I was one of them a long time ago. As a kid playing baseball I often imagined myself as mightier than Casey – up at bat in the bottom of the ninth, our team down by three. The bases loaded two outs, three balls and two strikes and I dig in, waiting for the next pitch. The fans are roaring, “Hit it, ya bum!” and “Strike him out” while I stare the pitcher down. The tension builds, then the windup, the pitch, and …
Wow! It really can happen. And live, on network TV. The Cubs were down 1-0 in the top of the ninth when the Nationals scored two more runs. “Put a fork in ’em,” I texted a friend but kept watching anyway. Comes the bottom of the ninth and two quick outs, the game seemed to be history. Little did I realize it would become historic.
Jason Heyward hit an infield bouncer to second. Easy out. But it was bobbled and he was on first. Javier Baez got nicked by a pitch, then Willson Contreras got bonked! Whoa! Bases loaded and David Bote, an up-and-down-from-the-Minors rookie, came to the plate. Fans on their feet, pitcher kicking dirt. Two quick strikes, then a ball, then another. Can you believe? Fans going wild.
I’m that little kid again but thinking, “No way!” Still, holding my breath, Mudville on my mind. Not texting; just transfixed with my finger on the remote, about to call it a night, chalk up a loss. It’s only baseball, I tell myself. And wait.
Bote stepped into a fastball and sent it deep to center, 440+ feet of “Incredible!” He flipped the bat like a somersaulting exclamation point and flew around the bases like a Wrigley Field late-game gull, bouncing from third to home into the mob of his teammates who tore off his jersey and pummeled him like victorious Little Leaguers in Williamsport. The stands went crazy. What a moment! Mighty Casey had to be jealous.
I watched replays over the next few days, every time remembering that little kid and his imagination. I came to realize that baseball is more than “only.” I know they say it is a metaphor for life—its ups and downs, its unpredictability—and full of lessons for all. That is so. But on that Sunday night for this fan and certainly many others baseball fans it became a virtual Fountain of Youth. Thank you, David Bote, for making us kids again!