Baseball, like life, takes circuitous routes through history. Just when we think there is a player who can never be replaced, a new prospect comes up and becomes the face of a team.
Every once in while, maybe even once in a generation; a baseball player comes around who seems to love the game and the team he plays for as much as the biggest fan.
We watch him as a prospect first being called up to the Major Leagues. We watch him as he gets his first hit, his first homerun. We watch him with a certain pride when he makes the All-Star Game. We watch him make an acrobatic play that us fans can only dream of making.
When he is on deck, slated to hit with the game on the line, we are happy because he is the guy you want up there. Then he gets to the batter’s box, he looks down to his feet as he plants them in the dirt. Cocks his bat, swinging it like a wand above his head. He sees the pitch and we watch the ball sail over the right center field wall. He wins the game. Rounding the bases he is exuberant, fist in the air like a kid in a schoolyard game. Running with an extra step in his gait – he jumps onto home plate and his teammates swarm him…
After a while you watch as he is named “Captain.” Only the 4th captain in the history of his team.
Once in while a baseball player comes around who loves the game just as much as the kid who cheers for him. He talks to the fans, signs autographs and takes pictures.
One day, the player returns after an absence and hits a homerun in his first at bat back. He pumps his first because he alone knows what it has taken to get back to the game he loves.
One day as the summer fades away, he finds himself alone staring at himself in the mirror and realizes there are no more surgeries that can save him, no more rehabilitation which can help him bring back that magic.
The Captain says goodbye and breaks down in tears, because, well, there is crying in baseball.
The tears fall because time has stolen youth away from the ones who will remain forever young in our mind. The tears fall because we feel it in ourselves the insanity of life moving with the speed of light…we are feeling it as October sneaks up on us all.
In 155 days spring training will begin. The Mets will be introducing Peter Alonso, who will become their everyday first baseman. So the circuitous nature of baseball will continue.