The first week of the 2009 baseball season brought a number of distractions, though these were mostly welcome. Of them, the Phillies raised the banner on their 2008 season, and they received the rings that symbolized their ultimate victory. Upon receiving those rings, I remarked that it was nice to finally shed the skins of 2008. It was nice to finally move on from distraction.
Then tragedy struck.
The moment I learned Harry Kalas had been rushed to the hospital, I immediately felt uneasy. The past indicated serious problems, and frankly, sometimes a bad feeling just knocks your stomach. In minutes I learned Harry’s situation was “serious,” and even faster, I learned the air had left him. Harry was gone. Just like that.
After initial shock, many of us asked,” Could they play a game today?” Well, the Phillies played, and though it started empty, it grew to an offensive explosion, the type of game that seemed untouched by tragedy. The Phillies won — though by the skin of their teeth — fueled more by lackluster Washington pitching than anything else. In a respectful coincidence, the Phils gained a day off Tuesday, a good time to recollect, remember and refuel. They’ll be back at it tonight against the Nationals with, maybe, a bit of the tragedy behind them.
Of course, Harry’s memory won’t be behind them. It will be there at least until the 2009 season departs, and probably, for a long, long time. In a way, then, Harry’s memory makes for an interesting storyline for the rest of the season. Is the repeat campaign now suddenly about winning for Harry (however cliche)? Does the season take on a higher tone now that the voice of the team has left the Earth?
In a season so far hazy from distractions, the Phillies are a solid 4-3. And they’re in fine position to build upon that mark. But the death of Harry Kalas offers, if anything, a defining legacy to the 2009 season. No longer is about repeating and having a target on their backs. Now it’s about pressing on, nodding in respect to a great man, and playing the game the way he would’ve liked it to be played.