(Photo courtesy of Carl Gooding/Arizona Diamondbacks)
On the morning of September 11, I was sleeping at home in Phoenix as my wife, Laura, took the kids to school. She came in and woke me up, telling me that a plane had crashed into one of the World Trade Center buildings, as she turned on the tv. We watched in horror as the second plane came in, and that moment just felt surreal.
I arrived at the ballpark that day, and found out that MLB had shut down play for a week. I spent time with my teammates, and we just prayed as a team for our country and for the families of the victims. A month later, I had a chance to see the devastation first hand.
During the World Series, when we had an off day, we went down to Ground Zero. As surreal as it felt watching the attacks on tv with Laura, it felt even more surreal to actually see where it had happened.
But God gave us an amazing trait - resilience. Our country rallied together on September 12, and I was able to witness that unity first-hand during Game 3 when George W. Bush threw out the first pitch. It didn't matter if you were a Democrat or Republican, there was something special about that throw. He threw it from the pitcher's mound as opposed to the grass up close, and it was right where the catcher had put his glove. You could sense the roar from the crowd as soon as it happened.
At that point our team was feeling pretty good too, because we had a 2-0 lead in the World Series. We understood that New York was rallying around their baseball team, but we couldn't just give them the series. That wouldn't be right.
The Yankees won Game 3, but in Game 4 we were on the verge of really taking control of the series. We were up 3-1 in the bottom of the ninth with our pitcher Byung Hyun Kim on the mound. The Yankees had a runner on first, but with two outs, Kim just needed one more out to finish it. Instead, Tino Martinez sent the first pitch of his at bat into the bleachers. Tie game.
We couldn't score in the top of the 10th, and then in the bottom of the 10th we brought Kim out again. He had pitched in the eighth and ninth, so we were asking a lot out of him, and unfortunately history repeated itself. Moments after the bell tolled, striking midnight of November 1, Derek Jeter took a pitch to right field and cleared the fence.
It was the most devastating loss I had been a part of. At least it was for nearly 24 hours.
The situation in Game 5 was nearly identical. A two-run lead in the ninth inning, with Kim at the mound. And once again two outs. We just needed one more good pitch to get Scott Brosius out and take a 3-2 series lead. Instead, Kim gave up another home run - his fifth earned run in two nights - to tie the game. As crazy as it must have seemed on television, Yankee Stadium was even more raucous in person. And it was all at Kim's expense.
A lot of players pretend not to be affected by adversity during the game. But when you blow the two biggest games of your life in a 24-hour span, it takes a toll. Kim crouched to the ground and put his hands on his cap in disbelief.
That's when our team had the opportunity to live out Philippians 2.
If we were going to be imitators of Christ, we needed to forgive Kim and lift him up - literally. Mark Grace, our first baseman, was the first one to greet Kim. Rather than criticize our pitcher over the three home runs, we showed that we cared about him. He was struggling as a player, but that moment wasn't about baseball.
The Yankees finished off that game in walk-off fashion again, so instead of winning Games 4 and 5 we were now returning to Phoenix with a 3-2 deficit. But our offense exploded for 15 runs in Game 6 to set up a decisive Game 7. And as it turned out, it was arguably the greatest game of all time.