I feel like I’ve just returned home from a long vacation and now I have to do laundry and take out my own trash. I have to defrost meat in the freezer. I’m using real dishes instead of takeout containers and paper plates. The ride is over and I am exhausted.
The Kansas City Royals Sunday night celebrated their first World Series victory since 1985. The celebration exploded in the center of the diamond, trampling the infield grass, pitcher’s mound, and my heart.
Fact: The Mets held the lead in the 8th or 9th inning in four of the five games and only managed to win one of them.
Now, that sounds like the Mets choked the World Series away, but I don’t feel that way. Believe me, I have seen the Mets choke things away many times. I know what it looks like and feels like. But I don’t feel that way today. True, the Mets managed to make several key errors and manager Terry Collins committed several gaffes which make me want to train to be an astronaut just so I can hurl myself into the sun. But the Royals won those games. Saying the Mets gave away the World Series would be like saying the Yankees gave away the 2004 ALCS, but no one says that.
When I was 16, I played on my first and only all-star team. It was a collection of players from the high school summer league. Most of the players on our team came from Maryknoll or Kaimuki. I was the only player from Damien. We were seeded 8th out of 8 teams and we beat Kauai, the number one seed, on the first day. I notched my only hit of the tournament. On the second day, we beat Shane Victorino’s Maui team. On the third night, we beat host Hilo and were one game away from earning a trip to the mainland. The night before the final game, the woman in this photo – a PAL representative – briefly went over what would happen if we won. We’d return home to Oahu, then leave quickly to play in California the following weekend. I hurried back to my hotel room to call my dad. He was asleep when I called because our night game ran very long. It rained all evening and the air was thick with smoke from the volcanoes. “Oh, wow” he said after I filled him in. We lost the next game, and then the one after that. Maui came back through the loser’s bracket to take the tournament. I never knew disappointment so intense before that. It was right there. We had only to beat a team we had already beaten. When I look at the picture above – taken right after the final game – I see anger in my untucked shirt and in my tight lips. I thought we choked the tournament away.
Those emotions stayed with me long after I returned home. I played with and against those guys throughout high school. It wasn’t until after I graduated that I accepted what happened to our team: we ran out of pitching on the last day. We had four starters and three relievers, but zero days of rest. Another player who would have helped couldn’t make the trip because he got an ear infection just before the tournament. And if you think that’s random, ask Matty about his Big League World Series team. He lost a dominant starter because of work, and another because his finger got caught on the wiring of the fence during pre-game introductions. That’s baseball. And that’s life.
I’m retelling these stories because that’s what the Royals win and Mets loss made me feel. It sucked, but we were beaten by superior teams. It’s easier, I think to assign blame to the team you know, the team you love, rather than give the credit that is due the opponent. The Royals deserve all the credit. Now, just as back then in the summer of 1996. The feeling that gnaws at me most is fear. I was almost positive that PAL team was my one shot at traveling to the mainland. I was right. It’s so hard to get to the World Series. Everything over the course of 7 months has to break just right. It did for the Mets, right up until these last five games. I don’t know if the Mets will be back again, soon or ever. But, I mean, I will be. Thank you, Mets for an amazing summer and a nearly transcendent fall.
Mets in 2016!