On a cold, wet Tuesday night, I went to the gym to run on a treadmill. It’s not the most enjoyable way to work out (I’d rather run outside), but we make the best of things in the regularly rainy Pacific Northwest.
Helping me fight off the monotony of running in place, my beloved Seattle Mariners were about to get underway for game two against the Cleveland Indians. And fortunately for me, my treadmill had a built-in TV screen for my personal entertainment.
Desperation was in the air. The Mariners badly needed a win, having lost their last four games in a row. But facing rookie phenom righty, Shane Bieber, the odds were against us. I urgently needed to summon motivation, as powering my legs was more difficult than usual. So, I invented a game within the game.
Here’s how it worked: I challenged myself to run at a high speed through the top of the first, the commercial break, and then through the bottom of the first. Then, I’d slow down to a fast walk to catch my breath during the ensuing commercial break, before repeating the process in the second inning.
Simple and varied, this game was instantly enjoyable … Or, so I thought.
Mike Leake was efficient through the top of the first, cruising through the first three batters with ease. Then the commercials rolled through, each one falling flat against the always amazing Mariners TV Spots.
Then, the bottom of the first began and I cheered as our boys went up to bat only to instantly sit back down without success. I was simultaneously sad that the Mariners hadn’t got a hit and relieved to have a break from running. Oh, the complexity of this simple idea!
Running at a high clip was harder than I remembered. A few (incredibly short) minutes later, the commercials came to an end and it was time to start back up.
In the top of the second inning, the Indians sent three batters up and all three came back quickly and quietly. Leake was dealing. Then a second batch of commercials, one of which featured a speedy Dee Gordon theme, and then finally, still running, the bottom of the second arrived.
The Mariners made two quick outs before sending Tim Beckham up to the plate. And wouldn’t you know it, Beckham worked a walk. The Mariners had a baserunner!
Ryan Healy stepped out of the on-deck circle and into the batter’s box to face Bieber. A few pitches into the at bat, Bieber threw a wild pitch, sending the fleet-footed Beckham all the way to third, uncontested. A few pitches later, Healy was trotting to first with a walk of his own.
At T-Mobile Park, with two outs and runners on the corners, the Indians’ staff went to talk to Bieber to calm him down. At the YMCA, with my legs burning and sweat pouring, I was faced with a challenging position. I want the Mariners to keep getting on base and scoring runs, but I also want that third out so I can stop running. My oh my, what have I done?
Then, newly promoted catcher Tim Murphy stepped up to bat. To my discomfort, Bieber took his time throwing and Murphy took his time swinging, and I quickly began to dislike them both. But then, Murphy hit a soft single into center, bringing Beckham home to score and sending Healy to second.
At this point, my heart is full and soaring from the Mariners taking the lead, but my legs and lungs are about to stop working and I’m holding on with everything I’ve got. I’m stuck in the limbo of wishing for more runs and wishing for a third out. Fortunately, Dee Gordon stepped in and quickly made a groundball out to end the inning and put me out of my misery.
To my delight, during those two full innings, I ran 4 miles. To my dismay, the Mariners only scored once more, and their 2 runs weren’t enough to topple the Indian’s 4 runs, and we lost our fifth game in a row.
My total mileage might not seem like much and my game might sound silly, but on a rainy Tuesday night with the team suffering through a brutal losing streak, I’ll take any reason to engage and watch my Mariners that I can get.
And I’ll take motivation to run whenever and wherever its available.