End of a season … start of what’s next

It was a beautiful afternoon for a baseball game — sunny, bright and pleasantly warm — but I decided to switch from the T-shirt and shorts I had been wearing all day to a long-sleeve shirt and jeans.

After all, the midafternoon start would mean a finish early in the evening, so I figured it would cool off once the sun started to go down.

As it turned out, between sitting in shadows and a slight, but steady breeze, I was happy about the decision starting in roughly the second inning.

It was one of those “We ought to do that sometime” kind of things … my brother and I talking, probably on his birthday, about going to a game at the new ballpark in Worcester, a half-hour or so from where I live.

But that was as far as it got. Tickets were tough to come by, anyway — the one time Suzi and I did get tickets, they played through rain two days after we went to a soccer game in a monsoon, so that didn’t appeal to us — and the idea just kind of fell to the side.

However, I figured a couple weeks ago that I’d at least take a look at the schedule since the season would be ending soon, and I managed to find two tickets to the final home game, so once he responded to a text saying he was a go for the date, I bought them.

He arrived from New York early afternoon, and although it took longer than anticipated to get there because of traffic, being in an unfamiliar place and my lack of navigational skills, we were in our seats just in time for the first pitch.

The ballpark’s really nice. We’ve been able to see it in the distance from the highway — its lights poking above the buildings around it — so it was nice to actually be there.

“Hey, that’s Mike Ford.”

He’s kind of hard to miss — he’s listed as 6 feet tall and 225 pounds, but both of those numbers might be slightly kind — but we recognized Rochester’s first baseman from his days with the Yankees.

He bounced back and forth between the big club and their minor-league team in Scranton (or, last year, the pandemic-created alternate training site), swinging for the moon and only occasionally hitting it.

Although when he did, it was kind of epic.

Problem was that he didn’t hit much of anything else, and so the Yankees let him go. Last I had heard, he was with Tampa, but they cut him loose from their farm team in Durham and he latched on with the Washington organization, playing out the end of the season in Rochester.

If everything had gone according to plan, Jarren Duran might have been on ESPN when we got home and put on the Yankees-Red Sox game.

He’s one of the top prospects for the Red Sox, and made it to the big club earlier this season, but didn’t hit very well, came down with COVID and got sent to Worcester on a rehab assignment.

Which is why instead of being on my TV, he led off the bottom of the first for Worcester maybe 100 feet from where we were sitting. He definitely looked healthy when he homered down the right-field line.

Time for food.

I wanted pizza, but the woman at the counter told me very nicely that they were out of pizza and were only serving drinks.

Hey, it’s the end of the season for them, too.

That left either the chicken stand or the burger place, and both lines looked long enough that it would have been a waste of time going from one to the other to see which would be faster, so I waited to order my chicken tenders and French fries.

I missed about an inning of action, during which Rochester scored the two runs that ultimately won the game.

There was also weird cheering that, from what I could see where I was standing, didn’t seem to have much to do with the game. I thought fans might have been doing the wave, but after I got back to my seat, my brother said it was a reaction to a player trying and initially failing to toss foul balls over the net to fans.

They also ran the kiss cam between innings while I was in line.

“This kiss has to last us all offseason,” said the public-address announcer.

Rochester is at home for the last week of the season, while Worcester is in Allentown, Pennsylvania, home of the Lehigh Valley IronPigs.

Once the last game ends, the players will scatter to whatever their futures will hold.

It’s possible Duran will end up back in Boston, as he’s eligible for the playoffs should the Red Sox make it.

But even if his season is done after Sunday, he can definitely look forward to a chance at cracking the Red Sox regular lineup next year.

It’s also not out of the question that Triston Casas — in Worcester on a late-season callup after we saw him play for Portland against New Hampshire a few weeks ago — makes his way to Boston sometime next year.

As for what Ford does after the season ends, who knows? Maybe he gets a major-league shot with somebody. Maybe he’ll wind up with a minor-league deal and an invitation to spring training.

Maybe he’ll wind up in Japan or Korea, if that’s the best deal for a guy who will be 30 next July and hasn’t “made it” yet.

But even for those of us whose lives don’t run according to a baseball schedule, this time of year is also one of change.

The long-sleeve shirt and jeans were an acknowledgment that fall is here, and there’s this weird thing lately where when I go to grab a pair of shorts from my dresser, as often as not I’ve been opening the drawer above with my hooded sweatshirts, which I haven’t needed in months.

It’s almost like the universe is trying to tell me something.

We’re also rolling up to the next stretch of events — Halloween, Thanksgiving Christmas, New Year’s — that hopefully can be closer to normal this year thanks to vaccinations.

And then there’s winter … always winter. What will it bring? Will it be snow-filled and frigid, or will we get a light one this year?

Whatever the future brings, as fans walked out of Polar Park, the PA announcer shared one hoped for certainty.

Worcester’s next home game is April 12, 2022.


7 thoughts on “End of a season … start of what’s next

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