Jose Melendez's KEYS TO GAME 7

jose melendez

Earl of Acie
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Oct 23, 2003
22,212
Washington DC
It’s time for Jose Melendez’s KEYS TO THE NATIONALS.

1. Let’s be honest Red Sox fans. We’ve lost something since 2004.

Since that night 15 years ago when starter DLowe the Paranoid Android—who definitely doesn’t have domestic violence issues, completed the work of Curt Euro—who definitely doesn’t have Nazi sympathies, and Manny Ramirez—who definitely isn’t a steroid cheat, and Pedro Martinez--who definitely isn’t God and therefore not only responsible for the glory of creation but also all the suffering in the world, we have lost some of our intensity.

When the national media warned we would never be the same after winning, that a World Series banner would dull our once insatiable hunger, we scoffed. But they were right, and we were wrong. Sure, we remained hungry, we could still nosh, and in 2007, 2013, and 2018 we have, but never again would we think, to paraphrase Galactus, Devourer of Worlds “The Hunger. It gnaws.” Jose kept up KEYS TO THE GAME for another 3-4 years after that. He watched a lot of baseball after that. He cursed interference calls against Will Middlebrooks and cheered deliriously as Papi hit a grand slam in the ALCS, the only game Jose saw live that year. Jose even came out of retirement for a few precious days in 2013. In 2018, the juggernaut Red Sox had no need for Jose’s particular brand of juju. And he stayed quiet.

But still, things changed. Jose left Boston in 2007 and has not lived there since. Jose has been willing to leave the country for years—including in October—no longer afraid of missing the greatest moment in Boston’s history. And it’s not just the Red Sox. All Jose’s teams have known triumph, glory that shields the soul from what once have been the most crushing of defeats. The love of sports continued, but the existential dread, the fear of never knowing what winning was like, was banished forever.

2. Enter the Washington Nationals.

Jose arrived in the District of Columbia in September 2010. Lastings Thrilledge was gone, but the spirit of Natstown remained very much an ethos of cheery defeat. Go to the ballpark and buy tickets at the gate, drink a few too many beers, eat a few too many hot dogs, and maybe Adam Dunn would hit a walk off home run. More likely, Adam Dunn would strike out five times. It was easy to support the Nats. They were bad—always—and the consequences of any given game were nothing.

This began to change the following year as the Nats drafted Steven Strasburg, who performed at such a high level to start his career that one observer characterized his feats as “Melendezian.” It changed in earnest the year after that as Bryce Harper—the phenom—arrived. The Nats won the division. The Nats made the playoffs. Teddy won a Presidents race.

And then came game 5. The Nats imploded as Davey Johnson—of all people—failed to see that Drew Storen had Calvin Schiraldi’s look in his eyes.

Jose was dating a Nats fan by then, a DMV native, but he was loath to describe himself as a Nats fan. He liked the Nats, sure, he’d root for them against anyone but the Red Sox, but a fan? The Nats loss left Jose disappointed, not utterly shattered. He would think about the game every day for a day. In 2003 and into 2004, he thought about a certain game every day or six months and despaired. Indeed, to the horror of his now mother-in-law, Jose, while quarreling in the stands with an obnoxious Phillies fan (note: redundant) described himself as “not a Nats fan.” She gracefully agreed to let Jose marry her daughter for the handsome price of six cows anyway. (Note: Jose also had to pay six cows to his de facto Tanzanian mother-in-law.) At the wedding the new Ms. Melendez threw out a ceremonial first pitch of the marriage, a strike. (Note: There was never any doubt that Ms. Melendez would pitch and Jose would catch—Jose knows what you’re thinking and stop being gross—because Jose has the yips. If Jose had thrown out the first pitch there’s a real chance a wedding guest would have gotten a concussion. The wedding guest who broke her ankle and the one who grabbed an electric fence were quite enough thank you.)

But over the years as Jose attended more and more Nats games, as post-season despair mounted on post-season despair, Natstown began to feel like… not home, exactly… but perhaps something like a summer cottage. Jose was happy to be there every summer, and sad to say goodbye. Jose still only cared about the Nats about one ten-thousandth as much as he cared about the Red Sox. And he wasn’t about to start arguing having pitchers bat is a good thing or that Ted Williams should have gone into the Hall of Fame in a Senators cap, but Jose cheered, Jose stressed, and, just a little bit, Jose suffered.

Jose was a Nats fan.

