WASHINGTON — Sometimes life’s moments are fleeting. They pass by without pausing ever-so slightly to allow someone to run out to the car to get the camera or go to the Men’s Wearhouse for the proper costume.
Of course if a person has to abide by a dress code to properly commemorate anything, it probably isn’t worth it.
Nevertheless, with folks in the regular, old square world, certain passages of time are celebrated. Only instead of reveling when the moment actually occurs, we plan parties, send out invitations, order a cake and drinks, establish a dress code and then allow everyone to come over and treat their space like it’s a hotel room.
But major league baseball players don’t live like the rank-and-file. No, they live in the moment, take them on day at a time and don’t go planning for big events down the road when games remain on the schedule. They don’t dance if there is no music and don’t party if there is nothing to celebrate. More than keeping it real, ballplayers simply do not sweat the small stuff.
Isn’t that a good way to be? Sure, baseball players are blissfully ignorant and live life inside an insulated cocoon, shielded from such scary things like the news or weather reports and ushered from city to city via a cortege of busses, shuttles and chartered flights where only suckers stand in line or can’t get after-hours room service.
Hey, that $81 per diem isn’t going to spend itself.
But there is something pure about living in the moment. It’s a lot like baseball before the American League instituted the designated hitter and Tony La Russa began batting his pitcher in the No. 8 spot. It’s very real and in the workaday world where we’re continually told what we’re supposed to like and what we have to consume in our diets—media or otherwise—it’s refreshing to know that ballplayers still no how to party.
Sure, the Phillies’ goal is to sew up the NL East as quickly and efficiently as possible. However, the team’s Amtrak train was probably just outside of Baltimore on Sunday night when they learned they were eligible to advance to the postseason. Seeing as the iPad has rightly surpassed the Bluetooth ear piece as the must-have bit of uncommon man, geek couture in the Phillies’ clubhouse, the ballplayers likely knew instantly when the Reds sealed the deal by beating the Padres and secure a spot for the local nine in the playoffs. As such, Brad Lidge said he and his teammates thought about adjourning to the club car for a tall, cold one and raise a glass to leaping over the first hurdle, but once the moment came it was a little too anticlimactic.
“We didn’t do anything,” Lidge said with a shrug. “I suppose another team would be doing back flips, after all, you want to just get in the dance.”
It’s not quite a been-there-done-that jawn for Lidge and some of the team’s veterans, but at the same time, it is. This ain’t the first rodeo for most of these guys so if they are going to dance, there better be some music. Besides, it’s important to take the time and celebrate manager Charlie Manuel says.
“If you go all season and you win your division you should celebrate,” Manuel said. “I think the team should have some free time—cocktails, a little drink or whatever else you want to throw in there. I think it’s a time to celebrate and rejoice. You did something and it’s been a long year. You’re fighting to get to the World Series, but I call it the first step. There are four steps to it and the first one is to get in.”
But what about the guys who haven’t been there before? Every season there are a few new guys who are integral to the success of the team, but haven’t danced the dance before. This year it’s Roy Halladay and Mike Sweeeney ready to make their first ever playoff appearances. Only the interesting thing with Halladay and Sweeney is they have played a combined 29 seasons without so much as a sniff at the postseason.
But no worries there, says Sweeney.
“It was a bit anticlimactic, but over the past few months my goal has changed,” Sweeney explained. “It went from, ‘Golly, I’d really like the chance to play in the postseason.’ And now that it’s becoming a reality, my goal has changed because of my teammates in this locker room. It’s no longer, ‘I just want to play in a playoff game.’ It’s, ‘I want to win the whole darn thing.’”
With Halladay pitching on Monday night with the chance to seal it, Manuel expects him to amp it up a notch. Oh, he won’t let on that anything is different, but Manuel knows better and it appeared as if Halladay and his catcher Chooch Ruiz spent some extra time going over the Nationals’ hitters before the game.
Hadn’t they already seen the Nats plenty of times this year?
No way… Halladay isn’t leaving anything to chance.
Neither is Sweeney, who is solely focused on the task at hand.
“It hasn’t sunk in yet, so hopefully we win tonight and get to splash some champagne and it feels like a reality,” said Sweeney, nothing that he and his high school teammates sprayed apple cider after a schoolboy championship. “I hope we can get the win tonight so I can really embrace that emotion.”