Bittersweet Symphony

We’re at the ballpark in Kansas City. The season is over and still, we linger. The Diamondbacks are bound for the playoffs and the Royals are bound for change. By now, the song rings familiar. Five key players are free agents. We can’t afford all of them. Maybe one.   

My son and I have this theory about young men who throw 100 mph fastballs in the big leagues. The human anatomy is not built for it, so these guys have a shelf life. It’s five or six years, with a year off in the middle for surgery and rehab. Then they’re done. See: Kelvin Herrera.  

It’s not a new or novel theory. It also applies to NFL running backs and forest fires. Burn hot for a finite period then fade.    

Eric John Hosmer is a big market commodity in a small market. We have watched him evolve into a big leaguer, as a ballplayer and leader of men. One minute he’s laying into Yordano Ventura for immaturity, the next he’s speaking on behalf of the entire organization paying tribute to Yordano’s life. 

Hosmer and Moustakas. Moustakas and Hosmer. Hoz and Moose. It’s hard to imagine coming to the K and not seeing these two anchoring the infield. Mike Moustakas and his legitimate, uncontrived rah-rah. Wiping sweat from his brow with the lapel of his uni. The latter-day Balboni.

Moooooose.

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Lorenzo Cain is injury-prone and will be 32 next spring. Shelf life waning. Learned our lesson, right? See: Alex Gordon. Locaine’s smile lights up the Louisiana Purchase. I will miss his talking-without-saying-anything postgame interviews.

“Def’nitely… guys are def’nitely doin’ their thang to get on base…”

Alcides Escobar is a slick-fielding shortstop who hits .250. Dime a dozen, right? Mondesi can do that, right? Slick fielding shortstops who hit .250 and an inside the park home run on the first pitch to the home team in Game 1 of the World Series? Never happen again.

We were there. Barely. I’d picked up Jackie from KCI after a day of flight hassles. Ignoring her checked bag, she sprinted from the gate and we rocketed the Ford Escape down I-29 at 3-digit speeds, reaching our seats in the nick of time.

Our own personal Royals forest fire. Heat and combustion at its apex.

These guys kept the line moving together. Tipped their caps to one another together. Celebrated in goggles together, suffered and grieved together.

Jackie and I were not going to come to this game. The Royals were mathematically eliminated last week and my heart wasn’t in it. Then she said, “This is my team and I want to see them one last time.”

Gulp, he said, lump rising in his throat. The shelf life of my remaining reluctance expired and I realized once again why she’s the yin to my yang.

We watch the Diamondbacks in their awful uniforms declare victory and depart the field. For their fans’ sake, I hope their wild card game Wednesday, like ours which ended three years ago today, begins a postseason phoenix ascendancy.

We watch our guys shaking hands and man hugging, shed a tear, but know in our aching hearts there is no shelf life to bleeding powder blue. This passion did not come cheap.

The song has become a bittersweet symphony.

Our team won the World Series in 1985 and 2015. That puts us right on track to do it again in 2045. I’ll be 80-something. My son will be about my age now. Off his own precipice. Into middle age. He promises to take me.