Saturday, April 14, 2007

TAKE ME OUT TO THE BALL GAME....

On Wednesday April 11, 2007 Daisuke Matsuzaka, a pitcher for the Boston Red Sox was set to make his historic home debut at Fenway Park vs the Seattle Mariners. Matsuzaka, or Dice-K as he is referred to is a Japanese pitcher who was signed by the Red Sox in the off season. Over the past 10 years or so Major League Baseball has been lucky enough to have the talent from Japan wanting to come play here in North America, mostly pitchers. It wasn't till 1999 that a"superstar" if you will, made the crossover. And that superstar was Ichiro Suzuki who was signed by and still plays for my team the Seattle Mariners. He was the first position player to make the jump from Japan. Both Dice-K and Ichiro are considered national treasures in Japan. So as you can imagine this game was a big deal, it was a big deal that Dice-k's first pitch of his first home game would be against fellow countrymen Ichiro.

The weekend leading up to this game the Mariners were to have played a 4 game series in Cleveland against the Indians. Mother nature had a different idea and all 4 games were postponed due to snow. It set Wednesdays game up to be a night to remember. Our "ace" of our pitching staff is a young phenom by the name of
Felix Hernandez, or King Felix as he is so often referred to. He was on the mound on opening day for the Mariners and he threw 8 scoreless innings giving up only 3 hits and striking out 12 batters. So when it worked out he would be the starting pitcher for this game Chris and I knew we just had to have tickets. Tickets for this game in particular were hard to get. It had been sold out for quite some time and the only way to get tickets were for insane prices from people on EBay or through ticket brokers. Chris and I searched and searched and didn't give up and lucked out by finding 2 pretty good tickets for only 125 bucks for the pair on EBay. We jumped on it immediately and bought the tickets, how could we not?

Chris and I headed into the city early and had supper at Boston Beer Works across from Fenway Park. While we were there we drew plenty of looks since we were among the very few wearing Mariners gear. In one conversation with a guy sitting near us he asked us "so who is this pitcher pitching for you guys tonight, is he any good?" Chris responded by saying "uh yeah he is good and you will find out soon enough." The guy just kinda laughed as if to say "yeah right." You see Red Sox fans are like that. They seem to live in this little bubble where they think they have the best team ever and that no other players on any other team could possibly be any good and especially not better than anyone on their team. The ignorance drives me nuts. Little did we know that they would find out later that night just how good Felix Hernandez is.

After supper we met up with some friends, Kristen and Jeremy. We headed into the ballpark and visited while enjoying some cold beers. When it was time to head to our seats we parted ways as we did not have tickets together. Our seats were actually pretty good. Probably about 30 rows up from first base. We did have a big pole near us, but our seats were in a good enough spot that we could see everything. The media at the game was crazy. It was Dice-K mania everywhere you looked. There were Japanese signs all over, people with the Japanese flag painted on their faces, Dice-K headbands and of course a lot of Japanese people. When Ichiro stepped into the batters box the camera flashes were incredible. I have never seen anything like that. And when Dice-K wound up to throw his first pitch of the ball game it was even crazier. All the flashes going off, it was so cool.

Dice-K pitched a pretty good game. 7 innings, 8 hits and only giving up 3 runs and striking out 4. Not a bad outing for any pitcher really. Especially for one who was under the glaring spotlight and pressure to win in his first game on his home field. But it wasn't to be for him this night. What was supposed to be his night to shine became someone else's. Felix Hernandez swooped in and stole his spotlight and his thunder through 9 almost perfect innings of baseball. Perhaps on this night all of baseball realized just how good this 21 year old kid from Venezuela really is.
Through 7 full innings Felix had yet to give up a hit. He was unbelievable. His pitches were downright nasty. His defense behind him though deserved some of the credit. Second baseman Jose Lopez had made about 4 amazing plays to that point to keep the no hitter going. Raul Ibanez made a great diving catch in left field that was for certain going to be a hit. Chris and I were in awe sitting in the stands watching what could unfold before our eyes. The Red Sox fans sitting around us couldn't comprehend that this young pitcher was this good and shutting their entire offence down. Felix was on the verge of making history.

You see a no hitter is a rare occurrence in baseball. In Major League history only 233 no hitters have happened. That's in over a hundred years. It is one of the hardest accomplishments in all of sports. A shut out in hockey is nothing compared to a pitcher being able to go 9 full innings and not allow a single person to get a hit. In the baseball almanac it describes it as this

--"Words alone cannot describe pitching's second highest "club" and still one of the most desirable goals — a no hitter. These elusive gems are masterpieces of a career on the mound and a mystical feat that must be witnessed to be fully appreciated. Tossing a complete game with no hits are all that is required to join this elite group of pitchers. A group we here at Baseball Almanac truly appreciate and hold in the highest regard during a day and age when the home run is king."

It wasn't to be for Felix on this night. His first pitch of the 8th inning was hit into center field for a base hit. Jose Lopez made a diving attempt to stop it but it got away from him. And so did Felix's no hitter. But he has everything to be proud of after such an amazing performance. It was the most incredible sporting event I have ever witnessed. He didn't give up another hit after that. He threw a complete game, 1 hit shutout while striking out 6. That's nothing to hang your head at. Felix's time will come, he will have his no hitter and he will go into the history books. But for us when people are talking about him 10 years from now Chris and I will be able to look back and remember that amazing April night at Fenway Park when we witnessed the brilliance and talent that IS Felix Hernandez and remember how we were there we he almost made history. It was awesome!

8 comments:

Linda MacTravel said...

WOW Evey...you captured the very essence of the game! I think you should submit your writing to ESPN or somebody like that...you have a gift for telling a story! It is so exciting that you & Chris were able to be there to see that awesome display...I am truly envious! And to think that just a few years ago you didn't even know where first base was!?!?! Keep up the great posts!! And GO MARINERS!!

QueenieCarly said...

That was awesome! You really did do a great job. One questions though: where the hell do they get Dice-K our of that name?

Evey said...

His name is actually prounounced that way. Daisuke.....the Dais is prounounced as dice. The u is in there but it is said very quickly so it sounds exactly like Dice-K:)

Bryan said...

That's so sweet you guys were able to do that. I knew Felix was going to steal the show - just had that hunch. I was talking about it earlier that day. You guys witnessed it though. Hopefully he'll give us a few of those at Safeco this season.

ChaCha said...

Beautifully captured!! Oh its been so long since I went to a ball game.

Grandpa W. said...

Evey:
You did a superb job of laying down the print! You should be writing a sport line for some paper. I'M SERIOUS!

Lucy Stern said...

I'm sooooo jealous! That is why no-no's are so hard to get...We were luck to see Nolan Ryna AKA: The Ryan Express, pitch a no-hitter. We also saw Mike Scott pitch the no-no that ended our (The Astros) 1986 dream season and we won our Division title that day. The only thing better, is a perfect game. That would be awesome to see in person.

I would love to see Fenway Park. I have always wanted to see the Green Monster in person.

TF and I were able to go to Wrigley park and see Harry Carry stick his head out of the press box window and lead the crowd in singing "Take me out to the Ball game." It was a dream come true.

We came home from church today hoping to see the Astros play the Phillies, in Philidelphia, but the game was cancelled because of the bad weather on the east coast. I couldn't believe it, last week, when I saw the Cleveland stadium filled up with snow. It's such crazy weather for mid- April....

I'm glad you and Chris had such a good time.

Lucy Stern said...

Sorry, I meant to say, Wrigley Field.