Well, at least the Sharks won…
Still, maybe a wedding will make me feel better….
Well, at least the Sharks won…
Still, maybe a wedding will make me feel better….
In case you didn’t know, SF Lunatic Fringe is a part of the Baseball Blogger’s Alliance. Yes, really. I take the blogging side of this pretty seriously, and we’re trying to bring legitimacy to a field that still includes Rob Neyer for some reason.
One of the nice things about the alliance is that it gives us a chance to interact with other blogs. And for the second year in a row, we here at the Lunatic Fringe got the chance to answer a few questions over at CardsOnclave.com. Also known as C70 At The Bat, Daniel Shoptaw spends every spring asking questions of bloggers for all the other teams some questions, to let his readers know about what’s going on around baseball.
This year, in addition to us, three other bloggers responded: Daniel Day from the Ball Caps Blog, which isn’t about the Giants but is more general about baseball…but he is a big Giants fan; Richard Dyer from over at The Giants Cove; and Craig over at THE San Francisco Giants Blog. They wrote detailed, insightful responses to all the questions.
Rog and I did what we did best. We tried to make people laugh. But it’s going to be really damn hard to do without Barry Zito to kick around anymore.
Anyway, if you want to check it out (you do, right?), Click Here!
Yesterday, April died.
Not the character in the comic strip April, but the real life dog that inspired her. April wasn’t my dog, she was owned by my friend Robyn. Last year, she was diagnosed with kidney failure, and on Saturday, she finally succumbed to it.
It may be weird to some people that one can get emotional over a dog, much less someone else’s, but April was something special.
She was the kind of dog who had a stuffed toy puppy that she brought with her, and when guests came to her house, she’d go get her puppy and make people say hello to it, too.
On a roadtrip, she’d poke her head between the front seats and give the driver a look that said everything you needed to know about finding the next rest stop. (And it was funny watching her do a little pee dance until she found the right patch of grass.)
If you were in a room with her, she’d often position herself near a door so you couldn’t leave. She even had another stuffed toy that she’d set up right in open doorways to guard the room.
And if you were leaving, she’d run over and sit down right at your feet, because she wouldn’t want you leave.
April idolized her mother, as much as a puppy could do with a human. But for me, she was my Godpuppy (a title Robyn bestowed upon me), and I felt lucky to have had such a bond with her.
I fell in love with her, just as Robyn did, close to six years ago, when she came to the store where I and Robyn worked. April was the runt of a litter had by one of my coworkers, but she was completely adorable as we all sat there on the sidewalk, and she waddled from one of us to another. She was a 16-week old puppy, and the last of her litter to find a home. It was only 2008.
April, however, did not fall in love with me right away. I didn’t get to see her much as a puppy, and when she was a year old, her mom brought her over to try and get her to like me. She just sat there next to me and growled as under her breath as she could get away with. She did not like me. So in 2009, I decided to make a playdate with her. To get her out and social, maybe just social with me, I bought her and her mom tickets to the Dog Days of Summer game at AT&T Park.
That day, a shy pup came out of her shell. She got to take part in the parade, and out in the bleachers, had a lot of fun. And she didn’t hate me anymore. The experience led to the Dog Days storyline that took place in the first year of this comic, and made me April’s Godpappy, at least according to Robyn. Instead of growling at me, whenever it was time for me to go home, she would plant herself at my feet, and glare at me.
After that, April loved me. She baptized me with her mischievous behavior during my first day dog-sitting her, when she stayed in my garage during the first rainy day where she’d otherwise have had to stay outside. I was worried how she’d react to the rain. Instead, she slipped from my grip and took me out on a 15-minute run in that rain, with me freaking out that I’d just lost Robyn’s dog. When I finally got her (and me) back in that dry garage, she couldn’t have been prouder of herself.
April was everything you could hope a dog could be. She was an amazing partner and friend to Robyn, and was there for her through more difficult times than you could ever imagine someone going through. Robyn sometimes went through trials that were so ridiculous, they wouldn’t seem realistic if put into a book. And April would never leave her mother’s side. When I was helping her Mom to move out of an apartment, if I so much as made a step towards the car while holding April’s leash and Robyn wasn’t there, April would plop down and refuse to move. She would not leave her Mom behind, if it was within her power.
She also forgave me for singing Guns’N’Roses to her in the car. That alone made her a doggy saint.
For all the sadness I’m feeling over this, I can’t help but feel for my friend Robyn. For my friend, April was a companion, a soldier, a solace, a rock, and a friend. She was her mother’s puppy, right down to a nervousness about going over bridges. April was there for everything that Robyn went though, and I can’t imagine what she must be going through. To her, I’d like to say again how much sympathy I feel for her, and let her know that I will be there, even if I could never come close to being as amazing as that one puppy.
I’ve decided that April, the character in the comic strip, will continue to appear. It’s an appropriate tribute to a pet that had such an amazing influence on all our lives despite being there for such an unfairly short amount of time. You’ll simply have to forgive me because at some point this season, you’ll be subject to an unreasonably sappy comic or three involving her. I apologize in advance for that.
A few months ago, I got to see April for the first time in over a year. I knew she was sick, but the treatment was doing well. She was still strong enough and energetic enough to pull her leash right out of her Mom’s hand. And sure enough, when I began to walk back to my car, she got away from her mom and she plopped right down at my feet, and gave me that look she always did.
That’s the April I’ll always remember. The loving dog with a heart of stubborn gold, who never wanted to see you go. I didn’t get to spend a lot of time with her…life got in the way of hanging out, but from dog parks to AT&T Park, or just staying in and watching TV, it always made me smile to see her.
