The last pitch flew right over the center of the plate, past the batter who didn't even try to swing. The pitcher threw his glove in the air with joy, before being mobbed by his teammates. The crowd, already on their feet for the entire last inning, somehow managed to yell even louder. The bullpen door flew open and the pitchers who had been stuck in there streaked across the field at full speed to join their team in the tangle at the mound. The joy was evident in every face. Even though my team had just lost, I couldn't help but smile. This was it.
The Nationals lost the game and the Phillies won the division. But it was a battle to the end. Our boys were determined not to make it easy for anyone. And, possibly more importantly than the game itself, they got to see what it would be like to win it all. They saw the crowd. They heard the cheering. They saw the joy on the faces of the other team. After the game, instead of slinking off into the clubhouse after the loss, several of our boys stayed in the dugout, watching the celebration happen. A few exchanged hugs with Phillies players. One head popped out and looked around at the crowd, soaking it all in. Someday soon, they'll get to see this in DC. They've now seen what they're playing for. They've seen what it could be like.
It was great, as a fan, to be able to experience that as well. From a perch high up at the very top row at Citizen's Bank Park, The Ryan Girls watched the celebration. I could see the whole stadium from up there, the rally towels swinging wildly. The hugging, the cheering that just seemed to go on forever. It wasn't the outcome I wanted. I wanted to see my boys win. And I definitely didn't want the Phillies to win the division. But I saw what I did want. I want that celebration. I looked at Ryan Girl #2 and saw she was smiling too, looking around and taking it all in. We stayed for a few minutes, soaking it all in until our boys all disappeared into the dugout. As we left, the cheers continued around us. The usher in our section hugged us good-bye, despite the ribbing she had given us earlier over our Nationals t-shirts.
The celebration continued outside the stadium as we walked around it. Most of the fans were too happy to care that Nats fans had come into their midst. "Thank you!" many of the shouted at us. "Thanks for taking out the Mets." (Not that they were all sweet as pie or anything. A few of them shouted things that were much less nice. Gotta keep their Philadelphia sports fan reputation intact.) The cars in the parking lot all had their windows down, horns honking, rally towels swinging out the windows. Out on the roads it continued, cars that weren't even coming from the game joining the celebration. A fire truck drive by, honking its horn with hands holding Phillies flags out the windows. An hour later, halfway down the highway toward DC, it seemed like the celebration was over. Then, in front of us, a horn honked, a window came down and a swinging towel was held out the window. All around us, every car I could see, responded with their own towels. These people were thrilled.
One day we'll have that in DC. Cars up and down Capitol Street(s) in all directions, honking and waving their Nats flags. Metro conductors getting in on the celebration, honking their horns all through the tunnels. We'll have it. I can feel it.