... or, Grief After Losing My Baseball Boyfriend
If you spend any time at all watching, listening to, reading about, writing about, or talking about baseball, it's because you love the game. Otherwise you wouldn't bother investing your time and efforts. And, if you love the game, there's something associated with it that on some unknown level makes you love it more each time you experience it.
Some fans enjoy looking up and figuring out stats and comparing players and situations and such. Some fans enjoy well-executed aspects of the play itself -- a nice curveball or slick double-play. Some fans love a winning team.
I love all those things too. However, as is true with many fans, my imagination has truly been captured by a few individual players -- most significantly by Michael Cuddyer.
I tend to really like most of the players on the Twins, but every once in a while a player is just a bit more likable than the rest. And I usually don't know exactly why that is.
I first noticed my fascination with Cuddy in 2002 when he was in that up and down between the majors and AAA stage. I could never explain it, but I always just rooted for him and I was always a sad when he got sent back down.
Of course, as the years went on, I liked him more and more. I grew to appreciate his poise, personality, and play -- especially that cannon of a right arm. Oh, and the dimples were pretty easy to like too. I always enjoyed reading stories about his magic tricks, how he volunteered his time and efforts to the community, and how during the last few spring trainings he bought the whole team t-shirts with inspirational sayings. His clubhouse leadership may not have helped the team in 2011, but at least he tried.
I especially loved how he treated fans at events such as Unplugged and TwinsFest. He was a prince to my mom and me for a photo opportunity.
In addition to being a good person, he is also a good baseball player and a fun one to watch. And the game could certainly use more players who share his team-first attitude and his willingness to play wherever needed.
These sorts of "intangibles" (as the media like to say) may or may not help a team win, but they do a lot toward enriching the fan experience. In fact, I'd argue that that kind of goodwill is a necessary component to retaining a fan base. People like to genuinely like the players they're rooting for, and they have every right to feel a bit punched in the gut when their favorite guys move on.
Logically, I understand that his leaving may be best for the Twins, considering the amount of money he's receiving from the Rockies and the draft picks the Twins will get in return. And I'm glad the Twins already procured his replacement in Josh Willingham, who, by all accounts, is Cuddyer's statistical equal (well, except for his arm). I will definitely give Willingham every chance to win me over, but he'll never be Michael Cuddyer.
None of this is to say that I'm angry that Cuddy left. I'm not. He's more than earned the right to make the decisions regarding his career. I truly wish him the best in Colorado, and I'll always root for him.
Being a fan of Michael Cuddyer made me love baseball more than I already would have, and I'm really going to miss that.