It’s the offseason, for baseball at least. Which means with the seasons I move away from the sport and start thinking about all the other ways grown men can pretend to be kids and beat the other kids on the lot, which means mainly hockey and basketball. I already have grand theories on Patrice Bergeron and Tuukka Rask and Brad Stevens and Avery Bradley and how all these names and more will impact my recreational life until their respective seasons end.
That’s not to say that baseball is completely ignored, but it’s certainly put on the backburner. It’s not a constant thought, and I don’t get very caught up in the hot stove season. I like sports much more than I like speculating on what may or may not happen; I enjoy the concrete.
It doesn’t mean I don’t at least have an ear on the fates of some notable free agents — here, that means Jacoby Ellsbury and Mike Napoli and Jarrod Saltalamacchia. And it’s awards season, so Miguel Cabrera and Clayton Kershaw have already walked away with their obvious and well-earned prizes.
But the baseball that exists in the winter is mainly the baseball of the past. Without the day-to-day grind of summer and the chaos of the pennant race clouding things, it’s a fun time to look back on old stuff — stats, books, baseball cards, documentaries, etc. And it’s fun to come across lost little highlight snatches that trigger memories.
Winding my way to YouTube this morning, I found a recommended video that instantly put me back in the sixth grade, sitting on my bedroom floor and watching TV38 on my 12-inch TV atop a bookshelf. And John Valentin did the following:
Everything about this is incredible. The way he instinctively catches and tags second base, the nonchalant tag of the runner from first, the flip back to the mound and the trot into the dugout while the announcers are desperately trying to figure out why the inning is over. This sounds like the Seattle call and not the Boston call, but I remember the 38 announcers sounding just as amazed and confused by what Valentin had just pulled.
Valentin had emerged the previous year and stolen the starting shortstop position from Luis Rivera for good, and in 1994 he was starting to settle in as a force in the lineup. There wasn’t much to cheer for in those years, and the ’94 season would famously end prematurely and with the world left hanging.
But it wasn’t a totally lost season. Every week and every month had plenty of weird plays and memorable moments that burrow into the backs of brains only to be randomly jogged on a random November morning. The winter sports carry me through the offseason, and they more than fill the time, but the bits like this keep the love of the game strong and keep me waiting for Spring Training.