Monday, May 31, 2010

Mr. Perfect

I've been a rabid baseball fan since the age of 12. That's 17 years and counting, if you're keeping track at home. My love for the Philadelphia Phillies, in particular, has continued to grow with each passing year. I've watched thousands of games and probably been to over a hundred games live. I've seen just about all there is to see in this game -- but one thing has always eluded me; one thing that I had pretty much lost any real hope of witnessing in my lifetime due to its unbelievably extreme rarity. I am talking, of course, about the illustrious Perfect Game.

On Saturday, May 29th, I arrived home at a little after 8pm. All day long, wherever I went, the talk had been about that night's game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals, featuring our hometown Flyers. And rightfully so of course. I really had no intention of actually watching the Phillies game that night, other than perhaps checking the score once or twice. I'm not a hockey fan, but as a Philadelphian, I was really more interested in the outcome of the Flyers game than in what I figured was a rather routine, unimportant May baseball game.

My initial intention was to just have the TV tuned into the Stanley Cup game so that I could just keep track of the game while I took care of some other things at home. At one point, I flipped to the Phillies game for what I thought would only be a moment. I was quite surprised to see that the game had only been going on for a little over an hour and was already in the 6th inning. But the score was only 1-0 in the Phillies' favor and our new ace Roy Halladay was on the mound, so it wasn't a total shock. As I watched Halladay retire a Florida Marlins batter, I was confused when I heard broadcasters Tom McCarthy and Chris Wheeler make a huge deal about Halladay throwing a breaking pitch on a 3 ball, 2 strike count. I thought to myself, "Yeah, so?" The next Marlins batter came up, who I learned was 0 for 2 on a strike out and a pop up in his previous at bats. Wheeler then said something to the effect of "That's how it's been all night: get up, sit down...get up, sit down." At that point, I knew something was up. I grabbed my wife's laptop and went straight to ESPN.com. There, staring at me, was the headline: "Halladay perfect through six innings."

Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals was officially sent to the back burner and all other tasks to be done at home were put on hold.

I anchored into the couch along with my wife Tara, who surprisingly, was pretty captivated by what was unfolding before us. With each passing inning, I grew more anxious, nauseous, and fidgety. I called a few of my friends in case they were tuned into the Stanley Cup and not aware of what was going on. My buddies scolded me for addressing the Perfect Game by name before it had come to fruition; a silly superstition of which I refuse to adhere. I figure, if history is happening before your eyes, embrace it, enjoy it and talk about it! Oh well...

As Halladay continued to retire Marlin after Marlin, I reminisced on the few no-hitters I've witnessed in the past and how exciting they were to watch live, even if they weren't done by the Phillies. But nothing...and I mean nothing, can compare to the drama, excitement, and unbelievable tension of watching a Perfect Game.

When the bottom of the 9th inning arrived, I could no longer sit on the couch. I jumped up, paced, and crouched down on the floor at rotating intervals. Tara was getting a kick out of it and compared my behavior to how I was acting moments before the Phillies won the 2008 World Series.

First batter, Mike Lamb......a deep fly to center field that Shane Victorino caught at the wall. My dinner almost made a second appearance.

Second batter, (former Phillie) Wes Helms, who has had a knack for beating up his old team over the past few years......called strike 3 at the knees! Possible loss of bladder control.

Third batter, Ronny Paulino.....two strikes...and then...THE pitch...

A ground ball to third base...

Scooped up by Juan Castro...

A spin and throw to first base...

Ball securely in first baseman Ryan Howard's glove....

Out number 3.....and officially, OUT NUMBER 27!!!

PERFECT GAME!!!!!!!!!!

I screamed and fell to my knees with my hands on my face, while Tara yelled "WOW!!!"

The entire team mobbed Roy Halladay, who broke a smile for the first time all night. I couldn't believe what I was watching: just the 20th Perfect Game in the long, glorious history of Major League Baseball!

I never thought I'd see this...ever.

To be able to say I witnessed a Perfect Game is amazing enough. To be able to say I saw a Perfect Game by my team is something I'll never forget.

And to think, this guy almost didn't become a Phillie. What an unbelievable addition to this team of champions!

Roy Halladay: Mr. Perfect