I’m sitting on my bed right now. In my hand lies a Giants’ championship ring. Large and lustrous, it’s the type of ring only worn when attending boxing matches. On one side, my name is upon it.
The ring, of course, is not a San Francisco Giants’ World Series ring. I’ve never pitched for the those Giants, and I never will. Instead, the ring is a San Jose Giants ring.
I have two of them actually. Usually they sit on top of a bookcase, a happily married pair that will collect dust and outlive me. They’re the result of winning minor league championships while playing in A-ball. Many current San Francisco Giants’ players have them as well.
My teammates and I celebrated together after those nights. We dog piled after the games. We poured champagne upon one another. We smoked cigars and screamed loudly the entire night. And then we went our separate ways for the off-season.
Actors in a championship play, we mimicked the sports celebrations we grew up watching on TV. We hadn’t “won it all”, but had won something smaller. Our emotions, though genuine, were also somewhat forced.
Now many of my former teammates have “won it all.” Like a kid again, I watched it from my TV.
I’m one of the ones that didn’t make it. For six years I toiled in the minors with many of these guys. They moved on to success; I became mired in mediocrity. I simply wasn’t good enough to play with them on that stage. Now I’ve moved on to other things. They’ve moved on to more rings.
I sat on the couch beside my wife as Wilson threw the last cutter. A swing and a miss ended it. Posey, looking all of 19, removed his mask and ran towards him. Lincecum hurdled the netting in front of the dugout, Bumgarner just behind him.
Emotions built within as the pile of bodies grew larger. Elation. Pride. Extreme joy. A touch of envy. A touch of jealousy. Nostalgia.
With the emotions came memories. Chasing an opossum after a game with Bumgarner (he wanted to catch it and bring it on the bus). Playing cards on long bus trips with Posey. Walking outside a San Bernardino hotel with Schierholtz, and a cop warning us of the area’s dangers. (“I wouldn’t walk around this area unless you wanna get robbed or shot!”) Ishikawa’s twenty-first birthday. Running with Sanchez in the outfield, pushing each other to do one more. Romo talking to me about the joys of the birth of his son. Working out for the first time with Wilson. (Every moment is an event with Wilson.) Playing “College Football” against Cain in my first spring training.
Some people told me recently I contributed to this championship moment simply by playing in the minors with these guys. Perhaps, in some distant, metaphysical way. But I downplay this. Nothing I did ever prepared Posey for catching Lincecum. Nothing I ever did helped Romo throw his signature slider. They learned these things on their own. I taught them nothing.
Yet we were friends, and we trekked a common journey together. Though my journey ended sooner than theirs, I still enjoyed the moments with them.
We seldom talk anymore. Life’s present and future plans all too often stifle old friendships. Memories, however, continue to smolder. It is through these memories that I build my own World Series ring, and I’ll carry this invisible ring with me until the day I die.