[Twist Note: I moved this to the top of the page, so we can bask in its awesomeness all day long before the game starts tonight. Many thanks to Beastmode and GO BEARS!]
Work and rain be dammed, we showed up to Reckling Park on Monday at 6:00pm knowing full well there would be a rain delay. We didn’t care. When would we get this opportunity again?
I was a bit concerned to see Baylor so loose during the rain delay whereas Cal hung out mostly in the dugout. There would be no jousting, unfortunately.
After an hour and a half rain delay, the grounds crew began removing the tarp and an 8:15 first pitch was announced. At least I didn’t leave work early for nothing.
Once the game began, it didn’t take long for the disillusionment to set in. Baylor jumped out to a 7-1 by the fifth inning. Cal scored a couple runs in the sixth to bring the game to 7-3 Baylor. The crowd, overwhelmingly cheering for Baylor, was on top of Cal all game. The small Cal contingent had spurts of enthusiasm, but had a tough time maintaining momentum. That was, until the bottom of the ninth.
Down four runs, there was a glimmer of hope. And then Baylor started making mistakes, looking nervous. Their fans started getting a little restless and the Cal fans began to get more vocal.
Cal cut the lead to 8-7, but Marcus Semien
grounded out weakly struck out, giving Cal one out to go. Devon Rodriguez stepped up to the plate and was quickly down a ball and two strikes after fouling back a couple pitches. I put my arm around my wife, fully expecting a third out. And, I was OK with it, I really was. For maybe the first time in my life as a Cal fan, I was dealing with an impending loss reasonably.
Then it happened. Rodriguez lined a single between the first and second baseman for Baylor and Pac-10 Player of the Year Tony Renda slid into home, securing what was the most improbable, incredible comeback I’ve ever seen. And, obviously, I don’t mean the run deficit. After the program was almost eliminated three times in the past year, after players transferred as a result, after all seemed lost, this team rose to the occasion like no Cal team in recent memory.
Cal fans walked over to the dugout to applaud the team, to yell and cheer a little longer. The players hugged one another and celebrated in the outfield. It didn’t seem real.
As the jubilation began to wind itself down, the players walked over to the north end of the dugout to greet an older Cal alumnus. Perhaps an older player, but certainly someone who knew the coaches and players. One by one they walked over to shake his hand. After he shook the last player’s hand - Chadd Krist, I think - he told the crowd, "This is the biggest smile I’ve had since Cal won the College World Series." Even as a relatively young Cal fan, I knew exactly how he felt.