Only one game was played in the first day of the postseason in 2011, thanks to a rain-out in New York. And, in spite of a great performance by rookie pitcher Matt Moore of Tampa Bay, and some unexpected power from Rays catcher Kelly Shoppach, the most memorable portions of the opening game of the ALDS came from the fans.
First, before the game even started, Cooper Stone walked out onto the field to throw out the ceremonial first pitch. A 6-year-old boy doesn’t usually receive such an honor, especially in the postseason. But, this certainly isn’t a typical little boy. It was nearly impossible to miss the story of Cooper, and his father, Shannon, in July. Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton tossed a ball up into the stands for Shannon to catch, when Shannon lost his balance, and fell to his death.
The fans rose to their feet as little Cooper walked out to the mound. Dry eyes? Nowhere to be seen. An emotional moment, and a brief reminder that there is more to life than baseball.
Now, in a much less emotional, but more entertaining moment, in the top of the third inning, Kelly Shoppach hits a shot to center field. I’m watching the game, but for some reason my eye is caught by a Rangers fan who jumps the barrier into the grass that makes up the batter’s eye behind the center field wall. And, I laugh as I see him get under, and field the home run ball like a pro.
But, what made me laugh even harder – no sooner had he caught the ball, than he hurled it right back into the field. Almost like he was tossing it in to the cut-off man!
The fans made this game especially enjoyable – I hope that trend continues throughout the playoffs.