Nine years ago, I attended a baseball game I’ll never forget.
It wasn’t a particularly important game: Nats-Phillies, in the middle of the 2011 season. The Nats finished that season 80-81 — out of the playoffs, again.
It was a humid night in D.C. We sat through a two-hour rain delay before the game really got going, and once it did, the Nats fell behind, 4-0. By the 7th, with a score of 4-2, my friends said they were tired and wanted to go home. I couldn’t blame them — it was late, and the game really didn’t matter.
Still, it was my last baseball game of the season — I’d be heading to Columbia, Mo., for a fellowship in a few days — and I wanted to see it through. I’d been to enough baseball games to know that if your team’s losing by a few runs that late in the game, they usually don’t come back.
But then again: You never know. And I remember from my days covering the team that you can’t finish your game story until the final out.
My friends went home, but I stayed.
In the 9th, the Nats faced Ryan Madson, the Philadelphia closer who’d only blown one save all year. But the Nats came back, stringing together a few hits to tie the game. Then came Ryan Zimermman, the third baseman and the face of the franchise. Two outs, bases loaded, bottom of the 9th, full count — and he hits a walk-off grand slam to left.
I remember texting my friends and telling them to turn on the TV. I remember their disbelief at the score. (“We…won???”) I remember how strange it felt to be truly surprised by a result like that. Up until those last moments, it seemed unlikely — even impossible — that the game could have ended the way it did.
I almost never leave games early anymore. As long as there’s still more to play, there’s more story to be written. You never know when you’ll get the chance to write a better ending.
That photo is of Nationals Park, and was taken by Sung Shin for Unsplash. The video is of the walk-off grand slam — wait until the very end.