Baseball is a game deeply rooted in human emotions. It can feature the greatest expressions of happiness and victory or the extreme expressions of anger and defeat. There is a deep emotional intimacy with the sport that you see played out on the field game after game. Pitchers will let out a yell after a big strikeout in a critical moment while a batter will express every bit of emotion with a single bat flip following a home run.
However, every once in a while, the emotions and moments we witness on the field go beyond the spur of the moment. There are things that happen in baseball that are bigger and deeper than the game itself and shine a light on the lives of the players. It is in these moments that we are reminded that there are things bigger than baseball, especially when it deals with the relationship between a player and someone special in their lives.
This one’s for Jim
During Friday’s game against the Washington Nationals, emotions ran high in the sixth inning when Sam Hilliard blasted a 2-2 pitch to right field to give the Rockies the lead at the time. As he crossed home plate he pointed to the sky and disappeared into the tunnel in the dugout for a brief moment. When he retook the field in the bottom of the inning, the emotion of the moment bubbled to the surface for Hilliard as tears welled in his eyes.
His home run came several days after his father passed away following his valiant battle with ALS. Following the home run, his family sent out the tweet below of something his father would have sent said as a result of Hilliard’s success. Regardless of whatever the outcome would be that night for the game (an eventual Rockies victory) both Sam and Jim Hilliard stood victorious that night.
@SamHilliard22 your Dad would have said, " Good job getting all of it with 2 strikes". I know that one was for him. So proud of you under such hard times. XOXO— Team Hilliard (@TeamHilliardALS) September 18, 2021
This one’s for Nidya
Mother’s Day 2017 was a special day for the Colorado Rockies as they took on the Dodgers at Coors Field. Antonio Senzatela, still in the earlier goings of his rookie campaign, took the hill against fellow young starter Julio Urías in a 9-6 victory over the Dodgers. The moment was special for Senzatela as the young right-hander was pitching on Mother’s Day, less than a year since his own mother, Nidya, had passed away in Venezuela from breast cancer.
His mother never got to witness him pitch in the majors, but he knew she was always watching him and cheering him on as she had always done during the days of his youth. With the memory of his mother behind Senzatela snagged the victory after battling through five innings, allowing four runs on seven hits, and striking out five. However, the impact of the game goes beyond the box score for Senzatela. The Rockies' offense backed up their pitcher and he was able to celebrate a day meant for his beloved mother.
This one’s for Essie
Ryan Spilborghs is one of the fan favorites in Rockies history. As one of the true characters in baseball, Spilly has provided plenty of laughs as both a player and broadcaster for the Rockies. However, off the diamond, Spilly showed his true character as a sincere family man. You will often hear Spilly refer back to his dear mother Essie and the relationship he had with her. When she first became sick, she continually told her son to not worry and that things would be fine. Through the 2007 and 2008 seasons, Spilly continued to watch over her and provide as much assistance as possible. He moved her to Denver where she was able to attend all the home games and enjoy watching her son play the game they both loved.
Following her passing prior to the 2009 season, Spilly tried to use baseball as an escape from the emotions that her passing obviously brought. However, the 2009 season wasn’t ideal for Spilly as he was slated to be the everyday center fielder for the team but that was changed when Jim Tracy took over as manager and turned his attention to Carlos González. All of a sudden, Spilly was forced to watch a struggling rookie take over his playing time and his raw emotions made him feel like he was being treated unfairly. Late in August of that season, Spilly would get an at-bat that would define his Rockies career and connect him deeply with his mother.
In the bottom of the 14th inning and the Rockies trailing 4-2, Ryan Spilborghs blasted a walk-off grand slam and to the surprise of everyone sprinted at full speed around the bases with the wonderment of a child. At that moment, after a season of not truly being able to process his mother’s passing and the frustrations of losing his starting job, Spilly was able to release those emotions of sorrow and hit a home run that meant more than any other, and hit it for Essie.
Bigger than baseball
Regardless of the results on the field, there truly are moments bigger than baseball. The relationships we make, especially for the players and their significant loved ones, bring things into perspective of what truly matters. For Hilliard, Senzatela, and Spilly, baseball is part of that special relationship with these dear parents they have lost. They carry their memories with them and strive to continue their legacies.
For brief moments of baseball bliss, we as fans have the chance to share their emotions and witness something special and touching about the human condition. These examples remind us to cherish the time we have with those we love, and honor them after they have left us.
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Ryan Vilade made his debut on Saturday against the Nationals and it’s due in part to the advice he has received throughout his life. When his father was the hitting coach for the Texas Rangers Double-A team, future stars such as Elvis Andrus, Rougned Odor, and Joey Gallo took the time to talk to a young middle-school Vilade and share advice. Vilade has ascended quickly through the Rockies system, constantly learning more information and developing into the type of player the Rockies hope he can become.
Germán Márquez is the Rockies’ ace, but over the course of the season, he has had a number of bad starts, especially on the road, that has limited his ability to become the elite arm he has the potential to become. Patrick Saunders talked with Bud Black about Márquez and Black argues that in order for Márquez to take the next step forward, he needs to make sure he limits the damage in the bad starts. That means going five innings or so with limited damage, rather than going a couple of innings and leaving with a lopsided score.
On the farm
The offense for Albuquerque struggled to string hits together as they scored two runs while scattering seven hits in the loss to Sugar Land. Greg Bird had the lone multi-hit game for the Isotopes but the offense was top-heavy as the five through nine batters went a combined 2 for 18. Frank Duncan started on the mound and allowed two runs on six hits with a pair of walks two strikeouts in 4 2⁄3 innings of work. Sugar Land did the most damage against Reagan Todd who walked two batters before allowing a three-run home run and then exiting the game without recording an out.
A rough sixth inning for Hartford resulted in a 12-6 loss to Portland as a difficult season draws closer to the end. Heading into the sixth, Portland held a one-run lead but managed to score five runs off of Hartford reliever Cole Stringer with the help of a grand slam. Sean Bouchard added another multi-hit night Hartford while Michael Toglia scored a pair of runs for Hartford.
High-A: Spokane Indians @ Everett AquaSox (Cancelled due to rain)
Yet another loss for the Rockies farm system, Fresno also struggled to string hits together. Zac Veen helped provide a bulk of the offense with a pair of doubles while Robby Martin Jr. drove in a pair of runs with a double as well. Fresno’s pitching was fairly effective on the night with most arms tossing an inning or two with little to no damage. Blair Calvo, however, pitched the bulk of the game by pitching three innings and allowing four runs on six hits.
★ ★ ★
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