3. And then in the summer of 2018 Ms. Melendez deliver a healthy baby girl named for the late Granny Melendez—Davida Ortizilla Melendez. The day she was born the Red Sox won behind a 12 K effort by a returning Chris Sale. The Nats lost on a walk off grand slam. Just hours old and already the truths of baseball revealed. It is joy and suffering, hope and fear, miracles and bad miracles. The little girl got a Melendez #19 onesie, but she also got a Harper jersey. She got a Mookie Betts Onesie, but she also got a too big baby Nats cap. She got milk—or worse—on all of them.

Jose told his mother-in-law, a good Christian, an organist even, that he was fine with his daughter being baptized… pausing a beat before adding, to her quasi-horror at a quasi-joke, that the tradeoff was that she’d be raised as a Red Sox fan.

“Just kidding,” Jose eventually noted.

The baby would be raised in a blended family, and when she’s old enough she can make her own choices about her religion… err… fandom.

Baby girl Melendez probably saw about two games a day for much of her first six weeks as the Sox and Nats played out the stretch. The Sox won the Series that year, the Nats didn’t make the playoffs. Ms. Melendez supported her husband in earnest, thoughtfully smearing the baby with eyeliner to simulate a playoff beard. (Note: This was to Jose’s mother’s not-at-all-quasi-horror.)

Jose’ missed Andrew Benintendi (note: known as Dahomeytendi in the pre-colonial era) making an epic catch, as he attended to a baby wailing at the predicament the Sox had put themselves in—or perhaps at being wet/hungry/tired. And Baby Girl Melendez was awake and alert when the Sox put away the Dodgers in game 5 to win the Series. In just three months on the could earth, she had seen what Jose had waited decades to enjoy—the Red Sox as champions of the world. No, this little girl would not learn the virtues of patience, persistence and a Calvinist love of suffering from the Red Sox as her father had. That would have to come from the Nationals.

In her first year as a baseball fan, Baby Girl Melendez did something Jose had never done—she went to Spring Training. Ms. Melendez invited Jose to come down to Florida with her, her mother, and her sister for Nats Spring Training.

“Are you taking the baby?” asked Jose.

“Yes,” she replied.

“Then no,” answered a weary Jose.

So much for fandom.

There, Baby Girl Melendez was photographed with numerous Nats players as the women of her family used her as a wedge to get photo ops. Trevor Rosenthal, perhaps the most baby-friendly of the bunch, never recovered. Rosenthal, a veteran father, may have more children than he outs recorded in a Nats uniform.

Manager Davy Martinez was luckier. He took adorable pictures with Baby Girl Melendez and it only jinxed him for the first two months of the season.

And here we are in the crisp of late October. (Note: Or in the 109-degree swelter of October where Jose is in Botswana.) Jose’s little girl has seen the Nats reach new heights. They came back against Haider. They came back against Kershaw. They crushed the Cardinals, and they got a quick lead on the mighty Astros before a dreadful three game swoon at home. On Tuesday night or perhaps on Wednesday as her father flies across oceans and continents, this baby girl will learn a lesson about the world. She will learn the joyous lesson that life is full of goodness and sweetness. That dreams do come true. That the good guys win. That people do, at long last, get what they deserve. Or she will learn that loss is part of life. That you can’t always get what you want. That sometimes bad things happen to good people. These are important lessons, all of them, and ones that, we all need to learn.

But Jose hopes the lessons in disappointment come later.
It’s too soon for his little girl to know anything but sweetness and light. Besides, she’s one. It’s not like she’s going to remember anyway.

GO NATS!

I’m Jose Melendez, and those are my KEYS TO THE NATIONALS.
 

loshjott

Member
SoSH Member
Dec 30, 2004
9,038
Silver Spring, MD
I am weeping.

If I could write, I'd talk about how your fandom story is similar to mine, albeit it happened earlier. My kids are older and very sentient about their Nats fanaticism. 3 boys who played/still play youth and HS baseball in Mont Co, and who are growing up Nats fans.

Win it for them. Though in truth 15 years is really not that long.... Hell, Caps fans waited more than twice that long.
 

jose melendez

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Oct 23, 2003
22,212
Washington DC
Of course, if you go back to the last time D won a series, it's 94 years, If you just count years where baseball was played in DC, it's 61.

If for some idiotic reason, you count the Orioles, it's only 36. If you count the Greys, it's 71
 

Bergs

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Jul 22, 2005
13,615
Man, I really do miss your writing.
 

Oil Can Dan

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Jul 31, 2003
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0-3 to 4-3
It's great to read some new KEYS! For me they are forever intertwined with the magical run in 2004. Thank you and congrats on Baby Melendez!
 

