‘s walk off homerun clinched the AL Wild Card in 2011. Credit: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE
Every sports fan witnesses a moment in a game that becomes their favorite memory. Sometimes, it is an unforgettable play in a clutch moment and at other times it is just a pass of the ball that makes you stand back and appreciate the beauty of your favorite sport. Whatever your treasured memory may be let me take you back to mine.
I am sitting in my pajamas in my dorm room after midnight with my sister, eyes locked on the T.V. screen and fingers crossed as Evan Longoria stands at the plate. The score is tied at 7-7 and the pitch count is 2-2; I can barely contain how nervous I am. The Boston Red Sox have just lost to the Baltimore Orioles, allowing the Rays to clinch the AL Wild Card slot if they can win their game against the Yankees. Suddenly, Longoria hits the ball and bolts for first base, realizing it is a walk-off home run as he rounds the corner for second base. I throw my arms in the air and scream at the top of my lungs, despite the fact that my suitemates are asleep. My sister and I hug each other while jumping around, but I cannot contain my excitement. I run outside and take off across the lawn in front of my dorm building screaming, “The Rays are going to the playoffs! The Rays clinched the Wild Card!” As a man passes me on a sidewalk near the grass, I yell at him, “Hey! The Rays clinched the Wild Card!” I just about scare him half to death, causing him to turn around and walk in the opposite direction.
My friends celebrate with me, although they all happen to be Braves fans, and my sister and I finally return to my dorm room to try to soak in what had just happened during the game. The next day, I wear my Rays t-shirt and tell everyone I know about the game last night, even those who could care less about baseball. But, the smile on my face says the most. This is what being a fan is all about: pride.
Baseball historians will forever compare Longoria’s home run to Bobby Thompson’s Shot Heard ‘Round The World, and dozens of statistics have been compiled about how slim the Rays’ chances of winning game 162 were, but the game’s importance extends beyond any of those elements for me. Despite being counted out of the postseason in the beginning of August, the Rays disregarded every critic and kept fighting for October. Their determination and unconquerable spirit could be seen throughout the last two months of the season and was brought full circle with Longoria’s single shot across the left field wall.
Game 162 is my favorite moment in sports because it serves as a constant reminder that there are no limits to what you can achieve as long as you have the right outlook.
I am proud that my favorite team, the Rays, never gave up in believing that they had a shot at making it the postseason. I still smile to this day whenever I think about Game 162 because it was not just about clinching a playoff spot but about believing in what appears to be the impossible. I knew that because the Rays had accomplished so much in two months they could finish the final night of the season with a win. A true fan always believes that their team can overcome the odds, even if the critics give them a list of reasons to doubt.
The Rays have referenced Game 162 at different points throughout this season while looking to stay strong like last year’s final performance. As the 2012 regular season finishes in six days, the Rays are still contending for a spot in the postseason. At this point, the second AL Wild Card slot is fair game, so do not be surprised if the Rays repeat last season’s finale by clinching a postseason berth. Whether or not 2012 finishes as dramatically as 2011 did, Longoria’s home run is a moment baseball fans will never forget, but what his walk-off home run really stood for is what Rays fans will always remember.