Nearly a year ago today, the greatest team in baseball __[yes, I’m biased and prone to sweeping statements]__ made the playoffs but failed to advance to the big game. October 8, 2004: two games down, the Angels in Boston struggling to stay in the division series, facing the surging Red Sox, a formidable foe, aggressive, crafty and determined to leave a mark.
I sit in a hospital waiting room. Jordan has been in surgery for four hours. A family of five dines on McDonald’s to my right. The scent of chicken mcnuggets unsettles my already sour stomach. Every five minutes, I get up to spy the surgical monitor at the nurses station. Jordan’s name is highlighted in a solid green box, indicating that she’s still in the OR.
On the television in the waiting room, the playoff game ensues. It’s the bottom of the tenth. Vladimir Guerrero tied the game in the seventh with a crushing grand slam. Now, the Sox have a runner on base and David Ortiz up to bat. Angels closer Francisco Rodgriguez did his best, but manager Mike Scioscia makes a bold move and brings in veteran starter Jarrod Washburn, who is coincidentally my favorite Angel pitcher. His job: shut down the Sox rally. He throws only one pitch – one hanging curve – and Papi knocks it out of the park for a walk-off home run that sends the Sox to the ALCS and eventually a World Series triumph. I am crushed.
A few minutes later, the green box changes to an orange box. Jordan is no longer in the OR. The neurosurgeon greets us in the lobby. The surgergy went well. But the diagnosis would change our lives. For the first time, we hear the words “tumor” and “cancer”. Jeanette and I stand in the lobby dumbfounded. My parents look on, struggling for words of comfort. The journey gained full speed.
It’s now October 2005. The Angels are back in the playoffs. Our family cheers as the team bests the Yankees. Then we cheer as the Halos win the first game against the White Sox. There is a familiar feeling about. It’s the start of autumn. The air is crisp and post-season baseball and college football govern the television schedule.
Jordan battles on. Her counts are stable. She bounces back after each dose of chemo. The girl is a gamer. Still, I am quelled by a superstitious nature. I take nothing for granted. The Angels still have difficult games to play, and Jordan has 13 months of chemo to endure. Two Angels starting pitchers are injured, while Jordan is losing her hair and and tires easily. Still, I hope. I root for the underdog and place my faith in the players with character.
Jordan cozied up beside me in the eigth inning tonight. Scott Shields threw a wicked off-speed pitch that struck out the White Sox’s Scott Podsednik. I shout out loud. Jordan asks me why I’m so happy. I tell her it’s because it was a beautiful pitch and the Angels are winning. She grasps me round the waist and intones “Go, Angels!” Tomorrow, Jarrod Washburn will face off against White Sox ace, Mark Buehrle. I’ll be saying a prayer for Washburn. I met him once. He was a midwesterner through and through – confident, unassuming, quiet. He’s a guy you want to win. When he throws the first pitch tomorrow night, I’ll not be thinking of that hanging curve that ended the dream in 2004. I’ll be thinking about a champion. And I’ll be “hanging” with a girl who knows how to stay in the game. Deja vu.