I grew up in Des Moines, Iowa. I was a Twins fan. My friends were mainly Royals fans or Cubs fans. I only played two Little League games in my whole life. I wasn't very good, and I didn't like the structure, and frankly at that point in my life I had so many problems with social anxiety it was miracle enough that I was able to get out of the house some days.
But I did play the game, as often as I could, in the form of neighborhood pick-up games at Ashby Park (I am old enough that kids still did stuff like that) or whiffle ball contests in my front yard with my friends Brent Jacobs, Tim Mahoney and his little brother Mike Mahoney. Brent was very good. Although I could hold my own against him, he was a better natural athlete, played Little League, and ended up a regular catcher for the Hoover High School team. Tim was better than either of us and ended up playing college baseball at Iowa State.
Mike was best of all despite being the youngest. He was good enough that he was drafted by the Braves out of college as a catcher and played many years in the minors as a defensive specialist. He reached the majors eventually, getting 100 at-bats for the Cubs and Cardinals.
In the winters, when there was too much snow on the ground to hold a real game, we would still find ways to play. We'd play catch when it was 20 degrees outside. I drew a strike zone on the side of my house and would spend hours and hours and hours throwing a rubber ball against that wall, honing my command and mechanics and building up my arm strength. I never got my fastball past 60 MPH (I told you I'm no athlete), but I won Game Seven of the World Series many times.
You did, too, didn't you? How many times did you do what Alex Gordon did last night, hit a home run in the ninth inning of the World Series for your home town team? I'm sure Alex Gordon did that a hundred times as a kid; he was a Royals fan you know.
Last night that dream came true for him, and it made me think of all the times I had the same dream. And that's the magic of this game, isn't it, the threads of memory a game can pull, taking us back to the best moments of childhood.
For many years the magic of baseball has been lost to me. When it becomes your job, the magic fades. But last night it came back, and I will be eternally grateful to Alex Gordon for bringing that back.