Goodyear Ballpark is the home stadium of the Reds and the Indians but I made the trek from California for the visiting Dodgers. The Dodgers opening the MLB season in Australia this year left a tight schedule of only a handful of games to see in the Cactus League. A game at their home stadium, Camelback Ranch, just didn’t work out with my schedule. I’m super glad the stars aligned for my first trip to Goodyear, Arizona.
Sometimes you need to take a workday off and be in the sun with baseball. Midweek day games are such a treat. It’s the opportunity to break away from the day to day blahs that we can fall into without even realizing. It’s a chance to be outdoors and away from phone calls and stress.
Perfectly lovely day in San Diego at Petco Park last Wednesday–a hot afternoon game against the solid Pittsburgh Pirates. Got to see old friend Russell Martin. My brother and I were the only people in three sections of right field upper reserve until the second inning. Good, close game. Pitcher’s dual.
The fans who joined our section smelled of piña colada sunblock. My brother and I tried the pretzel bun bratwursts smothered in peppers and onions. We split a box of red vines licorice. Got a little sunburnt.
And went home happy and refilled.
I remain upset over the whole Carlos Quentin charging the mound incident. It was ugly and uncalled for when it happened. The ensuing bench clearing brawl a mess of heated emotions. Words and fingers wagged and punches thrown and accusations. The worst the twenty pounds or more Quentin has on Greinke coupled with a running head start as he bulled right into the pitcher. All of it made more unjust by the fact that initial blow broke Greinke’s collarbone.
Stunned by the reaction to what didn’t appear to be a pitch intentionally going after Quentin, I listened to the Dodgers radio talk show after the game. I found it fascinating how quite a few callers pointed to Greinke’s history of overcoming social anxiety disorder. They called in familiar with his struggles in Kansas City and twisted the incident into some sort of proof that no player with diagnosed social anxiety disorder should ever have been given such a large contract on a major league team.
The reactions baffled me. I couldn’t shake how hugely insulting it is to people who struggle with diagnosed mental disorders to whole scale dismiss his impressive record as a pitcher and the fact he is in successful treatment for his condition. Because it is. Make no mistake, it is ridiculous to blame Greinke’s social anxiety disorder for the fact his collarbone broke after a very large man plowed into him. And I will never say otherwise.
However, the taint of that prejudice resonates in Quentin’s responses to the media in the below footage courtesy of Marty Caswell‘s YouTube channel, MartyTV. Carlos Quentin gets hit by the pitch more than any other active baseball player. He crowds the plate. He stubbornly crowds the plate. He refuses to change his approach. He is willing to get hit by pitches in order to protect his hitting weakness. He never before charged the mound.
If you listen to his responses, he makes it really, really personal with Zach Greinke. He speaks of a history, yet he has history with numerous pitchers. Why does he have such a hangup with Greinke?
Then it hit me. Carlos Quentin repeats how Zach could make it right. How his teammates approached Zach. How Zach never talked to him or made it right. And that’s when I think maybe Zach Greinke is on the disabled list with a broken collarbone requiring surgical repair because he suffers from social anxiety disorder, a mental disorder we as a society are not good at understanding. Because Carlos Quentin felt personally snubbed, because Carlos Quentin imposes his own personal views of behavior upon someone else, because Carlos Quentin decided Zach Greinke is a bad guy, the Dodgers are without their number two pitcher and an uncomfortable number of fans find the excuse to continue to harp on a young man simply because he is different.
I kinda feel bad for Quentin. In a moment of rage that overboiled after years of simmering, he hurt another player. I don’t believe his intention was to harm Greinke. I believe the rage spilled over after years of misunderstanding that Zach Greinke is simply different. Difference doesn’t need to be knocked down with disgust. It can be approached with patience and understanding and we can modify our own behavior to meet someone with social anxiety disorder where they can be comfortable with us. I feel bad for all of us when we don’t.
Graphic via @Dodgers Twitter
You feel the magic happens to yourself with certain players. Kershaw is that rare player. Pitch a complete game shutout. Hit the game winning homerun in the bottom of the ninth. That’s how he does opening day, and I felt right there with him. The feeling is worth repeating.
Photo via @MLB on Twitter
Baseball is back and it is glorious. No better way to start the season than a day game with Kershaw on the mound versus the rival Giants. ESPN did a nice piece on the history of the rivalry featuring the great Maury Wills. I am that odd fan who appreciates both teams and approaches their games with a sense of fun rather than hatred. I like the stories, the passions in both victories and defeats.
It’s the striving on dirt and grass that appeals. I want close games. Intense games. Games in which the 9th innings matter. And for Kershaw to win. Always for Kershaw to win.
Photo via @Dodgers
Did he or didn’t he? I’ve no idea. I do know he was his generation’s best catcher. By far.
The era was the era and, truth be told, it was a period that brought the game back from the doldrums. The players of the performance enhancement era? No more and no less human than any other era.
The games? The feats? A joy to witness. There, I said it.
For a good article about the unfairness of penalizing great players based purely on speculation, this SB Nation article is worth the read.
Photo via ccatcher.tumblr.com