Sunday, October 10, 2010

A Sublime Moment

This post won't be a wrap up of the third game of a three game sweep by the New York Yankees over the Minnesota Twins. Even now, the stratosphere is lighting up about Cano's heroics or the Thames homer or the Phil Hughes performance. Perhaps there will be a dozen or more stories on the failure of the Twins to execute once more against the Yankees, their utter failure to hit with men on base. Why compete with all of that? This Fan wants to focus instead on one sublime moment that meant little to the overall game.

The game was really over before the moment occurred. It began in the Twins' dugout at the end of the eighth inning. The camera focused on Ron Gardenhire talking to Jim Thome, who would be the first batter in the top of the ninth against Mariano Rivera. Perhaps the Fan could be all wrong about this. For all this Fan knows, Gardenhire could have been talking to Thome about anything. But in the Fan's fertile mind, they were discussing Thome's upcoming at bat. Here's how it might have gone:

Gardenhire: "This guy has been in your kitchen all week. He's been breaking your bats. Either cheat inside to get the barrel on it or wait for a pitch you know you can drive."
Thome: Got it, Skip. Will do."
Gardenhire: "Right. Don't let him get you inside. Don't let him eat you up. Now go get him."
Thome: "I'll do my best."

So future Hall of Fame slugger, Jim Thome, went up to the plate and he was expecting Rivera to do what Rivera always does and bust him inside. Thome saw the first one was that same inside cutter and Thome stayed off of it. "Don't let him eat you up," Thome repeated like a mantra. That was strike one.

Thome dug back in there expecting another inside cutter. Instead Rivera painted the outside corner with a back-door cutter. It was a perfect pitch and Thome wasn't expecting it. Strike two. Then Thome was 0-2 and in a heap of trouble. "Don't let him eat you up," he repeated again, and he dug back in there.

The next pitch would be an inside cutter. Thome just knew it would be. "I hope if it's a good one, I at least foul it off." He waited, knowing it was coming. It didn't. Rivera threw another back door cutter but it was just off the plate. Thome took it for a ball. "He's coming inside this time," Thome told himself as he dug back in there.

Thome waited, sure the pitch would be inside. Rivera went into his wind up and threw another perfect back-door cutter, outside black. Paint. Thome took the pitch and the umpire rang him up. With his bat on his shoulder, Thome looked out at Rivera stunned. He started walking to the dugout all the while with his eyes on Rivera. A small half-smile appeared on his face. "That son of a gun," Thome said in his mind as he walked back to the dugout. Thome never had a chance.

After nine innings and a myriad of moments, that was the moment that caught this writer's attention. It was the sublimest of all moments. It was the essence of what makes baseball the best sport on earth.

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