My grandfather had been dead for little over two weeks when I went to Comerica Park with a couple friends to take in a Tigers/Cubs interleague matchup.
It had been a very difficult summer to that point. Family member after family member, it seemed, was taking ill or even dying. My parents were struggling financially. My brother was out in California. I had my own problems, as well.
And then my grandfather, the rock of our family, died.
It might have seemed weird to go to a ballgame in the midst of all this. They’re supposed to be enjoyable experiences, after all. I’d had enough of feeling miserable, though, and decided to pause real life long enough to go with my friends to the ballpark.
In the seventh inning, Brandon Inge gave the Tigers the lead on a two-run homer. The very next half-inning, Joel Zumaya returned the favor and blew the save on a two-run homer to the Cubs. Everything I’d been feeling since June 11th seemed to be bottled up in that homerun off Zumaya. I felt like God had taken me and squished me like bug between his thumb and forefinger. It’s kind of a melodramatic way of putting it, but that’s how I felt. Served me right for going to a ballgame when my parents and brother were at home, dealing with real life and the loss of my grandfather. Right?
Hm. Not so fast. An inning and a half later, the Tigers had the tying run on base and Ryan Raburn at the plate. Ryan Raburn, utility outfielder/infielder/backup break-glass-in-case-of-emergency catcher. This couldn’t possibly end well
Raburn lifted the second pitch he saw to left-center and right away, we all knew it was gone. The feeling that ran through me when I saw the ball jump off Raburn’s bat wrapped itself around my heart and carried it straight out of the ballpark. I went from the lowest of lows, feeling as down as Zumaya looked in the Tigers’ dugout like I was the one who had just lost the game for my team, to the highest of highs, to Don Kelly pumping his fists as he rounded third for home, to the Tigers pouring out of the dugout and screaming and jumping up and down like children, to Ryan Raburn grabbing onto Jim Leyland after he scored the winning run and giving him a big hug.
The ballpark had always been like a second home to me, but this just sealed it. This was cauterizing the wound. Thirty thousand fans screamed with one voice, and the ballpark felt alive, vibrating with energy. I felt energized along with it. I felt like I could get through the coming days, weeks, even months now as long as I kept this experience tucked away in my memory banks.
I knew I would go back to real life once I got out of my friends’ car, headed up the walkway and stepped into the home I lived in with my parents. For two hours and thirty-four minutes in downtown Detroit, though, life felt pretty all right.