June something changed for me. Among finishing my first quarter of post-college education, keeping up my normal two jobs, writing for another website, and trying to attend every Mariners game humanely possible… I was tired. It didn’t help that my very favorite group of baseball men seemed to mirror my overarching fatigue for life. While Mariners baseball is always my outlet for stress-free (hahaha) happiness and leisure, it got to the point where I was too drained to keep up with what was going on the field.
Felix was temporarily broken, the bullpen was something not to revisit and the first two months of the season that were spent crushing the nonexistent expectations given to the team out of Spring Training, seemed lost. The trip my grandparents and I took to watch the team in Boston mid-June was wonderful, but overall, my empathetic nature toward my baseball team took a huge hit that month.
July did not carry the same stigma that June did and the lack of home games that were played at Safeco Field seemed to work out for the best. Keeping up appearances of my normally positive attitude and drive to improve everything around me had started heavily weighing on me in June, and it took awhile to shake off whatever was getting me down. I spent July trying to regain whatever passion I had lost for my baseball team, while trying not to lose sight of myself.
Once again, the Mariners seemed to mirror on the field, what I was experiencing in my own life. They stayed neutral, going .500 on the month, giving themselves enough of a chance to return to a formidable version of themselves. Things were slowly improving, Adam Lind tomahawked a game winning home run against the White Sox, Wade Miley (love you boo) flirted with a no-hitter in a game the Mariners routed the Blue Jays and George Kenneth Griffey Junior got inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
There were the less encouraging moments: the Houston series or the extra innings Sunday night game at the Cubs, where my fellow Bellarmine Prep alumnus Jon Lester walked us off on a bunt. While frustrating to lose the last game of July in a cluster of sloppy baseball, August possibilities were hanging out just around the corner. August’s schedule was top heavy with Boston, Detroit and a weekend dedicated to the man that wrote the first chapter of the book the Seattle Mariners Baseball Club.
To stay relevant, the Mariners had to make conscious, deliberate choices to retain the core of what this season has been building around. A series split with Boston was punctuated by a game that saw Robinson Cano crush a three-run home run and the first #TeamSugar save. After Boston we had the Angels, but they took second place to Ken Griffey Junior’s number retirement weekend. It was during his speech that this fan base began to cling to a certain ideal, another story that would provide a narrative for the last bit of baseball the Mariners have left to play in 2016.
“Keep fighting because we’re all rooting for you.”
The Mariners played a 15-inning game last Tuesday night, and I think this is where they really bought into the #KeepFighting ideal. This game felt eerily similar to some contests earlier in the year. The justified optimism of the Mariners being able to come back from a run or two, the exact feeling that had deteriorated within June and July. A 3-run Kyle Seager home run + RBI in the 15th, and a Mike Zunino sacrifice fly to score a hustling Adam Lind from third was the formula the Mariners needed to invest in themselves. The season and was far from over.
What the Mariners did in their sweep of the Angels and subsequent sweep of the Detroit Tigers embodied the sentiment behind Junior’s statement. They kept fighting and they kept winning, giving us something to believe in. After Detroit, they took 2/3 from Oakland in the depths of the cavernous hole that is the Coliseum. After that they traveled further south to Angels Stadium for the second series against the Halos in a two week span.
Last night I was lucky enough to be in Anaheim for the first game of the series against the Angels. It was a second point of realization for me, the first being the 15 inning game on Tuesday, an additive to my personal motivation to keep fighting. I watched a player someone who has also gone through some notable changes this season. Felix Hernandez, on the anniversary of his perfect game, did not do anything close to matching that feat. What he did do was pitch 6 2/3 innings, gave up four walks, two runs and struck out eight before giving the ball to the bullpen of the month.
Over a decade ago, I believe that Felix began and was the embodiment of the keep fighting mentality. In 2016, he no longer is same pitcher, but he has never once given up the mentality he had all those years ago. He never gave up, even when no one could have blamed him for giving up. For as long as I can remember, he has always been my motivation to keep fighting for this team.
The Mariners franchise has spent a lot of time attempting to make meaningful moves in order to make this city largely enjoy baseball again. Much like our personal lives have seen– there have been failures, but they have also found success. We’ve all said from the beginning of Spring Training that this team is different, and while they made some mistakes, they’ve shown resilience and a desire to follow this change through.
The last ten games the Mariners have proven to us that we should be supporting them. They will overcome the growing pains and the change that all these years have endured. They are in a playoff race in mid-August for the first time in who knows how long. Something special is happening right now, and we owe it to ourselves to love and appreciate every moment of it.
We have 45 games left. Let’s do this.