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A Magical Baseball Moment

There is no such thing as magic, but Miguel Gonzalez went ahead and found some anyway for his Friday night start against the Angels.
There is no such thing as magic, but Miguel Gonzalez went ahead and found some anyway for his Friday night start against the Angels.

There is no magic in baseball. That said, its best moments are the ones that find a way to be magical anyway. Sometimes you get to witness one of those magic moments as it's happening and you know that it's magic. The fact that Cal Ripken Jr. hit a home run in both consecutive games 2,130 and 2,131 has a perfectly rational explanation. That doesn't change the fact that for two nights, the baseball gods smiled down upon him and upon Baltimore. If you watched those games, you were watching magic and you knew it at the time.

Other times, there is magic happening and you only find out it was magic later. This can be something as simple as discovering a player has changed shoes on the game where he goes 4-5 with two home runs. It can also be something much more full of emotion, and thus, powerful. Friday night, Orioles pitcher Miguel Gonzalez had one of those magical games, though it was only afterwards that we found out just how magical.

The story of Gonzalez using the glove given to him by his former teammate, the late Nick Adenhart, from their days together in the Angels system, as he pitched his way to his first major league win, is one of those magical baseball moments. Nobody in the wide world knew about this until after the game was over. Had Gonzalez not pitched very well - and this would have surprised no one, considering he is 28 years old and was signed by the Orioles out of the Mexican League - then maybe the tidbit would have gotten a passing mention, an "Oh, how nice."

Instead, there was not a story that failed to mention it once the reporters covering the game were aware of it. And why shouldn't they write about it? If nothing else, that was a very interesting and human moment to the game. Adenhart pitched in the same stadium, so of course Gonzalez would want to honor him as he made his starting debut. Was there any magic in that glove that allowed Gonzalez to go seven innings while only surrendering one run on a home run by Mark Trumbo? Of course not! That doesn't mean it wasn't magic.

The impulse is always there to measure and make sense out of everything. As the famous astronomer Galileo once said, "Measure what can be measured, and make measurable what cannot be measured." This is the same thing that drives baseball's advanced statistical community. To be sure, you can do all of that stuff for any given baseball moment. For Gonzalez on Friday night, you could look at the Pitch F/x and know the release point, movement, velocity and location of each and every pitch he threw. With video replay, you could break down the exact pitch sequence for each of the six strikeouts he recorded. You could know all of these things, and all of them are good things to know.

Yet if you take all of those things and assume that you know everything, you would be missing something.

One of the many great utterances of player-manager-philosopher Yogi Berra is this: "Ninety percent of baseball is half-mental." This is probably true, and these mental sorts of things also probably will show up in a stat sheet, eventually, even in the case of Gonzalez's great start. A player who's channeling emotions into some productive adrenaline will probably end up with that little bit of extra zip on his fastball, that little bit more sensory awareness, reaction time, or whatever.

You miss out on a lot of fun when you try to pick everything out like that, though. I think so, anyway. I don't want to tell anybody else what to enjoy about baseball, but I have more fun when I get to enjoy a magical moment. Sometimes - as long as it's sparingly - it's more fun to toss aside rationality and logic and embrace something as inexplicable.

Miguel Gonzalez and his random awesome start in Los Angeles are the perfect fit for what is magic in and about baseball. Maybe he will never have another great start ever again in his career - though O's fans certainly hope he will. Maybe it will turn out that was just the tip of the iceberg, that, much like his current teammate Jason Hammel, he's figured something out about pitching in his late 20s and the Orioles were just the right team to realize it and give him a chance at the right time.

Either way, reports about the glove are that Gonzalez is not going to use it any more. He had been carrying it around but not using it since Adenhart's death and decided that his first start being against the Angels was the time to use it. He wants to preserve it to preserve a memory of a friend, and that is a kind and good thing to do.

So if, hypothetically, there was something magic about the glove, Gonzalez won't benefit from it any more. He is on his own now, and if he continues on to some level of success then he will have found that the power was inside of him all along - which, if you think about it, is pretty magical, too.