I knew going in that this would probably be my last game of the season, but I didn't think it would be as memorable as it was. These last few weeks have been a crazy rollercoaster ride of ups and downs [more downs than ups recently] but one thing I'm absolutely sure of now; there's something special about the Coliseum and the 2005 Oakland A's, and nothing, no matter what happens in this final month, can change that.
So a bit of background then, shall we? I worked this summer at Target, and one of my managers, Jesse, used to play baseball in college. We spend a decent amount of time at work just talking about baseball, and the debates always get a little heated since he's a diehard Giants fan who absolutely hates the A's. ["I just don't like Huston Street. Something about the name man, something about the name. It bothers me."] Anyway I told him that I was going to the September 6th A's/Mariners game, so we had this conversation.
Jesse: I have this picture that you have to get signed for me.
Me: Let me guess. You want Ichiro's autograph.
Jesse: No actually, I want an autograph from the closer.
Me: Who's that?
Jesse: Eddie Guardado.
Me: Hmm... Not too familiar.
Jesse: WHAT!! HOW COULD YOU NOT KNOW WHO HE IS. HE'S SO GOOD! HE HAS LIKE 30 SAVES BLAH BLAH BLAH. We played together in college!
Me: Whatever. Just give me whatever you want signed and I'll see what I can do.
Jesse: He's a great guy. He'll sign for you, you just have to find him! You must do this for me!
I didn't think he was serious about it, but today he came to work with his old 8x10 team photo and told me to find a way to get it signed by Eddie. How was I supposed to accomplish this task? I took the picture, said I'd try my hardest but couldn't promise anything. Heck, I didn't even know the guy's roster number, and couldn't exactly pick him out in the Marnier's lineup since I wasn't all too familiar with the team. Jesse told me that he knew I could do it, so all was set; I just had to figure out how to get Eddie Guardado's autograph somehow.
Since it was bobblehead day, I wanted to leave work at 3:30 so I could get to the Coliseum by the time the gates opened at 4:30. Due to some miscommunication and my sister's dentist appointment, I didn't get to the Fremont BART station until 4:20. I was half an hour behind schedule by the time I met up with almost reggie [Todd] at the Bayfair BART. We finally got to the Coliseum at about 5:20, where we found the lines to get bobbleheads surprisingly short. After I got into the stadium, the A's were just leaving the field so I went over to the A's dugout, met up with hook em horns [Cassandra] and then we went over to the visitor's bullpen area. JLaff [Justin] joined us there, as we tried to figure out which guy on the field was Eddie Guardado. None of us could be too sure so I ended up asking a few Mariners fans to point us in the right direction. At first they were like, "Oh I don't think he's out here today..." but they soon spotted him chatting with Ichrio in shallow right field. "He signs for his fans alot," said the Mariners fans. "He'll probably walk over here before going into the clubhouse. Just yell his name, he'll most likely come over." I explained that I had his old college team photo with me and that I had to get it signed for my boss. I kept asking them if they were sure Eddie would stop, and they reassured me that yes, there was a good chance Eddie would come this way, we'll just have to wait until the end of batting practice and see.
We waited and waited, and it seemed like batting practice for the Mariners would never end. All of the sudden though, the cage and the nets came down just like *that* and the players quickly started leaving the field. Everyone that I had spoken to about needing Eddie's autograph [probably a good 10-12 people] stood up and started screaming "EDDIE!!" and attempted to wave him over. He first looked like he was going to head to the clubhouse, but then changed his mind and came over to the bullpen.
Me: Can you please sign this for my boss Eddie?
Eddie: *Pause* Wow... I can't believe you have this! Who's your boss?
Me: His name is Jesse, do you still remember him?
Eddie: Of course I do, he used to be my catcher!!
