So I’m back home, slumped on my couch, still smiling from last night. I’m also feeling completely beat up, like I’ve been in a 15-round fight. First of all, I hardly ever drink. I’ll have a drink maybe three times in a year. But last night in the clubhouse celebration, I found myself drinking champagne out of the bottle, then having a little bit of beer and then Vladdy handed me a shot of great rum that he had. I was thinking, “Oh my God, where am I?”
We left the park around 1 a.m. and got on the plane home. Some of the guys just passed out, but I was still too excited to sleep. I watched CSI and Without a Trace on my iPad, thinking about what an amazing game we had just played, how happy I was for everyone on the plane, how happy I was for the fans, wondering if any of them would be there to greet us at the airport. When we landed and got off the plane, there must have been about a thousand fans waiting. It was so amazing. They were cheering and holding signs.
I wish everyone could experience what all of us players and coaches felt at that moment. You never forget as a ballplayer that you’re playing for more than the other guys wearing the same uniform. You’re playing for an entire community, for all the people who buy tickets to cheer us on and wear T-Shirts with our names on the back, and send all their good thoughts and prayers our way. We don’t always get a chance to feel that connection as directly as we wish we could. So to see those fans up close, right when we landed back home, almost moved me to tears. And it was 4 in the morning! Wow. I can’t thank all of them enough for putting the perfect cap on a perfect day.
I know a lot of people might think the highlight of the game for me was my stolen base, which I will get to in a minute. But the story for me was Cliff Lee. He was amazing – again. He had total command – mixing speeds, making his locations, keeping the ball off the middle of the plate. It’s such a pleasure as a catcher to work with a pitcher of his caliber. He’s unflappable. He’s fearless. And he’s smart.
What I loved about last night’s game was how smart everybody played. We didn’t wait for Tampa Bay to give the game away. We took it. That was our mentality. Look at our base running. We did all the little things. These are very smart baseball players and coaches. They see everything and take advantage of every opening.
Which brings me to my unlikely steal.
I was on first base with Elvis up at bat. First base coach Gary Pettis saw that every time Elvis swung and fouled off, no one covered second. When the count when to 3-2, Pettis mouthed to me, “Go!”
” ‘Go’ or ‘No’?” I mouthed back.
When the ball left the pitcher’s hand, I went. After the first couple of steps, I saw Elvis swing and miss. I was thinking, “Oh my goodness, I’m toast.” But there was no one covering the bag. So the catcher didn’t even make a throw.
I looked into the dugout, and everyone was giving me the antlers. It was unbelievable. But that’s what kind of a season this team has had.
I’ve been in the league a long time, so I know how special it is to get this far into the post-season. So I’m trying to soak everything in. I’m thinking about so many things, but one thing I’m not thinking about is pressure. All we can do is work as hard as we can, and the result will be what it will be. That’s why I’m so calm. I believe in this team, and I believe in God. What is supposed to happen will happen.
We have today off and will practice tomorrow. Then we open with the Yankees Friday night. Every major league player in October has a body covered with bruises and muscles that are strained and tired. But once the game starts, adrenaline kicks in and you don’t feel anything. You become a warrior out there, with nothing on your mind but winning.
Vladdy just stopped by – he lives three hours away. He’s having a bunch of players over to his house for dinner tonight. I’d like to go, but right now I don’t know. I think my body needs to rest. But if I do join them at Vladdy’s house, one thing I know for sure – no rum.
See you at the yard on Friday. Thanks for your amazing support of the team. You don’t know how much it means to all us.