Scattered throughout this week and maybe next, Minnesota public schools will hold their commencement ceremonies. High school graduates will file across the stage to
the Macho Man Randy Savage Theme Pomp & Circumstance and begin their journey into “the real world” the next Zoom room.
I recently attended a cousin’s grad party and was struck that my 20-year HS reunion will arrive soon. Seeing as how I largely contextualize memories by anchoring them to notable baseball events, this got me thinking about what was going on in Twins Territory (and baseball-at-large) when I tossed my mortarboard in June of 2004…
- Some local kid debuted behind the plate—and immediately hurt his knee. Over just 122 PA, he did hit .308 with a 138 OPS+. Might be some promise there.
- Joe Nathan—essentially a Giants throw-in with Francisco Liriano & Boof Bonser in the A.J. Pierzynski trade—took the closer mantle and quickly ascended to the most elite stopper this side of Mo Rivera. When I graduated college in 2008, my aunt gave me a navy #36 jersey.
- That summer, I attended a few Twins/Brewers contests at Miller Park (the closest I got to outdoor baseball in those days). My most potent memory from that trip? Terry Mulholland entering a game in relief and immediately coughing up the lead.
- My Dad & I began volunteer-coaching a local little league squad (featuring one of my younger brothers). We experienced all the tropes imaginable but came up just one win short of participating in the title game.
- One of my favorites—Shannon Stewart—battled foot issues all season long, paving the way for Lew(wwwwwwww) Ford’s improbable 658 PA, 15 HR, 20 SB, .299 BA, 114 OPS+ campaign. The Vice Principal of my high school—and fellow Twins fanatic—gave me a Lew Ford locker nameplate before I was out the door.
- The Twins finished 92-70 and had what I considered to be the strongest roster of the ’02-’04 three-peat. Johan Santana (7 IP, 0 ER) & Jacque Jones (HR) quieted Yankee Stadium in Game 1 of the ALDS and—as I watched from my freshman undergrad dorm room—the Twins were on the precipice of a commanding 2-0 series lead until, well, you know.
- Fortunately the rest of the postseason left me little opportunity to pout, what with the Boston Red Sox breaking the Curse of the Bambino in the most dramatic way possible (falling behind the Yankees 0-3 in the ALCS and then never losing again). Regardless of subsequent revelations that key members of that squad were likely injecting themselves with any number of semi-illicit substances, this remains a hallmark moment in my baseball fandom.
What do you remember about baseball the year you graduated high school? Maybe you didn’t graduate—that might make for an even better story! Either way, I’d love to hear your reminisces!