As we announced on Thursday, The Athletic Dallas is bringing me aboard as a Rangers contributor. Beginning a week from today (Monday, February 12), my baseball content will be found at https://theathletic.com/dfw/. Scott Lucas’s great work on the Rangers’ minor league system will remain here, as will — from time to time — an entry of mine that fits somewhere outside the baseball commentary that I’ll publish at The Athletic. An example may be something like Newberg Report Meet-up details, or today’s story, below.
It’s been really exciting to see the numbers that have signed up for The Athletic — including many of you who were already subscribers before last week’s announcement — and we couldn’t be more fired up to charge out of the gate. Thanks to those of you who are joining us.
It was May 21, 1987. Hillcrest had dug itself a 12–4 deficit in the sixth inning of a seven-inning Bi-District playoff game. But the Panthers plated three that inning, held North Lamar scoreless in the top of the seventh, and had put four more runs on the board in the bottom of the frame, and with two runners on and two outs, our cleanup hitter stepped in. The score was 12–11. I was the tying run, on second base.
One pitch later, the game ended. As did our season. And my baseball career.
When I finally got back to our school and in my car and drove home, gassed, I sat down in my parents’ bedroom, where they were watching the news, I think. I started crying.
I wasn’t a crier.
I am now. I’ll well up at the sight of a soldier returning from duty to surprise his kids at a ballgame, or an episode of “This Is Us.”
Or at a moment when our kid and her friends create something so powerful — together — that it transcends art and becomes life.
Erica’s character in Les Miserables lives a life of sadness, and dies in a moment of happiness. Her character, Eponine, is conflicted and Erica, as so many of the Pearce Theatre kids did these last two weeks with their own roles, brought that out. Her sadness and her happiness were wrapped up, at different times, in tears. In her dying scene, she cries as she sings, beautifully.
Last night, in finale of Pearce’s two-week run of Les Mis, Erica cried in that scene.
It was so beautiful. She cried and I cried and there were sniffles all around us in the audience, many of whom might have thought she was digging deep to express the emotion of the moment — which she was, but this time there was more.
It made me think of that night 30 years earlier. There’s not a whole that can be fairly paralleled between a playoff baseball game and a sold-out musical in a high school auditorium (although I’ll gladly stretch by pointing out that both North Lamar High School and Les Mis are located in Paris), but that was my last baseball game (I thought: and was right) and that was Erica’s last mainstage performance (she thinks: we’ll see) and I cried.
It’s a special group of kids. Not just in the ways they act and they sing and they dance, but also in their embodiment of something that’s always been so important and majestic to me — the power of team. I’m in awe of them. Of their talent and their focus and their drive and their bonds. They regularly make me cry.
Probably not for the last time. I’ll still be a regular at Pearce Theatre productions. But Erica won’t take the mainstage again behind that curtain, and for me that fires up its own warring emotions of sadness and happiness.
In the final verse of the final song before the reprise, Erica and two others sing: “To love another person is to see the face of God.” I’ve got some dust in my eye as I type that.
“How soon they fly,” another lyric reminds us.
I don’t remember much about that talk with my parents in May of 1987, weeks before my high school life came to its end but hours after a lifetime of playing the game I loved had seen its final act, but I do remember that I said a lot, and they just listened, and I cried.
Erica said a lot last night on that stage, too, and we just listened, and she cried.
And I cried.
Aside from the births of our two kids and the day Ginger and I decided to get married, nothing has given me more overwhelming joy than watching Erica and her friends perform.
I’ll miss that terribly, but am so grateful for what we’ve experienced these last few years. So grateful.