Baseball is weird.
Devout fans of the game claim animals can affect outcomes of games and, in some cases, seasons (goats and black cats, especially). At one point or another, almost every team in the league has had its own “rally animal.” Squirrels and cats and possums and monkeys and praying mantises.
In 2016, the Royals had two different rally praying mantises who, supposedly, spurred their streak of winning 18 out of 22 games. A couple of fans started wearing rally mantis masks to the game and were shown multiple times throughout the broadcasts. When both Rally Mantis and Rally Mantis, Jr. died, Royals fans mourned their passing across social media.
In 2017, the Royals were playing the Cardinals in St. Louis, leading by a run in the 6th inning. With two outs, the bases loaded, and Yadier Molina at the plate, a black kitten ran across the outfield, meandering near Lorenzo Cain. A member of the grounds crew snagged the cat in deep centerfield, suffering multiple scratches as he carried the ferocious beast off the field. On the very next pitch, Yadi hit a game-changing grand slam, putting the Cards on top for good.
The game has encouraged all kinds of bizarre superstitions and jinxes. Don’t walk on the foul line. Don’t talk about a no-hitter in progress. Obsessions with every number imaginable. Wearing a rally hat of some kind. Eating the right salsa or BBQ or tacos. Changing walk-up songs or not changing socks and underwear. No one ever said anything about the intelligence of baseball players.
And then there’s Wade Boggs. Eating chicken before every game. Taking 150 ground balls before each game. Running sprints precisely at 7:17 before every home game. Drawing in the dirt before every at bat. He’s also in the Hall of Fame. Maybe there’s something to be said to honoring the weirdness.
Yesterday, the CY Cyclones played in a very weird game against a tough Shockers team. With the heat index just shy of 100, my first instinct is to blame the weather. In my time in left field, my toes were getting toasty from the turf field and my hat was streaming sweat from the brim.
A bizarre balk call allowed one run to score. A “foul” ball bouncing off home plate into fair territory. The stadium announcer talking to players during at-bats. (He gave me props for dodging a blistered foul ball during my half-inning stint as a third base coach. “Way to not get tattooed!” I waved back at him.) Almost double the number of the MLB record for hit batsmen in one game by one team.
The game was tied through seven innings, and then the wheels fell off and the Cyclones fell to 0 – 3. The only winless team in the league. Baseball is frustratingly weird.
Life is weird.
From phosphorescent algae and the 900 statues called Moai to octopi and traffic circles, life is full of the bizarre.
There was no real reason for a healthy 6-year old boy to lose all of his hair. It just happened.
My family was living in Lee’s Summit when my hair started to fall out, the same year the Royals went to their first World Series. We learned it was called alopecia, which is a fancy way of saying “your hair is falling out.” Having attended my first Royals baseball game two years earlier, I was learning to love the game. I had several different pieces of Royals memorabilia in my bedroom, pieces I still have to this day, safely packed away in my garage.
I remember asking Dad, “Can I still play baseball?”
“Yes, of course you can,” he said.
And with those simple words of fatherly affirmation, all was right in my world.
Sometimes, when life is weird and crazy and all kinds of out of control, what we crave most are simple words of encouragement from someone we love and trust.
I wear a different hat during warm-ups than I do in the game. If I wore my game hat during while stretching and taking swings in the cages and playing catch and running, it would be dripping in my eyes before the singing of the national anthem.
For the first three games, I wore my beloved Royals hat. My daughters bought it for me as a Father’s Day present in 2018. I wore it religiously for the year of playing catch as well as workouts in preparation for tryouts. Rust streaks from the button on top.
But, maybe, possibly, wearing a Royals hat in a season where they are pretty much guaranteed to lose 100 games is not good, smart baseball mojo. Maybe wearing a Royals hat simply encourages the baseball weirdness.
In the spirit of the game that believes a broadcaster commenting on the lack of hits in a particular game or an animal on the field might affect the outcome, I’m going to make a change. I’ll be wearing a new warm-up hat next week in hopes of starting the Cyclones winning streak straight through the league championship.
Weirder things have happened.
And if that doesn’t work, I’m bringing my cat the next week.
(That’s a completely hollow threat. There’s no way I’m bringing my cat to the ballpark. There’s a reason they have “Bark at the Park” and not “Felines at the Field.”)