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Happy birthday, J.T. Snow, and thank you.

February 26, 2011

In 2004 against the Padres.

In honor of the birthday of our namesake, and because none of my embarrassingly sappy and nostalgic ramblings about my earlier life as a Giants fan have been posted yet, here we go.

J.T. Snow is Giants baseball for me, and I’m starting to think he probably always will be.  He’s everything I love about this team and this sport.  Hard working, dedicated, a true team player and every bit as in love with the team and the fans as we are with him.

J.T. Snow, who specially requested that he could retire a Giant, that his last moments as a player could happen on the field of the park that he helped open, never got to rush the mound in unadulterated glee as the World Champions tshirts were handed round. A man who has proven that this city, this team, means as much to him as his Gold Glove defense and clubhouse presence meant and still means to the Giants faithful, was never granted the ultimate victory (as a player, that is).  He very likely will never be in the Hall of Fame, as much as I will argue that until I’m blue in the face.  More than anything though, I credit him with making me really fall in love with this crazy, goofy, lovable and loving team.

I am within a pretty narrow margin of being too young for Will Clark, I think.  I was seven in 1989, and the first things I remember about baseball are Will Clark and the Bash Brothers.  I seem to remember most everyone I knew being an A’s fan at that time, which may or may not be true in reality, and I started out tentatively going that direction as well.  What can I say, I was a seven year old girl and I hated orange.  Still kind of do in non-sports contexts (not that it stops me even a tiny bit from rocking my Giants and Florida Gators gear). I kind of always thought the Bash Brothers was an obnoxious marketing gimmick, but then there was Will Clark, who totally captured me.  Most of my family aren’t particularly baseball fans, so it was an interest that never totally took over until high school, when one of my best friends was a die hard, totally obsessed (read: about half as bad as I am now) Giants fan and we started watching games together after school.  We would sit on her couch with her toy poodles and J.T. Bear (a white teddy bear in a Giants t-shirt with an orange and black bow named for Snow) and sing dorky songs from musicals during commercial breaks or when the game got too unbearable to pay dedicated attention to for a bit, until inevitably something would happen that would get us cheering and her bird would freak out and the dogs would bark and we’d hug the bear and stare adoringly at J.T. Snow and the rest of the 1997-2000 Giants.  “Mr. Snow” from Carousel was a favorite, for obvious reasons.  It was silly and dorky and hopelessly teenage and fun.  No matter how painful the games got, watching J.T. was never anything less than that sort unadulterated thrill that baseball gives us, and that at the time I thought would go away as I got older and became a “real adult”.  Update: I was wrong.

Letting him go is probably the one thing, in a lifetime of watching some questionable choices, that I will never entirely forgive the Giants brass.  That broke my heart enough that I only sort of paid attention to the 2006 season, because I just couldn’t quite handle not seeing him out there.  I wasn’t living in the Bay Area at the time either, so that contributed to it, but there was definitely still a big J.T. sized whole in my baseball-loving heart.  I kept tabs on him that year with the Sox, I’ve got a Red Sox t-shirt with 84 on the back that I got after he switched numbers when his father passed away, and I got back into the Giants fold after that.  I couldn’t have asked for anything better than him coming back to retire as a Giant, and it means the absolute world to me that he is still so much a part of the team.  In my dream world he sticks around until he’s ready to completely retire from baseball, the Giants retire his number, and then he gets to pull a Willie Mays and offer it to some youngster he has taken under his wing.  And then I can spend the rest of that new #6’s career following them.

So J.T., happy birthday and here’s a piece of bubblegum in your honor.  For all those afternoons spent in my friend’s living room and for all the days watching PacBell Park being built as I drove by with my dad and for all the conversations that wearing/seeing someone wearing a Giants t-shirt has started since I’ve been stuck in the South.  Mostly just for the torture, all the years of it, because what else could bring people together like that?

“In 2002, I was playing. I was in the fire,” Snow said, comparing the two World Series. “It was a great World Series (lost to the Angels in seven). I didn’t have that ring on my finger. (In 2010), I got to travel with the team for the whole postseason. It wasn’t the same as being a player, but it was the next best thing.

Thanks for bearing with the nostalgia, everyone.  Stay tuned for some thoughts on the first few Spring Training games soon.

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