When the BBWAA highlights aired on MLB Network back in January, I had originally tuned in to watch our boy Cody Bellinger accept his NL MVP Award, and was pleasantly surprised to see Jerry Seinfeld, one of the greatest comedians of my generation and renowned baseball fan – present at the head table. Known for his observations on everyday life, Seinfeld said something during his opening remarks that was so simple, yet which resonated with me.
“To me there are two things in this world, there’s life and there’s baseball, and one helps you get through the other.” — Jerry Seinfeld, at the 2020 BBWAA Dinner in New York
I’ve long held the belief that baseball can help us get through life, but it occurs to me after hearing this that it goes both ways; life can also get us through baseball…and with the tumultuous off-season that we endured as baseball fans, did we ever need it.
If we’re lucky, baseball can expand to mean more and involve more than just the actual play on the diamond that lasts from spring training until (if we’re lucky and/or ready to have our hearts broken) the postseason, and we can find ways to keep the game forefront in our minds during the off-season.
This past October, that off-season came much sooner than anticipated, and it was jarring. Even though something didn’t feel quite right heading into October, we still expected the nervous times to last beyond the NLDS, and it was crushing on many levels. The winter months suddenly stretched before us – cold, quiet, without baseball.
But knowing that I just didn’t want to face the winter alone and away from the game, and that spending the winter mulling and stewing over the loss would do no one any good, I wanted to keep a connection to this game and this Dodgers team that I love so much. Then the solution to that conundrum just came to me when I woke up the day after the NLDS loss, when I immediately knew that the perfect antidote to off-season blues would be to officially come back on board and re-join the team at Dodgers Nation. This was also to be my first set of “firsts” after losing someone who had been a constant in my life for over 20 years, and I recognized that the long cold winter months ahead could otherwise prove to be extra rough without the rhythm and routine of the baseball season to fall back on. Being back in the Dodgers Nation fold again kept me grounded, connected and involved with this wonderful community. and never far from this great game that I love.
And while it took me a little longer than usual to get into the spirit, I embraced my unique “baseballness” and decorated my Christmas tree with tiny Dodgers ornaments, hung my stocking up next to my Clayton Kershaw bobbleheads, and played the 12 Days of Dodgers on YouTube while cooking my holiday turkey.
On Christmas Day, per my personal tradition, I replayed one of the great games of the past season and re-watched Buehler’s 16K masterpiece vs the Rockies. As 2019 came to a close, I wrote several year-end pieces for Dodgers Nation, which helped me put the end of the NLDS behind me, expressed gratitude for the 106-win season that was, and reflected on the end of a decade, both personally and as a fan of this organization who had had an insanely successful 10 years.
Keeping my mind on and in the game proved to be the perfect example of baseball (even without any play on the field) getting me through life – with its friendships, community, promise and anticipation of what is to come.
Enter to Win a Justin Turner Signed Bat!
And then, with the baseball world turned upside down in January, with that re-discovered perspective and gratitude now applied to the realization that the Astros had cheated us out of a fair shot at a championship in 2017, life helped me get through what would turn into an otherwise tumultuous off-season for this great sport we all love.
Already having survived personal loss while coming out stronger on the other side, I was able to come to terms with the fact that our Dodgers had had a world championship stolen from them. I dug into that acquired resilience and perspective to help me process it all with a level head. Though the Astros deserve and will get no forgiveness from me or any Dodgers fan, I now know for a fact that there will always be more tragic events than this, and we will get through them by focusing on the promise of the future.
And now, renewed hope. The long off-season is behind us, our team has made a franchise altering trade, old friends have returned, and there is excitement once again. As for me, many of the aforementioned firsts are behind me, and there is hope that lessons the past has taught me will continue to open up new possibilities. It occurs to me that with what feels like the darkest days of intense grieving behind me, the worst is over, and this applies to baseball and the Dodgers as well.
When we survive and even find a way to thrive under the weight of whatever life (and baseball) throws at us, and we learn that neither can break us, and there is nothing to fear, the realization of this is exciting and freeing.
The first time I’d heard the saying “If it doesn’t kill you, it’ll make you stronger” was back in my first year at Mount Allison University when it was used as the theme of our annual raucous 5-day party otherwise known as Homecoming Weekend. Back then, as a very young and naive 17-year old, I really had no idea what it actually meant.
And now, all of these years, tears, triumphs and struggles later, I get it, I understand, and I believe…it doesn’t kill you, it makes you much, much stronger.
In life, AND in baseball.