A State of Emotional Bankruptcy
As I stand there clapping, I can feel the gurgling and churning of emotion beginning to rise towards my head. I feel weak, a bit disoriented, but still stand erect, providing a rhythm with my hands to show the respect, admiration and total commitment I have given this team since I was the first fan to walk into their Port Charlotte Spring Training complex when pitchers’ and catchers’ reported in late February.
Suddenly that pent up emotions I have been fighting leaks out through the cracks and crevices of my soul to spill upon the Tropicana Field seat I have cherished for the last 13 years. I am fully disheartened right now knowing that my baseball is done for the year. My eyes are watering, but not out of sadness, but out of the joy and extreme excitement I have witnessed on this patch of Field Turf that is to be replaced in the off season.
I instantly felt the extreme contentment swamp over me that I got to experience the “Perfect Season” in 2010. I attended 81 games this year, including 3 post season contests and was always inspired and at ease within this domed building. As other around me mutter disgust and admonish the end result, I am totally at peace with this ending, finally knowing that this squad had taken their entire band of brothers as far as fate would let them journey.
As I give a small salute to my oldest baseball buddy Rays Bullpen catcher Scott Cursi I have a tear of happiness trickling down my cheek. For in about a month, Scott and his wife Stephanie ( an ex-Rays employee) will celebrate the birth of a future Rays second baseman. That gives me hope for the Rays future. But I also remember that within the next few weeks Rays reliever Dan Wheeler will also have the joy of having his first daughter enter his life.
Just then my legs begin to tremble and I sit down in my seat emblazoned with my “Rays Renegade” black tag. I sit there for about five minutes and just take in the sights and sounds again. People want to talk to me about the game, but I tell them to “savor the moment, this is not the time to condemn or admonish, but to reflect before it is all gone”. Some understand, but most just laugh that I am too emotionally attached to this team. That I invest too much of myself into their wins and losses.
They might be right, but I also know that soon this team will be disassembled like an old jalopy not because they are rusted and mangled, but because of fiscal constrictions that will strangle the 2010 formation of this team that never seemed to quit. Suddenly it hits me like a ton of bricks that I might have seen the last days of a few of these Rays decked out in their Rays royal blue uniforms and that wave of acknowledgment rushed through my at breakneck speed.
I decide to sit down and listen to Rich Herrera as he does the last Rays Radio post game show of the year and he nods his head towards me as if he could see deep down into me and the pain and emotions churning like a bad dish of hot wings in my belly. He is the last Rays face I see this year. The last member of the fourth floor brigade, but I will miss them all too for their friendship, advice and just general good conversations. I sit there past the end of the Radio show and still hesitate to want to leave, but I must go. Within the next few days my normal life will return with all the stress and pressure these same players have felt this season. My refuge from reality is over for the year.
It is time to again find a way to live without my baseball for a few months before I again pack my Rays goodies for a February Rays Fan Fest date. Finally I head outside the large overhead doors of Gate 6 and I am instantly hit with a gust of cool wind. It awakens me to the pure fact that this is the last glimpse, the last moment I will be here this year.
Most people just seem to detach themselves from this place and just walk out like it is just concrete and paint. But I used to work here, sweat here, and saw some of the greatest Rays feats ever accomplished just beyond the insides of these large doors. I take one last look into the Trop and wish the roof could have been orange tonight, but tonight that orange hue is vacant.
As I turn, the whole kit and kaboodle of pent up emotions hits me all at once like a runner into the catcher. Suddenly I have to come to terms with the fact this is it. This is the end of my 2010 Rays baseball experience. But just as fast I remember something joyous and proud that will happen in April 2011. Another banner will be raised to the rafters, and that give me a bit of solace to make that long walk to the bike racks and begin to pedal home into the dark Florida night, but wearing the Rays cap with honor on my head.
I stop the bike about a block from the stadium, but still within the majesty of its beauty and take the cap off and offer a last salute to the Trop. Some say she is a slanted roofed abomination, but she is my Church of Baseball. Where I rejoice, find redemption and also attend some of the greatest game played on clay and turf.
It is the place I watch and talk with the great guys who grace the Rays logo on their heads and chests and leave a little piece of myself there forever.