“It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.” — John Wooden
Last night, Stephen Strasburg stood tall on the mound at Nationals Park, striking out 14 batters and walking none in his Major League debut. Fans in our nation’s capital had waited a calendar year for that start. It marked a night of renewed optimism for a city that hasn’t had a whole lot of luck in baseball. Stephen Strasburg pitching meant something and it will continue to mean something every fifth day from now until August.
When the pitching phenomenon started at Coca-Cola Field last week, the hype surrounding the Strasburg Show turned an average, midweek day game into a can’t-miss event. My uncle joked that 14,000 people at the ballpark at 1 p.m. on a Thursday was a testament to how bad the local economy is.
A large number of people I know were going to be there. They wouldn’t miss it. Fifteen, 20, 30 years from now they can look back and tell everyone, “I paid $9 to see Stephen Strasburg pitch in Buffalo.” I should have been among them. After all, I had driven to Rochester to see his start get rained out only a few weeks before.
So where was I on the afternoon of June 3, 2010?
My alibi is pretty weak. I was slouched behind a desk in a half-cubicle at a dead-end temp job answering phones and helping customers that, especially during that shift, I really couldn’t care less about. I should have called in and endured whatever reprimanding I would have received on Friday — the worst-case scenario is that they would have fired me. I don’t get paid for any hours I don’t work, so what else could they really do?
But I played the Responsible Card, punched in and prepared for the doldrums of a typical workday. I called a friend the day before to apologize because I couldn’t use the ticket he had already purchased for me. I shook my head in defeat as Ryan tried to convince me that I could not miss this game.
And I missed it.
Thursday morning came, Thursday afternoon went and by the time Thursday evening rolled around, Strasburg sat on a bus headed toward the city limits. I returned home from my internship that night and caught the highlights of the game on TV. No question, the 2009 No. 1 overall pick was all he was billed to be.
As much as I hate the soundtrack to “Armageddon,” Steven Tyler had a point. I don’t want to miss moments like that anymore (I know Tyler didn’t write that terrible song, but bear with me). Not attending the Strasburg Game doesn’t exactly hit “The Town is Back That Way” on the Missed Opportunity Scale, but it’s pretty close.
Watching Strasburg work his 99 mile-an-hour magic last night against the Pirates only solidified that. I had missed something special and already, less than a week later, I had regrets. I know we live in a world where it’s simply not possible to do everything we want and tough decisions have to be made. Maybe I did make the proper, “grown up” decision by not blowing off work to go to a ballgame.
I’m not ready to live that stuffy, adult life. And I’ve come to realize that a monotonous routine will never fit me well. Eating lunch every day at 12:30 p.m. for exactly 30 minutes every Monday through Friday has no appeal to me. I need some mysticism and allure to my work.
I need to feel accomplished in some way, even if it’s just going downtown to say I witnessed possibly the next great pitcher of our generation throw 89 balls and strikes. I need some excitement and joy in what I do, even if it’s writing 900 words about a game I didn’t attend.
It was a Kima Greggs Moment for me. For those that don’t get the reference, Greggs was a detective on the greatest TV drama of all time, “The Wire.”
Without giving too much away if you haven’t seen the series, between the first and second seasons, she takes herself off the street so that she can sit behind a desk and literally push paper. It’s a much safer job and at the end of every shift she knows she’s going to come home in one piece.
However, she soon realizes that she’s not a “house cat” who enjoys being cooped up in an office all day. Not in the least bit. She needs to be in the field. She needs to be in the thick of things. She needs to breathe.
Collecting hard evidence, gathering information from her CIs, doing real poh-leece work — that’s where she’s happiest. That’s where she feels like her work means something — if only to her. We know how small her role is in the grand scheme of things, but those minute details matter. And to her, those little moments are everything.
The 9-5 work week isn’t my cup of tea and it may very well never be. Thankfully the job I have now is not my career and I’m going to have to eventually find something else that will not only pay better, but will keep me happy, motivated and fulfilled. So I did something about it.
No, I didn’t quit, but I hope to have a few other things lined up that should help my situation. And, hopefully, you’ll see more writing from me in the Roost as well. I have Stephen Strasburg to thank for making me finally realize that writing and trying to be creative are what really keep me going.
This is will sound odd from a Buffalo-bred cynic, but I’m going to stay optimistic that that big opportunity will come around soon enough. I just want to be there when it does.