As a die-hard Cleveland Indians fan, seasons inevitably come and go. But I will never forget the two years since I have been a fan of America’s pastime when the Indians were playing October baseball.
In the fall of 2007, I was in 8th grade, and Cleveland baseball was the only thing that mattered. I’ll never forget the noise that shook Jacobs Field during those playoffs, or sending my dad email updates to his beeper about the how the team was doing. The division series featured the infamous “Bug Game” and the electrifying revitalization of Kenny Lofton’s postseason presence in Cleveland. The ALCS against the Red Sox brought two extra-inning wins and instilled hope in the Tribe faithful that this year they just might make it back to the World Series, before the heartbreak of losing three in a row — and the ALCS — to the eventual champions.
In 2013, the Indians’ postseason run was much shorter lived, as the team bowed out after losing the Wild Card Game to Tampa Bay. But I will never forget the fiery baseball that team played in those late September weeks to clinch their spot in the playoffs.
The point is that October baseball ingrains itself in the minds of baseball diehards. The teams are playing the same game, but the emotions and the atmosphere are always elevated.
Seeing the Cubs on television this time of year inevitably brings back memories of the Bartman incident in 2003, but also of Josh Beckett leading the Marlins pitching staff, and two rookies in Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis infusing their postseason run with the kind of energy you can only find in a young player tasting October baseball for the first time.
And yet here the Cubs are once again, desperately trying to end the longest championship drought in sports, behind the heroic efforts of their ace Jake Arrieta. Already this year the Cubs have provided us with the hallmark drama that comes with October, collectively storming out of their dugout in the NL Wild Card Game after Arrieta was plunked in the thigh by the Pirates in order to defend their ace, and their team’s honor.
October reminds us of the curses that haunt franchises like the Cubs, but it also brings us surprising stories like that of Colby Rasmus, who has come out of the woodwork for the Houston Astros. Through four playoff games, Rasmus leads all American League players in every relevant offensive category, after a having a pedestrian regular season at the plate.
Similarly, unlikely AL MVP favorite Josh Donaldson of the Blue Jays is trying to lead his team and their fan base to the promised land, playing in October for the first time since they won the World Series in 1993.
These stories captivate us. They bring people together into a community intent on witnessing greatness, heartbreak, and excitement. One of the defining characteristics of my first year here at Bates, after the Indians bowed out, was hopping onto the Red Sox bandwagon on their way to the World Series championship. Watching in awe the raw emotion of Jonny Gomes, along with his and Mike Napoli’s ever thickening playoff beards; spending evenings in the Den with everyone in the joint pulling for the Sox, watching every pitch with baited breath until the dominant Koji Uehara came in for the save in the 9th. Cherish these moments while you can folks, because nothing beats October.