05/17/2018 11:02 AM -
Our top 10 moments wrap up, and now we can put 2017 on the shelf in our archives and open up a new book of memories to publish, starting tomorrow.
#1 Last Day Drama - 57 Wins
The final day sums up the 2017 Kansas City T-Bones season in a nutshell. Looking back over the final week, the club and our fandom really believed there was going to be a post season bid for the T-Bones.
With every big win or tough loss, along with the daily results around the division, it seemed like we were ships riding waves on the open seas over the final six weeks of the season. Have you ever seen the show “Deadliest Catch”? It is a reality TV show based on the crab industry off the coast of Alaska. The crab boats are not just little lake yachts; they are 150-foot shipping vessels that get tossed all over the Bering Sea like toys in a bathtub. It is amazing to see the ships bouncing all over the place, up and down, side to side, with waves crashing over the sides and with the force of the water packing a shear ferocity you have to actually see to believe. And yet despite the power of the 30-foot rogue waves, the men on deck still manage to do their job: fish.
The T-Bones baseball players and coaches function much like the fishermen on every episode of "The Deadliest Catch". They somehow have to do their jobs and be successful all while the troubling seas are constantly pounding them at every turn. That final day of the season on Labor Day 2017 was the end of our long journey on the ocean of baseball, but one last memorable rogue wave was heading straight for the T-Bones.
The two questions in play for the 1:05 pm start that day were A) Would it all break right for the post season? and B) With a win would this be the second-best club, record wise, in franchise history? At the start of the final evening, Kansas City sat in a tie with Gary SouthShore and Fargo-Moorhead for the final wild card spot. Lincoln had secured the division two days earlier with a win over Gary, and the best Kansas City could hope for was a tie, not an outright win in the division. But the three-way wild card was in play, and Kansas City held the tie breaker over Fargo--in part owing to a 1-5 start with three of those losses coming from Gary in the first week of the season. To win the wild card spot, the T-Bones had to finish one game ahead of Gary.
If Fargo were to win over Winnipeg, all KC needed was a win. It was win and in against Fargo, but Gary was another issue. With a RailCat win, no matter what the T-Bones did, they would not play post season. That was the backdrop as the deciding games began, each within 30 minutes of the other.
It actually felt like a movie script. Partly because there was a film crew that showed up that day with Bill Murray and his brother Brian Doyle-Murray to shoot their baseball comedy series. On a day that would be perfect for movie credits, it only seemed right to have them join us at the ballpark.
I wrote in the game story:“With a buzz of an appearance by actor Bill Murray, maybe it was fitting that the Kansas City T-Bones took their playoff hopes down to the final out and the final minutes on the final day of the season Monday afternoon. In a script that would make Hollywood proud, the T-Bone would blow a ninth inning save only to come back and walk off winners, 9-8, over the St. Paul Saints.”
I admit I did not check the scoreboard for the first hour and a half. It is rare that we don’t give the league scores every half hour or so, but this day I avoided it early on. I remember my first glance at the board as Gary hosted Lincoln. The teams were scoreless in the fourth, and as I was looking at the screen, Lincoln took a 1-0 lead. I had avoided looking at the scoreboard as Kansas City had their hands full with St. Paul. “The script looked like it was over early as St. Paul built a lead of 5-0 and 6-1 through three and a half innings. Going into the bottom of the fourth Kansas City trailed 6-1…”
But Kansas City would chip away, with a pair of RBI singles in the fourth, cutting the lead to 6-3. An inning later it was Jordan Edgerton who had an RBI double, and the Saints lead was trimmed to 6-4. The game was on! At the same time the results had Fargo down and Gary still trailing. Were the baseball gods on our side? It certainly seemed so. In the sixth, Cedric Hunter--who would go on to be name player of the month for August-- hit a two-run home run off Brandon Peterson to tie the game at six. Kansas City would then grab the lead in the eighth inning with one out on a solo homer by Pennell off Ken Frosch, and with both other scores in the T-Bones favor, the club went into the ninth with the lead. Who writes this stuff?
Enter Cody Winiarski and this thing should be over, right? Well, our post season All-Star gave up a two-out bases loaded single to Mitch Delfino to give St. Paul the lead back at 8-7. Yet, with the air seeping out of the building and tensions rising, there was still a chance. Fargo had lost as I saw during the inning break, so now it was up to the T-Bones to come back and Lincoln to hold on. “Kansas City would battle back in the home half of the ninth against Vinny Nittoli. Kevin Keyes, who was named the team's Player of the Year before the game, got a leadoff walk. Jordan Edgerton moved him to second on a sacrifice bunt. With one out, Niko Vasquez would double Keyes home to tie it--just as Gary’s win over Lincoln went final.
Talk about a wave of emotion! The winning run was on and it was all breaking our way. As Chantz Mack stepped in, the news was confirmed that Gary had indeed won. I saw the score but wanted to make sure I saw it right on the screen. Yes, it was final, 2-1 Gary. I can still see the play in my head as Mack hit a single to right to notch win #57. I can still picture Vasquez rounding third and the ball sinking in right field as the fans and team celebrated the walk off.
It had been only a matter of maybe two minutes since the Gary game had gone final, and there were only a few fans that would have known that the T-Bones, despite the win, would not play post-season baseball. There were fans upstairs on their devices that had heard my call. Walk offs are great, but this one was different. It was like calling it on the bow of one of those “Deadliest Catch” ships. We were excited, but we were also trying to catch our breath and check our emotions after another wave of emotion had pounded us. We won, but we sort of did not. We were happy, yet very upset at the same time.
“The T-Bones needed three things to happen Monday, and they got two of them, which, in the end, meant the club came up one game short on making their first playoff appearance since 2010 and their first as members of the American Association. In a valiant run, reaching the second most wins in franchise history, 57, and overcoming the loss of three front line players to affiliated ball and three other starters to late season injuries, the team was left with the bittersweet feeling that comes with the final game of the season.”
I can't think of many times in my career in the booth where a club that did not win it all or make the post season had achieved so much. The final run to the finish line might have been crazy, but it was a fun one. I am not sure it was appreciated until everyone had a chance to look back and reflect on the season's successes. Looking back after a few months, it started to come into perspective. The season was a success in it’s own way, and despite the undulating waves of emotion, the lasting memories of it were ones of pure joy. It happens that way every year. To quote from the band the Eurythmics, “Here comes the wave again…” welcome to what will certainly be the unpredictable seas of 2018.
The Top 10 List
#3 K Record
#4 Carroll Sold to the Cubs
#5 Sergey, the lefty
#6 Longest Game in AA history
#7: August 12
#8: St. Paul – Full throttle
#9: One crazy night on the lake!
#10: Opening Night: “How did we get that in?”