Some losses are much harder to take than others. Some leave you wondering how, some leave you feeling lost, some leave you seeking understanding.
Throughout the year, the Texas Rangers have had losses that have made most of us question who they are as a team, question the bullpen, question Banister, and question what we are doing as fans (See the June 24th 8-7 loss to Boston in which the bullpen gave up four runs in the 9th).
There have not been many heartbreaking losses this year on the field, and those gut punch games have been few and far between, mostly due to the team’s success in one run contests.
Following a win on Saturday in which Yu Darvish returned to form and Elvis Andrus found some champagne based power source, yesterday’s loss was something that I barely even noticed.
To be honest with you, I couldn’t even bring myself to turn on Sunday’s game.
Some losses are much harder to take than others.
Despite having a busy Sunday, full of football, food, and family; my mind was on nothing but baseball without watching a single pitch.
After working late Saturday night, I awoke Sunday morning to a barrage of messages, with my phone constantly vibrating to the point where I was annoyed enough to arise and start the day. I often start my day by catching up on the late baseball scores and reading through exasperated texts from my die-hard Dodgers fan friend.
This time, instead of questioning double switches or celebrating the successes of young shortstops, the message I see from him is “Jose Fernandez?????? What the hell?”.
Upon seeing this, I assume that the young ace has done something to get in trouble, with most of our athlete “what the hell?” moments being based around a culture that often includes drug suspensions, alcohol incidents, and disgusting examples of domestic violence. I sighed deeply wondering what had happened and opened Twitter, completely unprepared for the news I was about to receive.
24 years old. Far too young, far too talented, far too in love with life to be gone.
I’m not going to rehash the story of Jose Fernandez coming to America, but if you are not familiar with it, take time to look it up. While you are at it, look up the time his grandmother was brought in from Cuba to finally see him pitch. There are so many amazing and beautiful stories in this young man’s short life that it is simply amazing.
I was not prepared for how crushing the loss of Jose would be. He seemed so popular around the league, he seemed to have an effect on all of those who met him, from other players, to fans, to members of our military; his smile always seemed to be glowing, happy to be alive and fully understanding what a blessing it is to play this wonderful game.
As the day continued, I wanted to make sure that my son, who is six years old and who watches the Rangers with me on nearly a daily basis, saw some clips of Jose doing what he loved, so we sat together on the couch and watched a variety of his highlights, from the famous Tulo liner catch, to some wipeout sliders, to his over the top reaction to a Giancarlo bomb, to his homerun incident against the Braves. We had fun. We smiled, we laughed, we talked.
When we watched the clip of Jose hitting his homerun and the Braves benches clearing as he tossed his bat and took his time around the bases. My son, in the astute manner of observation that he always offers, simply looked up and said, “Daddy, why are they so angry about him just having fun?’.
Wonderful question, buddy.
From that question, and those video clips, we sat together and had an incredible conversation, discussing life and death, joy and jealousy, success and failure, fame and fortune, passion and desire, and finally, love and loss.
My son and I explored so many elements of life, and through the innocent mind of a six year old, I learned far more than he did as we were able to delve into the difficult topics of the day, with an incredible depth of perspective on happiness in life being offered by the youth of Jose Fernandez and the aged experience of Vin Scully.
As it turns out, there is crying in baseball.
As my conversation with my son ended, MLB Network cut to a live feed of Marlins Park that simply showed Dee Gordon standing in front of the mound, hands on his head, unable to control his emotions. This is a scene that will remain in my head for some time, but in the moment, I too was overcome with emotions, and a tear ran down my cheek, still unable to fully grasp the loss of the day.
From the seat next to me, I felt my son lean over and put his head on my shoulder, and as I looked down, I could see that he was also beginning to cry. I apologized to him, telling him that I did not mean to upset him, and he looked up at me and said:
“It will be ok, Dad. Everyone gets sad, but then we get to have more fun next time we are happy.”
Simply and beautifully put. This wisdom of a six year old far surpasses anything I have to offer.
I could not find it in me to watch a single pitch yesterday, but today, as the Rangers return home for their first game at Globe Life as the 2016 American League West Champions, I will return to that couch, this time watching the game, fully knowing that the sadness of yesterday will make today’s happiness much more fulfilling, finding solace in Elvis’s smile, Banny’s leadership, Carlos’s passion, and Beltre’s…..well, his Beltre.
And as we watch tonight, I will hold Nolan (my son) a little closer, thinking about the lessons we learned through the tragic loss of Jose Fernandez, the lessons Vin Scully bestowed on us on a daily basis, and remembering what the game of baseball has meant to my life.
Some losses are much harder to take than others, but in time, they make the victories so much sweeter.
Here’s to the next month of Rangers baseball and the lessons that the conclusion of the season may bestow upon all of us.