Determination and Dedication

Marlins Park, Miami, Fla. – What a rush. Today, I had the luck and the pleasure to go to the Marlins game and watch history being made. For only the sixth time in franchise history, Edinson Volquez pitched a determined and beautiful no-hitter. Over 20,000 people and more than 600 dogs (Bark at the park baby) watched the pitcher propel himself to the annals of Marlins lore.

Funny enough, the first inning started ominous. Volquez got into a collision with Rey Fuentes to open the game and he had to be hauled back up onto his feet. Honestly, I thought it was going to be a quick outing for Volquez, quick enough to wonder what the contingency plan was in terms of the bullpen taking over ultra-early. Despite twisting his ankle a little bit, not only did he stay in the game but the man who endured a 0-7 start before collecting his first win, tossed a masterful gem notching 10 K’s to boot.

The defense played terrific with Dee Gordon making a sliding stop on Fuentes’ sharp grounder in the fourth to preserve the no-no. Coupled with well-timed double plays both in the fourth and in the eighth due to a pair of walks, the field played flawlessly.

The bats meanwhile, were able to break through with Stanton scoring on a bloop single from Justin Bour. The Marlins won 3-0 and while further review and analysis will come Thursday, I wanted to dedicate this piece to the effort made by our pitcher.

Usually people wait until the sixth or seventh inning to start watching for the elusive no-hitter but for me, though it may be early for some, I do so at the end of the fourth. I guess for me it’s because by then the pitcher is in a groove but the hitters, already facing him at least once, are dialing in to attempt to end the bid before it really gains momentum. My excitement level didn’t register until the seventh and it gradually got higher with each successful out, both for us and for them. If I had to put it in numbers, from 1-10, a 10 being absolutely excited or outright nervous, I was sitting on a 6 by the end of the seventh frame and a 9 ½ by the time we were taking our licks at bat in the eighth. You can only imagine the adrenaline rush coursing through my veins as the last 3 batters came up to the plate for one last chance to derail Volquez.

Once we struck out the first batter I was already antsy, thinking to myself “God, we’re actually two outs away from witnessing history man,” And then the second batter whiffed. You could feel the tension, the excitement throughout that stadium. The fans were whipping out their cell phones to record what we hoped would be the final out to seal the deal. People were cheering and clapping, trying to give Volquez that needed boost knowing everyone in that ballpark was behind him, rooting for him. As for me, I was a nervous wreck.

How often can you say you’ve witnessed history? I don’t mean sitting at home watching it on the television, I mean actually being there feeling the suspense, the electric atmosphere. I’ve only personally seen sports history made once before: It was 2003. I was a little kid watching from the second level, near the railing in Pro Player Stadium Game 4 of the NLDS. My old man was sitting to my left, back then he was an avid Marlins fan…before the second fire sale. We were playing against the San Francisco Giants and I got to see Jeff Conine, Mr. Marlin himself, launch a cannon towards Ivan Rodriguez at home plate to gun down J.T. Snow for the final out. I can still see that day vividly in my mind, I can still feel it and how much that stadium shook beneath my feet as over 60,000 fans roared victoriously.

Like on that day, those who ventured to watch the game cried out in thunderous satisfaction as Volquez struck out the side. Later on I found out he was pitching with a late friend on his mind. Today would have been Yordano Ventura’s 26th birthday. He died in a car accident in January and the two were teammates back in Kansas City. The game was dedicated both to him and to Jose Fernandez.

With an ailing ankle, a heavy heart and a razor-sharp focus, Volquez threw a hell of a game and made it into Marlins history. Congratulations Mr. Volquez, here’s to you. No one on that pitching staff deserves it more.

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