Just when you think that baseball is becoming too specialized, when stats are taking over, when the media has made the game into some freakish mutation that used to be a game, you see something like I just saw in a rain-speckled spring training game between the Giants and the Mariners.
Matt Tuiasosopo, a utility infielder who made the big league team by a shoestring, hit a home run off of some lefty number 77 pitcher for the Giants. It was a pretty good little shot in a game that probably could’ve been called by the umps at that point, such was the heavy drizzle and the nearly vacant stands in what was the last spring training game of the year before the real deal starts tonight. Tui rounded the bases on the trot and the TV broadcast followed a giddy woman in the left field stands who got ahold of the home run ball.
When Tui returned to the dugout after touching the plate, he may as well have grounded out to that number 77 pitcher. Not a single player moved to offer him a simple high-five or fist bump, or even glance in his direction. There was nary a flicker of recognition. As Tui took off his batting gloves and stowed his bat and helmet away in the cubbies, the whole of the Mariners bench treated him as though he’d made the rounds with each of their wives and girlfriends.
At about the ten-second beat, Eric Byrnes starts to crack, glancing up mischievously. Then he stands and wraps Tui up in a big bear hug. With the first crack in the facade, the rest of the team jumps over, grinning, patting Tui on the head and slapping five and laughing. Don Wakamatsu even turned around from his manager’s perch to give him a high five (though his smile was muted, being as it is so close to baseball that matters).
If you can find me a box score that tracks moments such as this, I’d commit my sharpened Cubs pencil from Wrigley Field to it in a heartbeat.