Postseason Surprises

An Essay By Paul // 11/11/2004

Wrote this just before the World Series! Go Red Sox!

Baseball has a reputation for surprises, especially in the post-season. Right now, excited and nervous, Red Sox fans hope for the unexpected as they brace themselves for a post-season showdown with the notorious Yankees. As a Red Sox fan, I, too, hope the year has come, and I feel encouraged from years of watching the Cleveland Indians. Ending the season with a mediocre record and somehow turning it around in the post-season represented a typical year for the Indians between 1995 and 1999. “How would they make it this time,” I wondered each fall, but they did. Who knows how? Perhaps, because they never gave up hope, or because of the fans, or even because of my prayers, they always managed to put on a good show.

This surprise factor reminds me of the post-season saga last spring of Theresa, my little sister. Only half aware of her softball team, the Marlins, during the regular season, I thought them at best inconsistent. Losing more than half of their games, the team had nothing to boast about. For her part, Theresa moderately enjoyed softball, but lacked the diligence to improve and often came home slightly discouraged. Afraid my enthusiasm for baseball might have the opposite effect I intended, I had kept a respectful distance. However, with the post-season upon us, mom suggested Theresa and I throw some balls together. Practicing for an hour soon became an integral part of everyday. Bigger and more powerful, the Diamond Backs’ victory seemed predictable. Yet the Marlins somehow won. While still soaking in this triumph, Theresa’s team beat the second best team in the league with an even more spectacular victory. Still, even as I watched the amazing happen, I knew our continuous practicing had not completely paid off. Although her team had decided to turn things around, Theresa had not made a hit or caught a ball.

My wildest imaginations and hopes for Theresa’s championship game actually fell short of the real thing. Ironically, Theresa’s team faced the Red Sox, a team similar to themselves, in the final game. Minor League softball games span only six innings, and for five innings the Red Sox demonstrated their superior ability. Taller and more compact than many of the girls on Theresa’s team, the Red Sox pitcher shut out the Marlins’ batters, while the opponents team bombarded them with eleven runs. Indeed, a high pop-up catch by Theresa, her first of the year, existed as the only bright spot. All too soon, Theresa stepped up to bat as the last out of the game. Through her foul tips, I could sense her determination and drive. Although she only walked, Theresa created a spark of hope. Just as the Chinese proverb says one grain of rice can tip the scale, this spark brought on a reversal of the entire game. Suddenly the Red Sox became butterfingers and their pitcher threw all balls. Owing mostly to walks and errors, the Marlins stood only two runs behind with the bases loaded and one of their power hitters coming up to bat. Crack! Flying off the bat like a rocket, the ball zoomed far into the outfield. When the ball finally reached home plate again, everyone had scored, and we had won the game by two whole points!

At the last crack of the bat, every Marlins fan went crazy. Through this surprise and joy, all of us from different walks of life felt united. Inside, I continued to experienced a surge of pride from knowing Theresa had kept her team alive. In the stands the fathers leapt up and down giving each other high-fives. And as my dad wept tears of joy my other sisters and I cheered enthusiastically. Tired, sweaty, but victorious Marlins streamed out of the dug-out to surround the homerun hitter. One of the coaches, the superintendent of schools for Hopkinton, proclaimed Theresa the hero of the game. After congratulating Theresa, my older sister and I rushed off to buy ice cream from the local grocery store for a family party at home.

Theresa became the surprise element of her championship game by reuniting her teammates in a winning spirit. None of us guessed that Theresa possessed the ability to perform under such pressure. However, in that critical moment Theresa came to believe in herself; she became a leader. Gazing at the pitcher with a determined stare, she led everyone to second-guess the present motion of the game. She had decided to win. After scoring, Theresa strengthened morale by cheering on her teammates, something she usually felt too self-conscious to do. Illustrating this new spirit of victory, the mother of the player destined to hit the game-ending grand slam, led the girls in prayer. Another unpredictable element of baseball, the power of prayer may have won the game.

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