Why Kirk Gibson Gives Me Hope

It was 1995 and I sat huddled with my family in the front room of our new house, in a new city, around a small radio. We were listening as the 0-1 pitch was swung on by Edgar Martinez and went down the left field line for a base hit. and we listened as a kid named Jr. ran around the bases and slide in safe, saving baseball in Seattle and cementing one of the greatest moments in sports history. It was then that I realized I was in love with baseball.

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I wasn't alone. That kid named Jr with his backwards hat, million dollar grin, and ethereal swing captivated the imagination of the entire pacific northwest. I chuckle listening to baseball commentators talking about how they got a love for the game. It's amazing how many of them come from the northwest and found their love of the game in that magical season.

After that, I became obsessed with the sport. I woke up early every morning to grab the newspaper out of our driveway, dive into the kitchen and open up the sports page to pour through statistics and memorize them all. Arguing baseball with me wasn't doneit wasn't fair. I loved Edgar Martinez, Jay Buhner, and Joey Cora. Three guys who we're no-nonsense, low-profile, high yield kind of guys. They weren't A-Rod, they weren't Griffey, but they we're Seattle baseball. They we're pine tar spreading, tobacco chewing, dirt on the jersey, hard-nosed players. Griffey got the spotlight and we we're all in awe, but those guys we're special. Add in guys like Randy Johnson, Tino Martinez, Jeff Nelson and have them all led by the hot headed Lou Pinella and it was everything right with the game. It was fun, it was spirited, it was real. It wasn't meant to last.

Soon, Randy Johnson would get dealt due to contract concerns, A-Rod would bail to Texas for the big bucks, and even the Kid would betray the city and demand a move to Cincinnati where he would destroy his chance to be the best baseball player in the history of the game. I found a new favorite team as my hometown introduced the Diamondbacks. The magic of the Mariners was replaced for a time by a team that bought it's way into a world series only to sell off it's success as quickly as it had found it. Bad got to worse as the steroids era came into full swing and Barry Bonds, the most unauthentic of all players, became the star of the show. It was a sad era and it ruined me on the game.

I have since lost my passion for the game. To the point that I rarely watch a game, I certainly don't follow scores or standings more than once a week and I never look at statistics anymore. There's not a lot left to like about the clean pressed uniforms, the perfect fields, the overpaid and unenthusiastic players.

All of which leads me to my newfound hope for the future of baseball: Kirk Gibson. Now, that might be a bit of an overstatement, but for how baseball applies to me, Gibson represents the last gasp. Gibson is everything that is right with the game. He's famous for a clutch homer with a badly injured leg pumping his arms with passion as he hobbled around the base paths. He's quiet and blunt, but that shouldn't be confused as anything over than repressed passion and rage. In the short time he has been with the diamondbacks he has ended all the rumors of absurd behavior, he hasn't played favorites and he has no heroes.

Unlike players, many of whom are too young and too dumb to be accountable for the spirit of a city much less a sport, a manager has a chance to set a tone and to do it for decades, not years. In Gibson you have to see the chance for baseball born of passion and competition, where money only highlights the thrill of achievement and showboating is reserved for the other team.

If the Diamondbacks can stay competitive long enough to allow Gibson to set a culture and a tone you have to believe that they will win and just maybe, maybe become the stars of a city. The chance to reestablish a different generation of baseball is here in the future of Kirk Gibson. I don't know if he can pull it off, but he certainly gives me hope.

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Posted in Pets Post Date 09/26/2020


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