To Hear a Pin Drop
(photo from Yahoo! Sports)
The game is not over yet - it's currently the top of the 8th inning and the Sox are down 8-6, but I can't seem to think about anything other than Carl Crawford's line drive that dropped Matty Clement like a sack of fertilizer. And, like Beth, I found that as I stared at the television, my face a rictus of horror, there were tears forming in the corners of my eyes. Because, no matter how much time you spend making fun of a player's imagined penchant for Cat Fancy magazine or his alleged peanut allergy, you realize that you really do love the guy. And you don't want anything bad to happen to him. You realize that through the wins and losses ERA and WHIP and BB/K ratio, there is one thought repeated over and over like a manta in your head, "Be okay, Matty, be okay, Matty, be okay, Matty, be okay..."
The Sox are playing lackluster baseball right now and honestly, I can't blame them. For as much money as they make and as many trade rumors as litter the sports pages every day, they do spend most of their waking hours together and they are a family. And they have to care right now. Not about the game, so much as they want it to be over, but about their fallen teammate.
The worst part was how quiet it was. I've been to the Trop and it's not a loud place, in and of itself, but the faces of the fans in the stands after Matty went down - Devil Rays and Sox fans alike - said it all. There was nothing to say. Remy and Don-O didn't know anything more than we did. They were watching right along with us. We're so used to them being the voices of reason, or insanity, but we're used to looking to them for explanation. For me, they've always had an uncanny way of answering my questions immediately after I voiced them, either to someone in the room or to the empty room at large. But this time, they had nothing to say.
Then there was Millar's face. For as long as he's been on this team, Millar has always had at least a semi-smile on his face. Even being down 0-3 to the Yankees in last year's ALCS, he couldn't stop smiling and joking around. But as he stood over Matty, his body curled into a loose fetal position, his face was stony with no hint of smile. Millar's face, combined with Varitek's slow, determined walk away from the mound, made it clear that this was bad.
The inevitable comparisons to Bryce Florie popped up after mere minutes. "No," I said to the TV, as there was no one here, "No, Matty, be okay." I called my dad. It was all I knew to do.
"Are you watching the game?" I asked.
"No," he said, "We're in the car. But I've got it on the radio."
"It's bad," I said, my voice shaking a bit.
"WEEI says he's alert and aware of what happened," Dad reassured me, "He's going to be okay."
"Okay," I said, pacing the kitchen, "Okay."
"Everything else okay?" Dad asked.
"Um," I said, "Yeah, I guess so." I paused, "Dad, that was really bad."
"It's going to be okay. He's going to be fine."
Sometimes, that's just what you need to hear.
According to Eric Frede's in-game updates, Matty is alert, concious and "in good spirits." These are all good things. Nevertheless, this kind of stuff is so scary. I'm a hockey fan so it's not like I'm not used to violence. I love football and celebrate a bone-crunching sack with the best of 'em, but there's just something different when it's baseball. Or when it's so unexpected. Hockey and football players know they're going to get hit. They prepare for it. It's part of the game. But baseball is not a contact sport. When the ball comes back to the pitcher, a lightning-quick screaming liner, there is no time to react. And that's what makes it so terrifying.
In the game, Varitek has just hit a 9th-inning home run to bring the Sox within a run and Millar has singled to put the tying run on base. Obviously, I want the Sox to win this game. I want this to turn into one of those "Moments" that we come back to, like last year's brawl game, where the team metaphorically kicks itself in the ass and comes back to win and to turn the season around. But right now, my thoughts are still with Matty.
Be okay, Matty, be okay, Matty, be okay...