The Oakland Athletics have never been truly happier, whether they were the young and very impressionable ones who just emerged to begin their careers, or the veterans who have known the force of the games backhand. They had made history, and their euphoria would last forever.
Then Pat Neshek, one of their own, tweeted the ghastly news that the boy, Gehrig, he and his wife Stephanee had brought into the world only the night before had died suddenly and without explanation. And suddenly even historic achievements became insignificant, almost as if they had never happened at all.
REWIND: A's Neshek loses newborn baby boy
Neshek had flown back to Florida be with Stephanee, and had tweeted the good news Wednesday morning, the day before the As biggest day in 23 years. Life was good, life was exciting, and after the As crushed the Texas Rangers, 12-5, life was as good as it could ever be.
And then it stopped.
There is no better way to explain it, not until the Neshek feel up to talking about it. An infants death is universally horrible, but for anyone who hasnt experienced it to try to explain it is the zenith of presumption and arrogance. It is life at its most cruel and capricious.
And the As, stuck with the same feelings of shock and horror because, though Neshek is the second oldest player on the roster at age 32 and only came to the As at midseason, he is one of them based on shared space and experiences. Gehrig was the couples first child, and many of the younger married As are in roughly the same place in their family time line.
In sum, this was a collective punch in the stomach -- one that devastated the Nesheks, and one that all his teammates and coaches and manager and front office people felt.
And it stopped the party cold. One of theirs was in unimaginable pain, a pain that the wives and girlfriends felt just as strongly as the men. The As as an extended family took the secondary blow, and now the effervescence of the day cannot be regained. It is, in the most horrible way, time for them to get back to work.
The As have made no announcements about what they plan to do about Nesheks spot, nor do they have to. They will leave it to the family to decide if and when he should return, be it the division series against Detroit, or later, if there is a later. This isnt the sporting world of 30 years ago, where family does not intrude. The teams needs come second, unless the player chooses to put them first.
Neshek has pitched in postseasons before, in 2006 for Minnesota against the As, but his climb back to the majors has been derailed by injuries and releases. This was going to be his dream season, too. Now, it is his annus horribilis, in which he can never think of his first year in Oakland without thinking of his son.
And for the moment, neither can his mates. They can deal with lots of hard turns in life, because baseball is a daily experience where life often intrudes. But an infants death hits home, and Gehrigs passing, coming when it did, hits them all.
The As fly to Detroit today, and work out tomorrow before Saturdays first game of the division series against the Tigers. They will field all the questions about the magnificence of Wednesday, and of the past three months, and they will give stock answers that will satisfy everyone a little bit.
But the larger truth is this: They arent as euphoric as they were, and they wont be again. The day they beat the odds and became Americas new instant darlings is also the day that one of theirs lost their day-old child. His empty locker will bear testament to it every day, a reminder that every moment is just that -- a moment. The best and worst times collide every now and then, but time never stops. Pat and Stephanee Neshek just learned that the hardest way imaginable, and the emanations struck their friends across the country with a force that will linger through the October of their dreams.
Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com