Monday Musings: A Hometown Rundown

Note: The following post deals mostly with my beloved New Market Rebels. Unless you are one of a small number connected to the team, you will likely not give two hoots about it. I had to write it, because it was in me and it really wanted out. And when you’re a writer (even just a hackish one, like me) the only way to get it out is to write it. In short, those readers who are in the majority and care nothing for the topic have my apologies and many humble thanks for their forbearance.

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“Baseball becomes dull only to those with dull minds. Today’s game is always different from yesterday’s game.” -Red Barber

Perhaps my favorite thing about baseball is that despite the millions of games that have been played throughout its history, things that have never happened before are still occurring every day. Nobody ever has ever seen it all and nobody ever will see it all. In every season and for every team there are always dozens and dozens of little surprises waiting around the corner to astonish, delight, and/or vex us.

Even as a young(ish) person, I feel like I have witnessed so many crazy, hilarious, terrifying things that took place on a baseball diamond. Sparkling debuts, jaw-dropping catches, scary injuries, rain outs, rain out player antics, a fog out, a hail-out, a black-out, an umpire thinking the game was over after the 8th inning and charging off the field only to turn very red and resume his post when he realized his mistake, an umpire and a coach nearly coming to fisticuffs after the game was over, an umpire losing his footing and falling on the seat of his pants in the middle of a play, winning streaks, losing streaks, a bunt that resulted in an inside-the-park home run (hit by the slowest player on the team, no less)… I could go on and on. And you, readers, certainly have such treasuries of your own stored up.

A more-than-substantial portion of the aforementioned events took place at New Market Rebels’ games. You can always count on the VBL for the weird, exciting, and horrific. The current season is less than halfway through, and it has already been all these things. You’d think I would have learned to anticipate all manners of fantastic things by now, but I haven’t. I’m always taken by surprise.

Allow me to sum up what has happened in Rebel-land so far in 2012:

Nobody in New Market was feeling too gung-ho after the first few games that were played this season. At the same time, you lose a couple and still think, “It’s early, we’ve got plenty of time.” A few losses later you think, “Well, this isn’t good. But it is still early,” and you retain a morsel of hope. By the time of the eighth straight loss, hope was all but gone. We were all heartily discouraged and seriously began to contemplate whether it was possible for a team to go an entire season without winning a single game. And in our hearts we were really afraid that it was.

And then, at last, a spark of light! A win! A walk-off win! A walk-off win against a team that could have crushed us! Euphoria! With the assurance that the Rebels would not, in fact, go 0-44, there was much rejoicing (in the stands AND on the field).

Of course, even with the elephant having been joyfully escorted from the room, with that horrible weight off of everyone’s shoulders, eventually reality sunk in and you remembered that our record was still 1-8. A team doesn’t just turn around over night. Especially not one that had to this point displayed shaky pitching, untimely hitting, questionable defense, and cringe-inducing running of the bases. Best not to get too excited.

But then we won another. And another, and another. A come-from-behind victory here, a good old fashioned trouncing there… suddenly, our little fan hearts were alive with hope again. And I forgot about trying to memorize poetry in the middle of games (what I generally do when a certain game or team becomes very hard to watch), which was almost a shame, because I was really beginning to wish I knew Emily Dickinson’s “Hope is the Thing With Feathers”. (Hope is the thing with feathers / That perches in the soul, / And sings the tune without the words / And never stops at all...)

I witnessed my first ever in-person walk-off home run (aside from one or two that came from an opposing team… but those don’t count). The guys managed to come through with three straight walk-off wins at home. Just like that, winning had practically become an expectation. And after having lost eight straight to start the season, these boys won eight straight to make up for it.

This brings us up to the present. The Rebels are 8-10 and in fourth place in their division (it might not sound too spectacular, but it is far and above what one would have expected just a week or two ago). The list of strange, exciting things I’ve seen in baseball has grown to include miraculous in-season turnarounds. Truly, I have never seen anything like it.

The really crazy thing is that this season is still quite young, and there are likely a hundred more crazy things waiting to spring out and spook us in the coming weeks. Isn’t that fantastic? This is why I love baseball. It is insane and unpredictable, just like life. And I’m a little terrified… but I can’t wait to experience whatever is going to happen next.

Stay tuned.

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