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Monday, October 6, 2014

Zimmermann's no-no: A first-hand account

"How can you not get romantic about baseball?" Brad Pitt as Oakland Athletics GM Billy Beane in Moneyball

On Sunday afternoon, at around 1:00 pm in row F of section 222 of Nationals Park, a Reds fan, a Yankees fan, and two Red Sox fans sat down, stadium grub in hand, to see the final game of the season between the Washington Nationals and the Miami Marlins. It was a sunny, breezy day in the Nation's capital, a perfect way to end the summer.
None of us were expecting what happened next.
As I stood in line to buy a lemonade in the second inning, I heard the crack of the bat, followed by that familiar hopeful "OHHHH" of 35,000 hopeful fans who knew that Ian Desmond had put good wood on the ball. I quickly ducked out of line to see the ball sail into the Marlins' bullpen. 1-0 Nationals.
A few innings passed by. As I sat there lounging in the right field nosebleeds shooting the breeze with my friends, I looked at the scoreboard.
I leaned over "Hey, J.R., Zimmermann's got a no-hitter through 5." I observed.
"Yeah, he's doing really well so far. Very efficient!" my friend replied.
Two more innings passed, and a debate broke out between us whether Zimmermann would be taken out with a no-hitter going on 6 2/3 innings.
"It's only swing of the bat and it's all over. Alvarez has pitched very well too."
"They need to rest him for the playoffs."
"I don't know man...they can have Strasburg and Gonzalez pitch, Zim can come in for Game 3..."
"His pitch count's really good, he doesn't look tired at all."
"Has he walked anyone?" "Yeah, two innings ago, and he had that wild pitch too."
Every recorded out was becoming more and more exciting. An intangible buzz could be felt among the fans.
"This has really been an awesome performance by Zimmermann..."
So began the 8th inning. Zimmermann recorded two strikes on the batter, and I noticed a few people standing and cheering. A dull roar of cheering followed. Every out it became louder and louder.
I noticed my heart was beating faster and faster.
Up stepped Ryan Yelich. No runs, no hits, no errors. Only two baserunners. Ten strikeouts for Zimmermann. All of Nationals Park on its feet, the loudest I've ever heard it.
Ball. Outside.
The next few minutes felt like an eternity. Zimmermann got the sign. Into the set. The two-one.
It looked good, and Yelich swung. Fly ball.
"OH NO". I thought. It wasn't enough for a home run but it was heading towards the gap in left-center. Steven Souza was running...running...he was close...
"Could he-"
Souza lunged.
The ball found his glove. Souza flopped to the ground, and tumbled over. But the ball stayed put. It was over.
Thirty-five thousand exhilarated fans shot their arms into the sky in victory. I promptly high-fived and hugged everyone I could reach.  I just witnessed a feat that has happened less than 300 times in Major League Baseball since the 19th Century. Live. An enormous toothy smile had formed across my face, where it stayed for the next half-hour at least.  I felt like I was in love. And with baseball, let's face it, I am definitely in love.

As far as sports go, baseball was my first love. Growing up in the Boston area probably had a lot to do with that. Over the years I did find other, hockey, soccer, even college basketball. The Olympic Games.
But through it all, baseball has been a constant. I always try to catch the playoffs, regardless if one of my teams made it. There's nothing more perfect than a hot summer day at the ballpark with a hot dog and a beer. I'll remember this game for the rest of my life, and it will become a story I'll tell and re-tell for years to come. Thanks, Nats.

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