On Friday, I went to spend one more night with April. She could barely move anymore, and Robyn said that she had badly moved all day. But when she heard me, even if she wasn’t strong enough to move her head, her tail began to wag furiously, and her eyes lit up again.
I spent much of the night there with her and Robyn. We sat there on the floor, and talked about television and politics and memories, many many memories while stroking April’s fur and helping her whenever she needed some water. I haven’t sat still for that long since the last time I attended a 16-inning game.
But it seemed only right and fair that I sit there, for one night, at April’s feet.
Because I didn’t want her to go.
For Cyber Monday, you can take advantage of two promotions centered around Kevin’s enovel “To Hell With Fate; or, Why The Best Valentine’s Gifts Come From Mini-Marts“!
The female characters in this comic may not be particularly well-written (it’s a comic strip…no one is well-written!), but To Hell With Fate has been selected to be one of the prizes of the Strong Women In Fiction holiday giveaway! Enter this contest, and you’ll qualify to win the grand prize, which will get you a prize that is currently 29 books and is growing!
The novels in this giveaway are a wide-range of independent and small-publisher novels across the gamut! You’ll find romance, fantasy, sci-fi, and like To Hell With Fate, simple young adult literature!
Also at that link above, you will be able to see all the current prizes, as well as the ability to learn more about each book and author.
Entries for the contest run until December 8th, but don’t wait…we all know how procrastination goes…
You can get To Hell With Fate for the reduced price of $2.99 (from a regular price of $4.99) on the publisher’s website directly! Just go to this link, and when you’re purchasing the book, use the Promo Code APPLEGUY.
Yes, I’m an Apple guy. Please don’t judge me.
Purchasing from the publisher directly gives both Kevin and his publisher higher royalties, and gives you copies that are compatible with just about every possible e-reader you could use, including Kindle, iPads or iPhones, Androids, your computer…and even the Nook for you rebels out there.
This deal is not compatible if you buy from a third-party reselling website, such as Amazon or iTunes or the link. And this deal ends today! So head out, and don’t forget the Promo Code!
Two things happened at once on Sunday, during the final game of the San Francisco Giants 2013 season.
Barry Zito was brought in to face one batter, making his final appearance with the Giants. The 126-million dollar man has been the dog that Giants fans have kicked since the moment he signed in 2007. It’s easy to hate a guy who makes more money than anyone else. It’s easier to hate when you’re convinced the moment he signed that he would suck. It’s even easier when he proves you right the first couple of years. Barry Zito’s Giants career had far more downs than ups. He never posted an ERA less than 4, which isn’t a terrible middle of the rotation starter. But he was being paid like an ace.
And yet, for all the derision, Zito handled it with class. He had some problems, which is hard to blame anyone about, but especially the last few years, he took being the butt of constant jokes in a way that would make a middle school anti-bully video proud. And he had one moment when everyone in the Giants’ universe needed him to come up big, and he had the biggest game of his life. And for everything negative Giants fans have thought of him, he’ll be most remembered for that one success.
So, he came in, faced one batter, pulled out a strikeout, and walked off to a standing ovation, and gave perhaps his only curtain call as a Giant. And now it’s done. That’s baseball.
But in that moment, something else was happening. No one around me at the ballpark knew about it. I didn’t know about it. It was only when I glanced up at a in-house TV that I noticed it. The San Diego Padre batter who struck out was putting away his helmet and gloves, and his manager came over and gave him a brief hug.
It was perhaps the most unbaseball thing that you would see. So I looked it up.
The batter was Mark Kotsay. That’s a name that, as a Giants fan, I knew well. It seemed like he’d been around as long as I could remember. He’d been a Padre, an Athletic, a Brave, a Marlin, a Brewer, though never a Giant. He was always a guy on the other team.
And it had been his last at-bat.
Kotsay’s 17-year career had been a twisting path throughout the majors. He finished his career with a respectable .276 batting average, a .332 on-base percentage and a .405 slugging percentage (that’s a .737 OPS for those of you who don’t want to math). He averaged 11 home runs a season, never more than 17.
Over 17 seasons, Kotsay got into three playoffs. Once with Oakland, once with Boston and once with Milwaukee. In each postseason, his team won in the Divisional Series and then lost in the League Championship Series. Although he started his career with the 1997 World Champion Florida Marlins, he never played in a World Series.
Kotsay was just always there. And now he’s not.
His numbers were almost always above league average. Never spectacular, but rarely awful. Even though he changed teams several times, he was never the hot-ticket item in free agency. I’d never pulled for him to be a Giant. He was rarely the player you feared or that was in the middle of a lineup, but he was never a pushover.
That’s the irony of baseball. There’s a very limited number of major leaguers. There’s only 1,200 at most at any given time. To make it to the major leagues is a very difficult, very special experience. To stay there for a full career even more so. And yet, despite the specialness of that role, it’s easy to be overlooked and never noticed.
And in that moment, while a man who spent much of a career being overpaid and who wasn’t even retiring was receiving a ridiculous ovation in an emotional moment that left Giants fans diving to social media to celebrate and commemorate, as he went out with one more success, another player who had always been there and worked hard to be in the background had just seen his career end with one last strikeout, one that meant he’d finish his last season with a sub-.200 batting average for the first time since his 14-game debut in his first season. And while the fans cheers echoed for someone else, for him it was all over quietly.
Baseball needs those background players. The names we recognize, even if we don’t remember them right off the bat. Someone has to be in that other uniform. Or, sometimes, in your own team’s uniform for a couple of years. Baseball has to have those player, among their 1,200. And sometimes, when they’re gone, you don’t even notice it.
This day, a lot of people didn’t. But it was a moment that was more baseball than any other.