by Ryan Potter
“Though the sullen years and the mark of pain
Have changed you wholly; for I shall know
(How could I forget having loved you so?)”
From Rupert Brooke’s “The Beginning”
I acknowledge that I have been gone far too long from the pages of this website. It is my fault and my fault alone. The end of baseball season left me moored in the shallow harbor of sadness that is the offseason. While I like other sports, my passion for them is not nearly as zealous as it is for baseball. I was left feeling uninspired. But take heart, my friends, pitchers and catchers reported earlier today and I pledge to throw myself wholeheartedly back into covering the sport I’ve loved unconditionally since childhood.
Last season was particularly difficult for me. Probably the most disheartening season I can remember in terms of how my team’s performance on the field affected me personally. It was tough to watch the “Core Four” of the Yankees teams I grew up worshiping as a child begin to break down physically and lag statistically. Mariano Rivera missed almost the entire season. Andy Pettitte came out of retirement only to injure himself again. And Derek Jeter was unable to play every day as effectively as he used to. I came to the realization that there will come a season in the very near future in which Jeter will not be penciled in at “The 6”. The excerpt I chose from Rupert Brooke’s “The Beginning” is illustrative of that point. My heroes are getting on in years and becoming shadows of their old selves, but I can still look back fondly on their careers (although I’m terrified for the future).
For all the torment brought upon me by the Yankees’ 2012 season, a small decision made during a night of drinking turned out to be my saving grace. 4FanSports writer Nick Rapier (who henceforth will be referred to as “Tres”) and I were lamenting that as Yankee fans we had long missed out on a crucial part of the baseball fan experience. For most of our lives, the Yankees were always sure to make the playoffs and that robbed us of much of the angst and mystery that surrounds a 162-game season. We decided to pick new teams on the following conditions: 1) We would remain Yankee fans. 2) The team we chose had to be in the National League (To avoid a conflict as often as possible). 3) The NL team had to be bad (To avoid being bandwagon fans).
Because I had always planned to move to San Diego after college (and at the time was going to be stationed there, a different story for a different article, probably on a different website) I chose the San Diego Padres. Aided by the MLB Extra Innings package and MLB TV, I was able to catch about 100 Padres games last season and I fell in love with the team. The 2012 Padres were young, scrappy, and put together on a shoe-string budget (the $58 million they spent was nearly a quarter of the Yankees payroll). Watching players like little Alexi Amarista develop over the course of last season while the Friars fought to get into contention (Spoiler: they never really got there) brought me more pure joy than I can remember experiencing watching any other team, no matter the sport. The team is young, but as the season approaches I have begun to feel emotions I haven’t in a long time: excitement and hope. Despite a dreadful 2-8 start, trading away their best reliever (Ernesto Frieri), and a devastating season-ending injury to staff ace Cory Luebke, the Padres made the season interesting until the last two weeks. Because they’ve rebuilt through the draft and by trading players with large contracts for talented prospects, San Diego has developed a young core, led by 3B Chase Headley, who are all about to come into their primes. For those of you who don’t yet have a team, I’d love to welcome you aboard the Padres bandwagon and help you find your love of the game through them. We might even go to a game together. You can buy me a beer. Seriously.Contact me about it.
The great thing about a 162 game schedule is that a full range of emotions can be experienced given the extraordinary length of the season. Even if your team starts poorly, there is always hope that they will get hot at the right time and surge into the playoffs. Hits will start to fall, and players will return from injury. Even if your team does disappoint you, there’s always next year. Though the length of the offseason is nearly unbearable I still cannot forget my unassailable love of the game.