Have you imagined your perfect 25 man roster? Maybe for a fantasy baseball league, picturing players from different leagues taking the field together. Or an all-time team, imagining active players and those long passed, turning double plays through time. Or maybe you find out someone played Little League and in the time between learning this and asking what position they played, you create your own assumption. They are low to the ground and seem quick – must have been a shortstop. They have long arms and don’t like to move much – first base. A focused, precise control-freak – pitcher. Or maybe you just like to imagine that you could take your friends and create a true team in pursuit of a goal, regardless of any real athletic ability.
My 25 man roster existed on a perfectly temperate Saturday in August, 2010. The team formed for my bachelorette party, and instead of working towards the playoffs, our mind was set on one of my long-time personal goals – getting on the jumbotron.
These 22 girls and 3 boys, assembled from across the country – Philadelphia, New York, Washington D.C., and even San Francisco. Decked out in Phillies-colored shirts adorned with cheeky baseball references, we took over a hill behind the Holiday Inn for a pre-game warm-up of grilling, champagne toasts, beer guzzling, and an impromptu dance party with a a borrowed iPod dock.
We didn’t exactly give ourselves the full 9 innings of opportunity we needed, as we finally made it to our standing room seats sometime around the third inning. In the shadow of our large screen goal, the team quickly self-selected their roles. The pair that went off in search of a cameraman to sweet-talk; those that took turns at the bar, keeping a drink in my hand; the group huddled around a table away from the game because, honestly, this pitchers’ duel between Cole Hamels and Johan Sontana didn’t exactly create excitement for the casual viewer; the fivesome that remained glued to the rail in center field, clapping and screaming as though they had lived for this particular game.
After 8 innings without results, any player could feel defeated, even the most dedicated. And while on a typical night, I barely take my eyes off a single pitch, let alone make a run to a concessions stand, this night was different. I had been a good captain, keeping all factions of the team happy with conversation, photos, baseball explanations, and consuming the obligatory bachelorette beers. So, and yes I too know where this story is going, I took a bathroom break at the top of the 9th.
Every team has their number one fan, and for my team, that’s my mom. She had our season ticket seats clear across the stadium that night. Aware of our Jumbotron goal, her camera remained trained to the screen between every inning, her faith in our eventual success unwavering.
When I returned from the bathroom, the game was nearly over. My roster a little smaller, and those remaining a little more quiet, their eyes cast down as we decided where to drink the sorrows of our loss away. Surely, they were feeling this defeat as personally as I did.
Yet, when we made it to the parking lot, the friend who had really championed the entire day – keeping track of our roster, uniforms, provisions – had to step up to the plate and be honest with me. In those moments I had walked away, distracted from the goal, my team had actually won. They made it on the Jumbotron.
I thought I’d be more sorry that I wasn’t there myself, but how can you feel regret when you see how happy it made them? I won because my team did.
Photos in this post, except for the Jumbotron money shot by my mom, taken by Nadine Friedman. The header of this blog comes from the same night.