I made it through the Rays’ loss to the Brewers last night by hanging out with friends on Twitter and discussing the looks of Evan Longoria, Matt Joyce and Sam Fuld. Pleasant images swam in my head as I imagined what some of my favorite players look like. The conversation eased the pain of the bullpen’s continuing slump and the team’s eventual loss and I was still in a good mood, looking forward to today’s game.
Not long after the game ended, as I was wrapping things up to go to bed, Evan Longoria retweeted something a “fan” tweeted to him. I won’t repeat the tweet as it was vulgar and disgusting. I could feel Longoria’s disgust as he asked for someone to tell this jerk he was out of line.
I took it personally. The wave of disgust that rose in my stomach mixed with the sadness of the loss for the team I love and to add insult to injury, this guy lashed out at the player who brought this game to me when I needed something to cling to.
Several of us sent endearing tweets to Evan, attempting to soften the blow. I can only imagine how it must have felt for Longoria, who is harder on himself then anyone else could possibly be and my heart ached for him.
Was it silly of me to want to reach through the computer and hug him? If so, I don’t care. The Tampa Bay Rays are so much more than a baseball team for me.
A couple months back, I got into an argument on Twitter with someone who was basically saying baseball is a waste of money and we spend too much on games and such, when the country is in such financial trouble. I lashed out a bit, telling him what I spend on baseball, which is nothing compared to those who get to go to games. For me, every penny spent is completely worth it, for the enjoyment it brings. Maybe it is an escape for three hours, maybe when I’m listening to the Rays I get to forget my problems. Is that so bad? At least I’m not doing it with beer.
As the radio broadcast starts with the pre-game, the excitement begins. I love hearing Joe Maddon’s comments before the game but I also wish time would fly to first pitch. When Andy and Dave come on and give the starting lineups I begin to feel an anticipation only baseball brings me. If it’s a road game, my guys are batting first. Will they get a hit? Will they score in the first inning? When it’s time for my pitcher I pray he’ll throw that first pitch for a strike. If he doesn’t, my heart sinks a little. When he retires the first batter, I relax a little and when he retires the side, I anxiously wait through the commercial break and cheer my guys as they step up to the plate.
I can’t think of anything that gives me such joy on a daily basis. When I listen to the games, I feel a little transported, imagining the park, the stands, my guys in their road grays or alternate blues and maybe even the old stirrup socks. I imagine Jeremy Hellickson calmly chewing his gum as the bases are loaded with two out. I imagine Evan Longoria at third base, eyes locked on the batter, ready to pounce the moment a ball is hit toward him. I imagine Sam Fuld in the outfield, wondering if he’ll go crashing into a wall or dive into the warning track.
As I listen to Dave and Andy I find myself nodding along to their conversation, laughing at their banter, answering their questions as one of them looks up a stat I might know. I feel like they keep me company every day. I learn about the game from them, imagine plays as they describe them, widen my eyes and hold my breath as the cadence of their voice changes while they call something exciting.
I didn’t have baseball growing up. However I’ve had baseball as I grow in my new blind life. While I’m adjusted and positive, I still have moments of despair, times when I feel alone, moments spent pitying the fact that I can’t gaze longingly at Evan or Matt as they step to the plate. There are times when I am so sad I can’t see this team that has done so much for me without even knowing it. I have days when I’m terrified of what the MS might choose to do next, if I feel a tingle in my leg, or my ear has a ringing. I have days where I feel useless. The summer months are the hardest, since heat makes the MS wake a little. Coincidence that during the hardest months of my year, I have baseball to help me through?
I suppose this is why I took that tweet from that jerk so personally. For me, it was almost like someone saying that thing to my best friend. The Rays, in a way, are my friends even though I don’t know them. I can’t think of anyone else I spend more time with, not even my boyfriend.
Without the Rays I wouldn’t know all the amazing people I know on Twitter. I wouldn’t have conversations with the girls about Sam Fuld’s curls. I probably wouldn’t even be on Twitter, since the only reason I joined last year was when Jason Bartlett got injured and I wasn’t getting news fast enough.
I knew I had to write today as I lay in bed last night, still reeling from the loss, the jerk’s tweet, the images of the men dancing in my head. I love this team, win or lose, I love the guys, hitting or not, I love the radio broadcasts whether I enjoy the outcome or not, I love the people on Twitter I’ve met. I need this team in ways I never thought I’d need a sports team, because they’re more than a team, they bring light into my darkness. Thank you, Tampa Bay Rays. In a lot of ways, all of you have saved my life.
*Update: The Rays beat the Brewers today, 6-3, taking the series 2-1. I’m so happy I made my head hurt…