What Fun (Fantasy League #2)

Game: #1 (March 30, @ Reds, W 5-4)

What happened: Mitch Keller had a good day, as one would hope for the Opening Day starter, and the player The Athletic and others had listed as the likely team MVP. The moment that stays with me is when he gets knocked out by an RBI triple on literally pitch 100

Watching these games in their entirety is going to be challenge, so though I did see the Jason Vosler triple as it happened, I can’t say the same about the offensive output of Oneil Cruz. I don’t think I’ll have to wait long to see the next laser show from this guy, though. He’s a young star on whom the broadcasters were very bullish, maybe opt-too-much-istically mentioning Cruz’s stated goal to be “a 30-30 guy,” and imagining a Hall of Fame career that’s barely begun. But nobody can deny he had a good day, the forementioned home run and some hit-and-run small ball with Ji Hwan Bae. 

The coverage was very warm and almost sentimental, the manager’s pull quote about “team stuff” pulling them through aligning with a feel-good piece about the 31-year-old journeyman reliever, Rob Zastryzny, who ended up with the win. The last two quotes in Justice delos Santos’ beat piece are from the pitcher and his manager. “The off-day is going to be nice tomorrow, so I can let it all soak in and take my wife to a nice dinner because she’s been traveling all across the world,” Zastryzny said, in delos Santos’ piece. “It will be nice to have her relax a little bit.” This quote and manager Derek Shelton’s pull on the possibility of any one being able to earn a chance and do good work—the mythology of spring, really, and the place where higher ed and baseball overlap: “It makes you smile when a guy is 31 years old, it’s his first [time playing on] Opening Day, and he goes out and performs like that.” All he needed was the chance.

Looking ahead to the next game, later today, we’ll get another old man on the mound, familiar face Rich Hill. Among the subplots in this exercise is the presence of Ben Cherington, a longtime executive and short-term GM of the Boston Red Sox. (Was he the guy who brought Bobby Valentine to town? Maybe.)


And of course, all this is still happening in New York. So it’s worth recording that in the same day, I rode the subway with a bunch of Yankees fans. The Yankees, as my officemate put it, “are a brand not a team.” And all this is happening against the backdrop of my working in this business of academia. To wit, I swung by the office to talk to the chair about what he wants to do with me next year—I assume hire me as an adjunct. His door was closed, both before and after I shot the breeze with my officemate. But in my first pass through, the department coordinator was talking with a full-time faculty member. They were poring over a puzzle that intricately presented the plot of the novel Frankenstein. Nerding out is a mild way to describe their conversation. I’ll never be that enthusiastic about anything again, I think, and maybe that’s why I won’t get a job, I don’t seduce people in that way. And while that’s not about baseball, per se, it is about age and the journey of a journeyman, the day-to-day of a veteran. It’s what makes me identify with Rich Hill not Mitch Keller–my own reflection mirrored back in those grizzled, sore-jointed, junkballin’, one-time throwers who have now matured enough to be a pitcher.


The other note from Day 1 is about technology and, obliquely, expectations. I’d planned to use MLB.TV to screen these games on the projector for at least a little bit, to make this all a family exercise. But all of our devices are, somehow, too old to be compatible: the 2017 Macbook, sure, but also Seema’s 2019 Dell. We have a small army of newish Chromebooks, but none of them have video inputs. And so, it turns out, after a good hour of troubleshooting, the solution is a lighting-to-VGA adapter, which we’ll probably truly get set up when we come back from Texas, and my phone.

The expectation I struggle against was that this could be fun and easy, and in fact it was neither. The fun, easy, inexpensive, smooth activity — it’s a lot of work. It’s a lot of work to make something fun for all of us, and against that backdrop, I am so glad that we will be doing the next year and the next few after that on familiar turf. If the looming years–fast-coming puberty for the kids, navigating work stuff for S and I–are a daunting opponent, at the very least, we could do ourselves the favor of playing it on our home turf.

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