Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Farewell To An Old Friend

I went to Minnesota this past weekend, looking for Ball Wonk. No luck. He either emigrated to his beloved Eindhoven, or he's fallen completely off the face of the earth. My search wasn't all that extensive, though. And along the way, I lost an old friend.

It's hard following a team while you're on vacation. I could steal a few glimpses at the never-ending ESPN scroll while out or during the too-brief visits to the hotel room. Gullien to the DL. Nats Win! Nats Lose. It all scrolled by, eventually. I just had to wait through the college baseball and the thirty seconds of NBA stats that slid by on the screen.

I got to return to an old pleasure, too, the boxscore. I hadn't followed the game solely by boxscore since, well, ever. ESPN and the games themselves were always there for me. But now I got to flip open my otherwise worthless USA Today and see how the Nats did, scanning the boxscore and realizing how much info it provides, but how utterly worthless it really is.

Writers of yore can rhapsodize about the harmony of the boxscore and rave about the massive amounts of data contained therein. But it just doesn't do it for me. So, Soriano had two hits? What's the context? Did they come early? Did they blow a game open? Was it a screaming liner? Was it a misplay? Did it come off a tough slider, which he'd normally swing through?

For me, it just creates more questions. Sure, it's good for the big picture. That's ok sometimes. I just like seeing the smaller pictures, the tiny battles. Is it enough to know that one chess grand master beat another? Don't you want to know all the tiny dances and subtle strategy that lead to a pawn taking a rook?

Nonetheless, I coped. I'll slowly be weeding through the boxscores, game recaps and scoring summaries to get a feel for what's going on. But from what I did see, as near as I can tell, Frank Robinson cries, Matt LeCroy stinks, Shawn Hill suprises, Jose Guillen is a girl, Alfonso Soriano hits a lot of homers, and Ryan Zimmerman is streaky. But other than that? Damned if I know.

But about my friend.

As I sat in the car, waiting for my girlfriend to say her last goodbyes, I realized that I wasn't wearing my hat. I looked in the backseat. Nope. I opened the trunk, tore through my carry-on. Nope. Uhoh. I lugged my big, black suitcase out, unzipped it and weeded through the masses of dirty clothes. Nope. Crap.


Pepitos! I left my stinkin' hat at the restaurant we had eaten at the previous night. I specifically remember thinking, don't put the hat on the bench there. You'll forget it when you leave.

I had been meaning to write a post on my hat. (Yeah, lame, I know) This had to be the nastiest, filthiest, most disgusting Nats hat there was.

Except for a brief three-week period in January of '02, I've sweat continuously since moving to DC. The heavy humid air doesn't mesh well with my pasty northern European genetics. The hat had a Kline-style blotch of dried sweat near the temples and on the underside of the brim. The rear of the hat had a nasty looking patch of dark gunk, which only had the appearance of dried blood -- funny, I can't remember hitting my head.

But the front of it was what made me love it, in all its filthy glory. A combination of sweat, sun exposure, and red rock dust from when I traipsed around the deserts of Southern Utah last year have completely faded out the front of it, so that it's approaching the color of raw salmon. It looked like I had worn the thing since birth.

Truthfully I'm not much of a hat person. Only recently, as I've grown older and become more aware of the pain in various limbs, have I started wearing one, if only to keep my brow from furrowing in the sun (Sadly, the hat can't help the brow furrowing while watching Frank manage us out of a game.)

But it was my lone piece of Nationals memorabilia. I bought it at Union Station right after the ceremony where they announced the team's name. There were long lines of people waiting to buy the crappy, overpriced merchandise, and I was one of the suckers. It definitely had some sentimental value.

So, if you're ever in Pepitos in Minneapolis, and you see a dirty hat laying around, pick it up for me, ok? Although, I'm sure they had one of the dishwashers grab it and burn it before the Department of Health shut them down.

  • So it'll take me a bit to get up to speed, and I'll scramble and award some retro ducks and whips. I'll be back to hating Frank before too long, I'm sure.

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