Steven Keehner, assistant opinions editor, is a junior journalism major with a minor in history.
In the bottom of the eighth inning, losing 10-3 to the Los Angeles Angels on April 16, the Minnesota Twins brought Willians Astudillo into the game to pitch.
This decision was not unusual in the slightest. While a deficit of seven runs isn’t insurmountable, it’s still a tremendous task, so there was no harm in placing the inexperienced 29-year-old Venezuelan on the mound for an inning to save the better pitchers for the rest of the season.
But there was one problem: He wasn’t a pitcher.
Astudillo, who is referred to as a “utility player” because of his ability to play any position on the field, isn’t your average professional athlete. With a height of 5’9 and a weight of 225 pounds, he seems more like me than Mike Trout, the best player of our generation and the stereotypical image of a professional athlete.
Having someone like Astudillo on a professional, contending ball club is an embarrassment to the sport. But to see him on the mound as a pitcher? You might as well toss me in the— wait, he pitched a 1-2-3 inning?
This guy? The dude nicknamed after a turtle?
Hell yeah, he did.
He retired all three batters in seven pitches, which could be a stretch of the word pitch given that he only reached above 60 MPH once, but hey, an out is an out. (For context, the average MLB pitcher throws about 93 MPH.)
To the casual viewer, this may appear to be an outlier, a once-in-a-generation moment. Isn’t it absurd to place a non-pitcher in a pitching position on purpose? According to the nearly 700 position players who have pitched before, no, not really.
Even “La Tortuga” had previously appeared on the mound in 2018. However, it did not go as well as his recent outing, as he was shelled for five runs, including two home runs.
Moments like that, where some dude who seems more likely to be your friend than a player on your favorite team can take out three professional baseball players, are absolutely worth celebrating.
And yes, baseball can be boring. But it can also be beautiful too. As corporate culture continues to drive the fun out of everything to maximize revenue, baseball has maintained its oddities and quirks for reasons I can’t really understand.
It’s an odd game that, in the truest sense of the phrase, is a sport that comes in all sizes and shapes. It has proven time and time again that its doors are open to whoever can enjoy it. You can be small, tall, have six fingers on both hands or just have one hand.
Baseball sucks, and I can’t say it enough. There are so many rules, cheaters and for every glorious moment like Astudillo pitching, there are countless more forgettable ones that only exist for the duration of a baseball broadcast. But I still love it more than anything else.
Maybe this is my inner Freud speaking, with me spending too much time putting my interests and childhood together to answer everything about myself, but baseball is the only constant I can say I truly have.
While I’ve watched and played other sports, there is something comforting about knowing that every day at around 7 p.m., I can turn on a New York Yankees game and even if they lose, there’s always another game to be played the next day.
And if I have a bad day and “lose,” there will always be tomorrow.
The 1-2-3 inning by Astudillo isn’t exactly historic. His glove will not be on display at the Baseball Hall of Fame for fans to admire. However, it was a lot of fun to watch. And what is the point of enjoying anything if we can’t only recognize but also celebrate the unusual moments?
I’ve said it before, but the earlier we accept chaos, the better we’ll be able to appreciate everything else. Even baseball, which can seem as unimportant and cliched as any other American pastime, is not without that.
So sure, you may still think baseball sucks — but I wouldn’t have it any other way.