During my first year in the major leagues, I was twice sent back down to the minors. This is common for rookies, especially if their competition for a roster spot is doing well—and I was playing behind Darwin Barney, who was chasing the record for the most consecutive games at second base without an error. (He tied the mark, and won a Gold Glove that year.) A team can only keep twenty-five players on the active roster. But these demotions only fuelled my determination to succeed, and on July 31, 2012, in my first game back in the majors, I was asked to pinch hit against the Pirates’ A. J. Burnett, who had pitched seven and two thirds innings without giving up a hit.
At the time, I didn’t know that the Cubs hadn’t given up a no-hitter since Sandy Koufax pitched a perfect game against them on September 9, 1965. I didn’t know that this was the very same year that Koufax refused to pitch the first game of the World Series because it fell on Yom Kippur. I didn’t even know that the Dodgers had originally played in Brooklyn. But there I was, forty-seven years later, standing at the plate with two outs in the bottom of the eighth, trying to preserve a streak I knew nothing about.
In moments like these, it’s true that a batter doesn’t really hear or feel anything. You master the ability to lose yourself in the game, because that’s what you need to do—to not be conscious of being conscious. I needed to go back and watch the video clip from that night at Wrigley Field to learn that I watched the first five pitches go by without swinging. The sixth one was a fastball that I lined over the second baseman into right field. I didn’t need a video clip to remember the sound of forty-five thousand fans up on their feet clapping and screaming, vocalizing the excitement that I had to repress as I ran up the first-base line; I had to act like I’d done it before
[Photo Credit: AP]