This is why I still love baseball, even as I watch my Dodgers play one of their worst games all season at the worst possible time.
Because I'm watching it wearing the Dodgers jersey that my Phillies fan husband just took from my closet and handed to me. The one he bought me. The one he wore when he went to Dodgers Stadium on a business trip to L.A., on the night he took a picture of Vin Scully for me.
(For my birthday last year, he had a friend go to the Vin Scully bobblehead night and send the spoils to him for me to unwrap.)
Because I'm tweeting and texting with friends, Dodger and Cardinal fans alike. My Big Blue buddies and I are affirming our love for our team and our belief that Clayton Kershaw, even though he didn't have it tonight - and certainly didn't get any calls - is not only deserving of the Cy Young but the MVP. My Card fan friends haven't started giving me shit - yet - because they know how much it matters.
(A break for some stats, because baseball loves stats: Kershaw led the National League with a 1.83 ERA, the lowest of any MLB starter since 2000 and the best in the NL since some guy named Maddux in 1995. He struck out 232, also best in the NL, and allowed a league-best 8.35 baserunners per nine innings. According to baseball-reference.com, he led all NL PLAYERS, not pitchers, in WAR, a sabremetric-happy stat that stands for Wins Above Replacement and measures how much better a player is at his position than any comparable replacements.)
I still love it even though I know this isn't entirely normal. It's not normal to have already violated the sport's No Crying maxim several times, the most recent after my daddy texted me "Embarrassing as h ll." (A fine Southern gentleman, my daddy. Pissed as shit but not reduced to cursing. That, and many other of his fine qualities, did not rub off, sadly.)
It's not normal to feel like I'm going to throw up as the lead grows to 9-0 or know that when I wake up, I'll have forgotten about this until the memory returns with a sharp pang very close to my heart.
But screw normal anyway.
I still love baseball, even on nights such as this when it decidedly does not love me back. Because my daddy and my mama, who went to Ebbets Field with her daddy, feel the same way. Because no matter how many Matt Stairs jokes my husband makes (and I know he's not done), Vin Scully's red-headed visage watches me as I type. Because the pain is part and parcel of it, unavoidable and inexorable if there's to be joy.
It's just my opinion, but I think the people who don't like baseball are afraid to love it enough.
So while this night, barring some sort of Busch Stadium debacle by the home team, will end my Dodgers' season, it won't break my heart totally in two. Because in my heart, I'll still hold the look on my daddy's face as he tipped his blue cap to the boys in blue after we watched them take a four-game series from the Marlins earlier this season. I'll hold the memories of all those fresh-faced, long-limbed boys in crisp uniforms I talked to in spring training - such as Adam Wainwright - when few people knew their names but they believed in their dreams.
I'll hold the true fear I felt climbing the rickety ladder to the even more rickety folding chair high atop Ernie Shore Field, where I watched the Myrtle Beach Pelicans play the Winston-Salem Warthogs and laughed with the best photographer and one of the best people I know. I'll hold the sweet stickiness of the juice that dripped from the apple in Jay Johnstone's mouth as he signed an autograph for my 7-year-old self. I'll hold the conversations I had with Ray as he worked the scoreboard at Coastal Federal Field and the bittersweet taste of the beer I drank on the left-field berm with Mike and the sulfur smell from post-game fireworks raining down on me as I hurried along the warning track, dodging shrapnel and racing deadline.
Tonight, there is crying is baseball. If you love it enough, there will always be.