“As you get older, you realize what the word ‘teammate’ is. When I walk away from this game, that’s what I want to be said about me. . . this guy came in prepared, he got his work done, and he was one of the best teammates I’ve ever had.” – Jake Peavy
I went to Girl Scout camps back in the days when ‘camp’ meant you were sleeping out under the stars, getting dirty and smokey-smelling while sitting around the fire telling scary stories. Nowadays, ‘camp’ can mean that you’re gone for a few hours to learn about basketball or how to be a fairy princess or a magician.
Whatever meaning the word holds for you, ‘camp’ is a time to forge deep, intense friendships while you’re communing with nature or learning how to make your brother disappear. My mother usually cried when I left to get on the bus, and I usually cried when I got off and had to leave the new best friends I’d made over the week away, other kids who had shared multiple moments in a fun, intense, and sometimes challenging environment.
So I can’t imagine what it’s like to be a baseball player on a great team full of low-ego guys, after an amazingly successful year, and to leave all that behind and to go live with another group of guys in another city. There’s supposed to be no crying in baseball, but is there crying when a player has to move on?
Pretty soon, pitchers and catchers will report for Spring Training, joining up with old familiar faces, new faces, and the ghosts of missing faces. I can’t imagine how it feels to have an empty space that a player like Michael Morse filled. I experienced it to a very tiny degree when I left camp every year, but those other girls and I hadn’t spent 9 months together, aiming for and reaching an incredible prize while spending intense hours and days to achieve it.
Duane Kuiper summed this up after the 2012 season. “After the parade is over, these guys will have their last picture together on the field, will gather up their stuff, and then *poof* — that’s it.” The team would never be together again, although the experiences and feelings for each other will no doubt last their entire lives.
Many of the ‘new’ Giants of 2014 expressed how much they wanted to be here at the start of the season. Michael Morse had a classic interview with MLB.com in February. He was excited to be called a Giant, and to be among the other low-ego players. I heard him described as another Hunter Pence, but crazier. I wasn’t sure that was possible at the start of the season, but the bro-mance that developed between the 2 of them seemed to play out that way. Now that he’s gone, I hope Hunter will be able to find another BFF with as much spark and energy.
Veterans Jake Peavy and Tim Hudson were happy to be a part of such an amazing group, and they came through for the team as the Giants headed to the big prize. Everything worked because, as Bruce Bochy described the team, they were 25 unselfish guys. “It’s amazing what that can do.”
Now we’re on the verge of a new season, with a few new guys and the ghosts of familiar faces who are missing. I know as a fan, the one I’ll miss the most is Michael Morse and his enthusiasm while rounding the bases. One of my favorite moments in 2014 was his double-double game. As he reached second base for the second time, the crowd erupted with a huge cheer. When the scoreboard showed him smiling and looking around at the fans, it brought everyone to their their feet, cheering even louder. The smile on Mike’s face grew and at that point, I think he realized how much he meant to the 43,000 people who fill the seats and the thousands more who watch and listen from home. As Duane Kuiper said, ‘He was a good Giant.’ And he’ll be missed.
But it’s time to move on. I have my tickets for the Miami series so I can cheer for Mike one more time. If we played Boston this year in inter league play, I’d wear my Panda hat. Instead, I’ll look for a nice Panik shirt and will cheer on Huddy for possibly his last season in baseball.
They’re all good teammates. Both Hunter and Buster have said they play for each other and not themselves. Bochy is a great leader to bring them together. And we fans, a huge part of the success, are thrilled to be part of the team.