I was lucky to sit behind home plate at last night’s Rays-Mariners game in Seattle. It was freezing. And aside from the cringing and the averting my eyes with each successive backwards K for Milton Bradley and sad, flailing swing by Ken Griffey Jr, my evening of baseball was perfectly pleasant. This despite the fact that nobody attends Safeco Field on weeknights, and despite the fact that the Mariners committed 4 errors (2 in the first inning, when Ichiro also got picked off first base).
The reason I was lucky to sit behind home plate at last night’s game was that it offered me my first chance to watch Evan Longoria in person. I watched him play catch along the edge of the dugout with some unnamed Ray. I watched him step into the batter’s box with the same off-handedness one might step to the cashier at a grocery store, or the teller at a bank. He doesn’t have a stance, per se. He just rocks gently –never achieving any kind of stillness– and times the explosion of his swing with languid perfection. I don’t think Safeco has seen a prettier right-handed home run swing since the last days of Edgar Martinez.
Aside from the homer, Longoria walked and singled twice. Maybe it was the crowd of 700’s fault, but his was the quietest 3-4 Hr, BB night I can remember. It was not a quiet night for the two Rays fans — a couple, both in their mid-20s — seated about ten rows below us, so about ten rows from the field. They wore matching Longoria #3 tee-shirts. Before the game began, when Longoria was done playing catch with his nameless distant partner, he turned toward our section. The guy in the Longoria shirt stood up. Longoria threw a ball toward him — and missed (okay, so he’s not entirely Joe Mauer). Then he disappeared briefly into the Rays dugout.
Moments later, Longoria reappeared with a new baseball in hand. He stood there on the edge of the field, and stared up at the Rays fans in our section. It took a solid 2 minutes before the surrounding Safeco fans awoke the attention of theRays fan who stood up, probably grinning. Judging from Longoria’s own grin and nod, the two made some kind of eye contact. And with admirable calm, the fan received this second baseball from his shirt-sake, yelled his thanks, and stared at it with wonder.
Then, of course, came the home run — a line drive shot into left center — and the singles and the walk. America, welcome to Evan Longoria.