There are moments in a baseball game when time doesn’t just stop, it ceases to exist.
There’s a swing, and the distinct sound of the ball on the sweet spot of the bat, a sound recognizable even on TV and 600 or so miles from the ballpark. When I hear that sound, I know the ball is headed to the cheap seats. With time in abeyance, the only question left to answer is: How far gone is it?
And so it was Tuesday night when the beloved Cardinals took a one-run lead into the ninth against the Reds, whose clubhouse was mourning the loss of Jay Bruce in a trade to the Mets.
Scott Schebler, who the day before had been a minor-leaguer until he was called up to fill Bruce’s roster spot, came up with one out and two on. Cardinal reliever Seung Hwan Oh threw him four straight fastballs. Giving the International League Player of the Month four straight looks at the same pitch was, as they say, a mistake.
People at the ballpark said it sounded like a cherry bomb. On Breezeway Circle in Gulfport, it sounded like a home run, @#$%&, and the only hope was it would hook foul. It didn’t. From my vantage point, I couldn’t tell exactly where it landed. Some folks said it looked like it was headed to Kentucky.
A sportswriter on the scene tracked down its trajectory. C. Trent Rosecrans said it “bounced on the patio by the Bowtie Bar beyond the visitors’ bullpen and then bounced into the stairway exiting the park on Mehring Way.”
MLB’s StatCast said it flew 412 feet. It was, despite the Cardinals’ loss, a marvelous, if heartbreaking, ending to a great game.
Which brings me to politics.
Baseball is my escape from the torrent of spitballs that is defining the 2016 presidential campaign. It offers moments of tranquility. And scenes like the Reds’ Joey Votto talking to a fan in the box seats just off the first-base line.
Votto and the fan had gotten sideways in pursuit of the same foul ball. Neither one got it. Votto obviously thought the fan had interfered. He hadn’t. Votto was about half a body taller than the fellow trying to two-hand the pop foul. Votto’s glove seemed several feet above the fellow. To me, Votto could have caught it. I gave the other guy about as much chance as me to bare-hand a high pop-up.
Votto, caught up in the moment, tugged at the Reds emblem on the fan’s shirt as if to say, “Whose side are you on?” He’s a player with a history of misbehaving, especially when it comes to fans.
I, forgetting I wasn’t watching a presidential debate, was up and pacing, saying all the things I probably wouldn’t say to Votto’s face.
Then, the dangedest thing happen. There was Votto, back at the fan’s side, talking playfully.
I later learned he had signed a ball that said: “Thanks for being so understanding when I acted out of character.”
Later, he told reporters:
“He was generous enough to apologize at the time and afterward. In retrospect, he’s not the one that should be apologizing. I should be apologizing. He’s just trying to catch a ball and here I am bullying him. In that instance, I don’t feel a responsibility to be some sort of example or anything like that. But I do feel like treating my fellow man with respect. I was in the wrong completely there. I was certainly regretful. He was forgiving and I would like to think all is good.”
And that, in a simple game, is a lesson for us all. Especially politicians who think they are always right or always have the only solution.
No one person or party does. This, too, is a team sport.