by Dave Calvin
A story of a professional baseball player and his experience of his last game.
I went to the ballpark earlier than usual that day. It was a day I knew I would come to eventually. Some guys look forward to their final game, others dread it. I wasn't sure how I felt when I got there. I was happy we were playing at home and that my family was there to share it with me. I've spent my entire nineteen year career playing for Denver. In the age of free agency and frequent trades, I'm proud of the fact that I never left this team. My life is here in Denver. It's where I met my beautiful wife, Jessica.
The clubhouse was empty when I walked in, so I turned on some music and sat in front of my locker to relax. I noticed a small box on the top shelf. It was a box of Geritol. Then I heard a guy laughing behind me. It was Dave, our clubhouse manager. "The jokes have already started," I said laughing. It was hilarious and definitely what I needed to ease my nerves.
"I only have one day left. I have to take advantage of every minute of it," said Dave. Then he shook my hand. "It's been a pleasure. We're going to miss you around here. I'll let you have some time to yourself. If you need anything, I'll be in catering."
I sat alone for about a half hour listening to music and reflecting on the past nineteen years. I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was our manager, Joe Hardy. He has been with the club for ten years. "Hey, Jake, how you feelin'?"
"I'm doing all right, Skip. Been here for a little while, kicking back and taking things in."
"Sports Network is here. They asked me if you would be available for an interview before the game. You up for it?"
"Not before the game. Tell them I'll give them as much time as they want after the game. They've been great to us. They'll understand."
A few hours later, it was finally game time. The ballpark was packed, and the crowd was electric. When we took the field they were loud, I mean really loud. It was pretty awesome. That's one of the things I knew I would miss most.
My first at-bat came in the second inning. I was a little nervous, but not too much. The public address announcer called my name. "Now batting, second baseman, number fourteen Jake Sexton!"
The crowd got on their feet, and then the emotion hit me for a second. I heard 46,000 people in unison saying "Thank you, Jake. Thank you, Jake."
Before I got into the box, I heard someone calling me back. It was our shortstop, Trevor Jacobs, who has been my double play partner for the last five years. Since he joined the club, he and I have been on the same page. We played with the same style. I expected him to tell me something he saw with the defensive positioning. "You know why they're chanting 'Thank you, Jake?' They're really just glad you're getting your old ass out of here so we can win a few ball games." I laughed pretty hard.
I went back to the plate, and took a look at the pitcher. It was right hander, Seth Baker. Seth is a big kid at 6'5 and around 215 pounds. He throws a hard fastball and a slider that could cut glass. He came up to the bigs with us. Last year, he signed with the San Francisco club. They are a bigger market club, and he wanted more money than Denver could afford.
The first pitch was a hard fastball that damn near unbuttoned my jersey. I jumped out of the way and looked up at Seth. I could see he was trying not to show how much he thought that was funny. Then I looked toward the San Francisco dugout. Their manager is Tom Fuller. He is a former pitcher that knocked me down the first time I faced him in my rookie year. He didn't hide it. He was laughing. I had only one thought after that, "Drive it right back at that son of a bitch."
The second pitch was another fastball, this time for a strike on the lower part of the strike zone. The third pitch was a change-up away for a ball. Pitch number four was that hard slider that fell out of the zone. I swung at it so hard that I nearly fell over. Man, that pitch is tough. I knew what was coming next. Big guys, who throw that hard, tend to be obsessed with strike outs. A fastball was coming. I was right. He fired it in, and I squared it up and hit it right back at him. That bastard caught the line drive though. I think I hit it more into his glove and he did maneuver to catch it.
My second at-bat was very quick being only one pitch. I expected Baker to come in with another hard fastball. I was wrong. He threw a change-up, and I swung way too early. I popped it up behind the plate which the catcher got under and caught.
Seth was still on the mound for my third at-bat in the sixth inning. It was a long at-bat lasting eight pitches. I fouled off a couple, but it ended in a strike out. Damn that slider.
My last time at the plate came in the eighth inning with two outs and a runner on third. The pitcher this time was right handed reliever, Jordan Dillon. He's another hard thrower with a curveball to match. I have to give the crowd a lot of credit. They were on their feet every time I came to the plate. It was heartwarming. I looked up toward where I knew my family was sitting. Immediately, I found Jessica. That was a calming feeling when I saw her.
I stepped in the box for my final at-bat in the big leagues. The first pitch was a curveball low and away for ball one. That's a pretty ballsy pitch with a runner on third. If it gets by the catcher, the runner scores. The second pitch was a fastball high in the strike zone. I missed it. I stepped out of the box for a second to collect myself. The third pitch was another fastball, this time a little lower than the last, and I cranked it. I squared it up nicely, and the ball flew over the shortstop's head for a double into the outfield gap driving in the run.
The crowd went nuts. Trevor, as a sign of respect, took a little extra time to walk to the plate. The real reason is to give me time to take in the moment, but I'm sure he would say it was so I could catch my breath and readjust my hip.
After the game was over, I was greeted in the dugout with high fives, handshakes, and hugs from everyone. Then they pushed me back out onto the field. The fans were still there. Everyone was still there. I tipped my cap and they responded with cheers. The field reporter for Sports Network came to me for a quick interview. "Jake, I think I can speak for everyone in the building when I say it has been a lot of fun watching you play here in Denver for the last nineteen years. So, what's next?"
"I think tomorrow I'm going to take a nap."