From the First to Final Pitch

The Phillies lost the 2009 World Series last night. I watched the whole game, from the first to final painful pitch. It brought me back to 1993, when Mitch Williams gave up the Series-winning homerun to Joe Carter. The experience was just as heart-breaking as it was when I was 10 years old.
Growing up near Philadelphia, I had first started following the Phillies at 6 years old. I continued to track the team throughout elementary school and beyond. Box scores, players, stats and stories.
When I had gotten into middle school, I started getting into the Eagles, as football began becoming important to me. But there was always a special place in my heart for baseball. The Phillies were my first love. And from an early age, they taught me much about unconditional love.
Oct. 15 of this year marked my fiancé Sky’s and my 10-year anniversary. I remember my first pitch of the game. I was 16 years old (he was 15), and we had been best friends for about seven months but had intense romantic feelings for each other. Sky and I talked every day on the phone, as best friends often do.
The Friday night I asked him out, the phone went out during our conversation. Luckily, the line survived long enough for me to get a response.
“Hey Sky, have you ever thought about us going out? Like a couple?” I asked.
“Yeah, of course.”
“Well, did you want to? Go out with me? Be my boyfriend?”
“Yeah, I do,” he said.
I was exhilarated.
The next time we talked was on Monday. I was at bowling practice and called him from a payphone from the alley. We had made plans for the upcoming weekend, but his words were drowned out by the euphoria from just the sound of his voice.
Our infatuation with each other quickly matured into a profound love, guided by our foundation in best friendship.
And here we are, a decade later, still crazy about each other.
But, of course, you can’t win every game. No baseball team goes undefeated over 162 games. But to truly love a team, to truly love a person, you have to love all of them. Not just parts of them. The Phillies are infamous for leaving runners in scoring position, losing seasons, having a terrible bullpen and falling apart emotionally. And excluding the last two years, they often finish the season in last place. But to only accept “positive” aspects is not genuine love. It’s a shallow figuration of it.
Throughout our relationship, Sky and I have definitely faced challenges, both individually and with each other. There certainly has been much triumph and defeat throughout our relationship. And there were times we were compelled to give up.
“That’s it. I’m done with the Phillies and baseball,” my dad said one night in a tough loss.
“How many men did they leave on base? Like a hundred?” I said. “God, they drive me crazy.”
My dad was sincere about his breakup. He went the next many years without watching baseball.
“Why do you still follow baseball?” he would ask.
“Because I still love it,” I said. “I still love the Phillies, even if they suck.”
“Well, I don’t.”
My dad had a convenient change of heart when the Phillies won the World Series last year. They, all of a sudden, became his favorite team again.
Don’t get me wrong — I’m not trying to single out my father. There are many “fair-weather fans” in the world who only show loyalty towards a team when they are in a winning season and disown them when they are in a losing one. But it’s not my prerogative.
After sticking with the Phillies for 20 years and being with Sky for more than 10, I continue to believe in them and enjoy the ride. I embrace the high points, low ones and everything in between. The rapture, the heartbreak, the unconditional love. To be by someone’s side regardless of the circumstance. The commitment to those you love…
From the first to final pitch.

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