Take a step back for a moment and try to think about life outside of baseball. Admittedly, it’s easy to let frustration get you caught up in another disappointing start to the season for the Mariners. They have an 8-14 record with four of those wins coming against the Oakland A’s.
Even more frustrating is the lack of offense. Seattle ranks at or near the bottom in almost every offensive category except for walks.
And there is the lack of hitting from certain hitters. Chone Figgins (.167), Jack Cust (.171) and Miguel Olivo (.169) are all hitting under .200.
For the second consecutive year, Figgins has struggled early at the plate. Cust, who was signed to be a power presence in the middle of the order, isn’t even slugging his weight at .186 with just one extra-base hit – a double on April 9. Meanwhile, Olivo is hitting in a similar fashion to his first stint with the Mariners – way too many strikeouts and plenty of fly balls that die at the warning track at Safeco Field.
Don’t forget about the defensive mistakes, Erik Bedard’s struggles and the issues keeping Franklin Gutierrez from taking the field, and ... stop! Enough!
See how easy it is to get carried away? Enough thinking about these problems because they certainly are not going away any time soon.
It’s easy to get caught up in the false importance of it all, to let the struggles of a mediocre team become bigger than what it really should be.
We are all guilty of it.
Every so often we need to be reminded that it is just a game. Many times those reminders come in the form of someone’s death.
On Tuesday, Justin Smoak flew home to be with his father, Keith, who died of lung cancer at age 57.
At the age of 24, Smoak had to say goodbye to his father far too soon. Just as he is starting to blossom into the big league hitter that so many predicted, the man who was his first coach and taught him to switch hit and has remained his biggest fan would will never get to see him round the bases again in person.
Keith was cut down by cancer. He wasn’t the first. He won’t be the last.
Cancer touches just about everyone in some way. It doesn’t discriminate. Look around the Mariners clubhouse.
“My mom and dad both had cancer and beat it,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. “It touches so many different people. It’s just a powerfully sad thing to have to go through.”
Ask Michael Saunders about living with cancer. His mother, Jane, has battled cancer for the past 12 years. She thought she’d beaten it. It came back. She thought she beat it again, and it came back. She’s fought it four times; it came back four times.
Such cases can make you depressed. So can the statistics associated with cancer.
The National Cancer Institute estimated that 11.4 million people in the U.S. had some history of cancer in January of 2006.
It also estimated that 1,529,560 (789,620 men and 739,940 women) would be diagnosed with cancer and 569,490 men and women would die of cancer in 2010.
To put that in perspective, the M’s drew 2,085,950 fans last season.
Major League Baseball and the Mariners do their part to raise awareness about cancer. We’ll see pink bats on breast cancer awareness day, and light blue wrist bands for prostate cancer awareness.
“I love what Major League Baseball is doing with that,” Wedge said. “I think society as a whole has done a great job with awareness of certain needs. Baseball has attacked cancer, like some of the other charities are.”
On any given day before a game at Safeco Field, you might see a Mariners fan who’s battling cancer walking on the field to meet players. While players will often walk by most people in ambivalence, they all stop for handshakes, autographs and kind words for these guests.
“We have people that come out to the ballpark almost daily that are in tough spots like that and we choose to interact with them,” Wedge said. “They want to be out here and spend a day because of what the game means to them.”
Wedge and his wife, Kate, are big into charity work. They donate to cancer drives among many other causes.
“I don’t think there’s any one thing that is more important, but arguably cancer touches more families than maybe anything else,” Wedge said.
It’s touched Wedge. It’s touched Saunders. It’s touched Smoak. It’s touched the Mariners family.
And no matter how many losses they suffer through, or how many runners they leave on base, or how many errors they commit, in the end it’s nothing like the losses suffered from cancer.
“You have to remember this is a game. It’s not real life. I tell the guys, it’s not your wife and it’s not your life, it’s just a game,” Wedge said. “You’ve got to keep it in perspective.”
It’s good advice for everyone.