Sausage in Section 17

Poker Champ
SoSH Member
Mar 17, 2004
1,045
But Jose hopes the lessons in disappointment come later.
It’s too soon for his little girl to know anything but sweetness and light. Besides, she’s one. It’s not like she’s going to remember anyway.
Since you seem intent on sheltering your daughter from the harsh realities of the world, what do you consider the appropriate age to tell her about the Story of the Expos?
 

Dewey'sCannon

Member
SoSH Member
Jul 18, 2005
689
Maryland
God, how I have missed Keys to the Game!

I may have to have this one transcribed into calligraphy and framed and posted in my baseball room. As someone who started working in DC in the 80's and started going to Nats games when they moved here in 2005, your story mirrors my own courtship as a Nats fan (which of course still pales in comparison to the Sox). And I've been present for most of the home elimination game defeats, starting with the epic fail of 2012 (which was a real gut punch, following my attendance, with my two young daughters, at the final game at Camden Yards in 2011 where the Sox blew the lead to the O's while the Rays were mounting a comeback on the Yankees, to knock the Sox out of the playoffs).

Well done, sir!
 

PLagosi

Member
SoSH Member
Jan 10, 2006
21
Thank you ever so much for the Keys, Mr Jose.

As a devout reader of your 2004 tome, it was almost illumining
to observe the day-to-day relevance of Sox mojo, the complete relief of
juvenile tension and angst, the unmatched joy of discovery you unleashed
with our Sox Nation fever. You have my sympathy for your African family
as it discovers life-and-death sports addiction, albeit your daughter's small sample size.

You will fly, Africa! Good Luck Nats

Plagosi
 

jose melendez

Earl of Acie
Lifetime Member
SoSH Member
Oct 23, 2003
22,212
Washington DC
It’s time for Jose Melendez’s KEYS TO GAME 7 .

1. Jose has spent most of his adult love preparing for this moment. He didn’t even consider getting married in October. February was a time for doubling up on birth control. And the idea that Jose would commit to an evening professional or personal obligation that he could not somehow dismiss claiming the Pedro Martinez flu would have been absurd.

Any yet here we are.


For the duration of tonight’s Game 7 between the Washington Nationals--who, as we have established, Jose is a fan of--and the Houston Astros, Jose will be either over the Afircan continent or the green Atlantic. Indeed, it is likely that as the first pitch is thrown, Jose will be on the airport tarmac for refueling in Accra, Ghana. (Note: Jose has only been to the airport in Ghana, but it still counts as one of the 69 countries--yes Gronkowski--that Jose has visited. And for those among you who think airports do not count, Jose thinks it’s pathetic and a little mean that you are trying to take the United Arab Emirates away from Baby Girl Melendez’s total of seven.)


This was not always going to be an issue. Jose was originally planning on flying back on October 31, but decided he should go back a day earlier so he could spend Halloween with his little girl. So blinded by love and commitment was Jose, that he did not even check to see if the World Series schedule was out in August when he booked the flight.


This is simply poor preparation, failing to develop, much less execute, a plan, and let’s be honest--choking on baseball’s biggest stage. In other words, Jose knows exactly what it is like to be Zack Greinke.

2. As Game 6 approached its final out at around 5 :30 a.m Botswana time, and Jose slurped down the last of the rooibos tea he was using to relax in the absence of whiskey--or even Malawi gin--just as Mma Ramotswe would want, a poster on the Sons of Sam Horn Red Sox site, that place where Jose emerged from the primordial ooze way back in the mesozoic period, or possibly 2004, posted “Strasburg and Rendon and @jose melendez all making big money for themselves tonight, every fan base will be bidding on Jose this winter. “

When Jose called his wife after the final out to celebrate the curly W, he told her about this statement, figuring she’d be at least a little amused and probably more than a little excited about the pending riches various Major League clubs would be offering us.


“What did you do?” she responded somewhere between confused and disgusted.


And they keep trying to tell us that Washington’s a baseball town.

3. The talk of Game 6 was, of course, the interference call on Trea Turner at first base and Nats manager Davey Martinez’s between innings fit and subsequent ejection. The filled with anger at the call, adrenaline from the game,and empathy for the Nats, all Jose could think was, “Why did Jose’s wife let that crazy man yelling on TV hold our baby.”

I’m Jose Melendez, and those are my KEYS TO GAME
 

Van Everyman

Member
SoSH Member
Apr 30, 2009
18,789
Newton
Nats are down 3-2, Jose writes his first Keys in like a decade. Nats win, even series. Writes second Keys, they win it all.

Jose Siempre!
 

donutogre

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SoSH Member
Jul 20, 2005
2,001
Philadelphia
Congrats Nats, congrats Jose -- keys mojo is apparently unstoppable. Let's keep this in mind the next time the Red Sox could use a lift, yeah? :)