Photographs by Justin :)
After asking me a few more questions about Jesse, he took the picture and actually sat down in the bullpen to take a better look at the team photo. He mumbled some stuff about the players that I'm assuming were inside jokes, and finally signed the picture for Jesse. When he re-emerged from the bullpen, there was quite a crowd that saw him signing autographs and now all wanted one as well. Well, Justin handed me his ticket to be passed to Eddie, so I gave it to him. I guess Eddie assumed it was my ticket though, and after he signed it, he flipped it over and actually wrote down a number on the back. "That's my cell number," he said. "Tell Jesse to call me." [I had an extra ticket from the game, so I made Eddie sign that for Justin, as well as my own ticket for myself :)]
Being successful [almost too successful] in my endeavor to get Eddie Guardado's autograph totally put me on a high for most of the game, a game I wouldn't mind forgetting because it wasn't so pretty. But I can't say it wasn't fun; the experience of sharing such an event with other people makes a baseball game much more than just a win or lose situation. I saw Huston sign a few autographs along the railing, so I figured I could wait until he actually got to section 128, where my seat was. But when I asked him as he got the bullpen, he shook his head apologetically and said, "I'm sorry, I can't sign for you right now, I already had to tell some kids I couldn't sign for them. After the game, I promise." I was slightly disappointed but I could understand. Huston was sent in to pitch during the ninth inning, so I wasn't able to get his autograph on the field.
After the game ended, we decided to stay for the fireworks. It was a pretty good show - even though there were probably less than 10,000 people left to enjoy it. When the fireworks show was over, all of us walked out to the parking lot [where I almost ran off with Saint's son, Forrest] and Justin and I decided to see if we could catch any of the players leaving the stadium, even though we knew most of them had left already. Huston's car was still around though, so we decided to stay and wait for him. A few of Justin's friends had come along hoping to see Huston, but they soon got tired of waiting and left after about 15 minutes to go on BART instead. We waited maybe 30, 35 minutes total, and started chatting to these other fans who were hoping for a glimpse of Huston as well. Unsure if he was still around - perhaps he got a ride with someone else? - we didn't know if we were just wasting our time. It was not in vain though; finally Huston pulled out of the parking lot and stopped when he saw us.
"Huston, you promised me you'd sign for me after the game," I said.
"I know," he said softly. "I'll sign it for you now."
So he completed a round of autographs for everyone who bothered to stay and some idle comments were tossed around. Told him he did a good job, and he actually seemed a bit upset: "But I gave up a hit... And we lost." People left as they got their stuff signed, until the only people remaining were Justin and myself.
Justin: I have a question... My friends were waiting for you too, but they already left. If I call them.... would you'd speak to them?
Huston: Of course.
Justin: *Calls his friend Rani, but she doesn't pick up.* Oh, I guess she'll have the best voice mail message ever then...
She picked up on the second try though, so he handed the phone over to Huston, who didn't just say something like, "Hi, this is Huston," but proceeded to have a five minute long conversation. It just felt so surreal, like I was watching a movie. Huston Street was talking to Justin's friend on Justin's cell phone and was actually pretending to be angry that they had left before seeing him. "Me wait for YOU? What are you talking about?!" I thought about asking Justin to get a picture, but it was one of those times where you're just too afraid to move or even say a word, because you don't want to ruin the moment, you know? I felt like an observer, intruding on some private scene that I was not a part of. Huston just kept talking and talking like it was the most ordinary thing in the world, and I'm not even sure what they were chatting about but I do recall that he called Justin's friend Rani "dear" before finally hanging up the phone.
Then before he drove off, he actually offered his hand to me and Justin. I can't express how shocking it was to shake his hand; for it was us who were taking up his personal time, yet it was him who made us feel welcome. He finally left after we wished him a good night and thanked him profusely for making my last game of the season end on such a memorable note. Thank you Huston, I'll be a fan for life now.
So what is it about baseball? It's a game played on such a large field, but when it comes down to it, the whole thing really does just balance preciously on fractions of inches, the tiniest of details. What transpired today was probably a relatively normal event in the life of a major league closer, but it goes to show how one kind gesture can go a long way, and every trip to the ballpark is an adventure; you never quite know what's going to happen.