I don’t believe in angels in the outfield, except the ones with “Los Angeles,” “California” or “Anaheim” stitched on their jerseys. Especially when Jim Edmonds was there.
I am, however, a firm believer in The Baseball Gods.
The Baseball Gods gaze down on the game from celestial upper decks to make sure line drives that are caught and Texas Leaguers that are not even out over 162 games. They also hide the razors of the San Francisco Giants’ bullpen corps and smile on guys who respect the game, its whimsy and fateful quirks and the notion that one doesn’t steal second base when one’s team is leading 9-1 in the bottom of the eighth.
This would explain why Aaron Rowand, who for the past 10 years has made his home in Southern Nevada (wife Marianne is a former Bishop Gorman cheerleader and gymnast), is a world champion for the second time in six seasons.
Rowand got off to a good start as the Giants’ everyday center fielder, before, as he bluntly put it after a round of golf Monday at Spanish Trail Country Club, “I got hit in the face.” Vicente Padilla, then of the Dodgers, is sort of known for throwing a 50 mph “eephus” pitch, but the one that cracked Rowand’s left cheekbone in a couple of places on April 16 had a little more mustard on it.
When he returned, Rowand, a former All-Star who patrolled center field for the 2005 World Champion Chicago White Sox, found himself in a platoon situation with Andres Torres, the speedy late bloomer. Torres was having the season of his life. Rowand was not. Torres began to play more and more. Rowand played less and less. The baseball writers speculated that Rowand, whose 162-game average over 10 major league seasons is .276 with 17 homers and 67 RBIs, might be left off manager Bruce Bochy’s postseason roster.
Rowand handled it like a pro. Whatever is best for the team, he said, and he meant it.
“More than anything else, you had gone through all the wars, the battles with your teammates and you have such a bond with them. Then it would seem you would kind of be letting them down,” Rowand said of those who whine and complain about being dropped to eighth in the batting order.
This, I truly believe, is when The Baseball Gods smiled upon him.
It wasn’t one of those ear-to-ear jobs, the kind Roy Halladay was working under in Game 1 of the Phillies’ National League division series against the Reds. It wasn’t the kind that made Burt Hooton, Elias Sosa and Charlie Hough groove the ball to Reggie Jackson in Game 6 of the 1977 World Series. No, this was one of those Mona Lisa smiles. You know, the subtle kind that occur just when you think there’s no way this is going to be your day, then it turns out it sort of is.
This, I am certain, is why Rowand made a perfect throw (although Tim McCarver in the broadcast booth didn’t seem to think so) to home plate in the fifth inning of Game 4 of the NL Championship Series to nail the Phillies’ Carlos Ruiz, a huge play in a classic 6-5 victory that gave the Giants momentum.
It’s why just about every time Bochy put Rowand in, he contributed something, such as his two-run, pinch-hit triple off Texas’ Michael Kirkman to highlight the Giants’ seven-run eighth inning in Game 2 of the World Series.
It might also explain the moment, precious and priceless, Rowand shared with 5-year-old son McKay just before the sixth and final game of the Series.
Remember when Drew Brees hoisted son Baylen into the air after the Saints’ victory in the Super Bowl, giving us those poignant photos and videos? Rowand had a similar experience when McKay made his way down to the dugout to wish his father good luck. His dad, wearing a live microphone for TV, told his son he loved him, and they blew each other kisses. Like the ’69 Mets, this wasn’t part of the script. “I didn’t think they were going to start filming until the game started,” Rowand said.
With all due respect to Kevin Costner (a Cal State Fullerton product like Rowand) playing catch with his old man in the movies, this was better, because this was real.
Even that jackwagon Tim McCarver would have to agree.
Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist Ron Kantowski can be reached at email@example.com or 702-383-0352.