Happy Valentine’s Day! For many of us, this holiday comes with mixed emotions. While others are celebrating with their loved ones, us WAGs are either alone and waiting for our S.O. to FaceTime us, or dreading the impending report date that will take our guys away from us for the next seven to eight months. In fact, many of us are probably thinking something along the lines of, “I hate baseball.” In an effort to restore the love that Valentine’s Day is supposed to be celebrating, I am going to share my top ten reasons that I love baseball.
Before I get into my Top Ten, I’ll share the short version of how my boyfriend, Sal Mendez (LHP for the Texas Rangers organization) and I met:
I was a junior at Gonzaga University in Spokane, WA. I was looking for a summer internship in the area and one of my friends mentioned having a really great interview with the Spokane Indians, the Short Season A team for the Texas Rangers. I had been working in sports marketing at Gonzaga and thought it would be a great experience since I wanted to work in baseball after graduation. I applied and after several interviews, I was selected!
Fast forward a couple months to June and the players had arrived. We were holding a kids clinic for the Spokane community. About 200 kids came to the field in the middle of the scorching hot summer and rotated between stations with their assigned chaperone (aka the other interns and marketing staff) while some players from the Indians ran drills with them. While waiting for everyone to file in and get split into their groups, this player caught my eye.
The GM had made it clear that the boys had a job to do and the girl interns (that year the marketing interns consisted of me and two guys) needed to steer clear of the players because they had a job to do and didn’t need any distractions (cue massive eye roll). I’m a rule follower and didn’t want any trouble so I avoided/ignored the players the best I could (apparently coming across as rude I later found out).
Anyway, #39 caught my eye and we exchanged smiles. When rotating, I ask my fellow intern, Sam, who #39 is. He informed me that that’s his “boy Sal and he is the man.” I begged Sam not to say anything to him but boys don’t listen and later that night at the game, Sam informed me that he told Sal I had a crush on him.
Fast forward again to the last game of the season and Sal hadn’t made any moves (later claiming he could never find me alone to talk to me...uh huh, suuuuuuure). He came up to me before a game that he was charting and thanked me for all I did during the season (because making sure that someone was ready to take contestants on the field for the chicken toss really made an impact on his career). He walked away and I was pretty sure that would be the last time I saw him.
The season ended and the Friday after I am sitting at Jack and Dan’s (the typical college bar for Gonzaga) and I decided to slide into his DM’s to see if he was still in town. To my surprise, he responded and told me that he is back in New Jersey, otherwise he would have come out to meet me. I didn’t respond because his response was very sobering and I lost all the courage my Moscow Mules had given me.
A week later, I'm folding laundry and my Facebook messenger goes off. I check and it’s him asking how I’m doing. I respond and we eventually exchange numbers. The next day, he calls and we talk on the phone for FIVE HOURS. The conversation flowed so easily and when we hung up, I knew that there was something special between us. A month later, he flew to Spokane to visit this girl that he had hardly spoken to in person and at the end of that visit, I knew I loved him. That was almost two years ago and every once in a while I will go onto Facebook Messenger and read those first messages between us and thank God for giving me that liquid courage to reach out to #39.
As promised, here are my Top 10 Things I Love About Baseball Season:
1. Memories. I was brought home from the hospital in a S.F. Giants onesie and from then on, baseball has been a permanent fixture in my life. From listening to Kruk and Kuip call games on KNBR with my dad, to spending weekends in random cities for my brothers travel ball, to meeting Sal, my favorite memories all surround baseball.
2. Baseball is entertainment for all the senses. You hear the crunch of the spikes on the dirt. Smell the freshly cut grass and wet dirt. Feel the hot summer air as you sit in plastic stadium seats waiting for the sun to set. Taste the sugary cotton candy, salty popcorn and ice cold beer.
And the best of all, you see a crowd of strangers cheering on the man you love doing what he loves.
3. The camaraderie you feel when standing in a crowd of perfect strangers all cheering on the same team. I am amazed at the human ability to come together over the same goal. No matter what team Sal plays for, I am blown away at the dedication and love that host families, kids and locals have for our players.
4. That moment when the announcer bellows your man’s name and he runs onto the field and the crowd goes crazy and you get that mix of pride and nerves and love that rush to the surface in a combination of goosebumps and tears.
5. Getting to explore the world like you never would if not for this baseball life. Hickory, NC? Tri Cities, WA? Everett, OR? Delmarva, MD? I never would have visited any of these if not for baseball! I know some of you ladies have gone international as well. How cool is that?
6. When kids ask for autographs. How adorable it is to watch little kids hold a baseball up for your man to sign? It makes me smile just thinking about it.
7. Distance makes the heart grow fonder. Though I would give anything to be able to travel with Sal, and I hate setting that countdown up on my phone, the anticipation of a visit, no matter the length, is like getting Christmas several times a year. I'm grateful for this distance at times, because it has strengthened our relationship and ability to communicate with each other.
8. Seeing your man’s name pop up on your phone signaling the end of a game and knowing that you will get to FaceTime in a little less than an hour!
9. The reminder to live in the moment. It just takes one play to completely change your life. For me, that play happened when I was lying on the beach in Santa Monica, listening to Sal’s game going on in Greensboro, NC. My reception was spotty and Tune In was buffering. All of the sudden I hear “pitcher is down...looks like he got hit in the chest”. My heart stopped. That was MY pitcher that just got hit. Was he okay? Is it a bruise or will he need rehab? I am reminded often to enjoy every strike, amazing catch and safe outing because this crazy life only gets crazier. (It ended up just being a bruised sternum, thank goodness).
10. I love that this sport that I love, has led me to finding the man that I love.