures right in front of me. I’d dwelled enough on mine already.

Bottom 7th, 3-2 Rangers – Ben Revere to first on fielder’s choice, Kevin Pillar to third base, Ryan Goins to second base. Dalton Pompey out at home.

Another heart-stopping moment when Ben Revere slashed a one-hopper right to the first baseman. Double play, I think to myself, already feeling despair at the Jays not scoring a run.

The throw went home, and Pompey took the legs out from under the catcher as he slid in, preventing a throw to first. While the hope was the Jays would score, this was not the worst outcome, given what Revere had done.

Rangers manager Brian Bannister emerged from the dugout, and I felt my heart blacken again, recalling the agonizing seventh inning. Was he really going to try and say Pompey had prevented the double play? If the umpires overturned this, they were probably going to need a police escort to get to the airport, I joked to Dennis at the time, darkly.

The play stood, and the Jays still had the bases loaded, and still hadn’t scored a run. The doubts started to come back: maybe something special wasn’t happening. They could still lose the game.

Bottom 7th, 3-3 – Josh Donaldson singles to right field. Kevin Pillar scores, Ryan Goins to third base. Ben Revere out at second.

I doubted myself enough, I didn’t need to be unemployed to have THAT particular problem. But when you don’t have that thing that defines you, they creep in, taking up residence in a mind that doesn’t have anything else to occupy it.

I’ve found that I feel better when I’m connecting with people: girlfriend, family, friends, people I hadn’t seen in a while. I haven’t been good at that while I’ve not been working. I need to be better. I need to keep at it. I’ll get there. I’ll contribute, be the man everyone else thinks I am. And it’s okay to ask for help from others to get there.

Baseball is weird, in that it’s both an individual sport, and a team one. You need a team to be successful, but it’s individual skills that make a team great. The Jays had many great players, but it was the players being great together that drove them as far as they’d gotten. Get on base, and let others drive you in. You needed both of those things.

Even with the bases loaded, and the American League MVP at the plate, I was nervous. What if it didn’t happen? What if Josh Donaldson grounded into a double play, and snuffed the rally? I couldn’t bear the thought. But the cynical fan, the one who’d seen Jays teams fail repeatedly, nagged at the back of my mind and wouldn’t let go.

Donaldson hit a soft liner, and I was sure it was going to be caught. But it wasn’t. It landed just past the outstretched glove of Odor, and the Rogers Centre again became deafening. The TV guys had to yell to be heard as Pillar crossed the plate, tying the game.

It’s a process: you can’t skip a step. You can’t stop working at it. And you shouldn’t give up hope. Because sometimes, something amazing would happen. I need to remember that, as I keep searching, keep trying to find my place.

Top 9th, 6-3 Blue Jays – Will Venable strikes out. Blue Jays win 6-3.

I arrived at my girlfriend’s house with the game still going, profusely apologizing for being late. And there she was, with her sister, trying to find the game on their TV, so I could watch the end.

It’s hard for a man who gets stuck in his own head to talk about how he feels, but that moment, for whatever reason, really affected me. That she, who honestly wouldn’t care about baseball save for my interest in it, was indulging it, encouraging me in it. Letting me enjoy it, in a time I didn’t feel like I had much else.

But in that moment, I knew what I felt was incredibly wrong. I don’t have a job, sure. I have my brother, who let me exult and despair in the turmoil of the seventh inning, and encourages me as I seek out my place. I had my friends, some of whom I’d put off, embarrassed by my situation. I needed to be a better friend myself. I’m working on it.

I have my family, unwavering and supportive, letting me search and discover, continually reminding me that yes, I’m good at things. And I have my girlfriend, the invisible rock behind the snarky writer you see here. She didn’t care that I was late, or distracted, or emotionally wrung out after “one more inning” turned into 40 minutes and being late for dinner. She cared enough to try and find the end of the game, to let me have this stupid, wonderful, fanatical interest, even share it with me.

So I don’t give up. I won’t give up. I’ll be down sometimes, sure, but I’ll keep plugging, keep finding what I’m meant to do. Because I’ll see something I haven’t seen before, do something I haven’t done, and it will be great.

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