Robinson Chirinos had his best season in 2017, on all kinds of levels. He got better.
Delino DeShields buried his 2016 downturn and was really, really good in 2017. He got better.
Jose Trevino went from High A to AA and won a second straight Minor League Gold Glove behind the plate and earned a spot on the Rangers’ 40. He got closer to the big leagues, and he got better.
Brady Feigl’s elbow spent all but two-thirds of an inning in 2015 and six innings in 2016 on rehab, and he pitched healthy for all of 2017, punching out a batter per inning for his new organization between Down East and Frisco, walking a fourth as many. He got better, too.
Reed Garrett was putting 98’s up on the radar gun, something he’d never done, and also fanned a batter per inning, another thing he’d never done. Reed got better in 2017.
Levi Weaver always gets better. 2017 was a year in which his platform really got better.
It all pales, of course, in comparison to Devin Pike getting better. That’s the one that matters most.
I got better in 2017, too — not as a writer or on any baseball scale, but in ways that I needed to on a personal level — and that wasn’t part of what we were gathering to celebrate, those seven guys above and the couple hundred of you who joined us at Bedford Ice House for the book release party on Wednesday night, but I felt it for those couple hours, as we gathered hundreds of toys for underprivileged kids whose next few days might turn out a little better because of it, and as a steady stream of your kids strutted through the autograph line meeting some of their baseball heroes and gaining some new ones.
If you hung around for the Q&A that Devin and Ben Rogers moderated after autographs had wrapped up, you know how clear it was that Robinson and Delino and Jose and Brady and Reed were once those wide-eyed, baseball-hungry, adrenalized, dream-big kids themselves, not all that long ago, and that part still lives in each of them.
I’m, unapologetically, that glass-four-fifths-full guy, as you know, but as big a fan as I was of those five guys, two of whom I’d been around a bit but the other three of whom I had nothing more than backfields (and a little Frisco) experience watching, the launch angle on my estimation of them as human beings jumped in a big way Wednesday night. I’m far from alone on that, I know.
Thanks, you guys, for making this what’s getting close to a 20-year journey for me.
It keeps getting better.
Nights like Wednesday give me confidence that we could see the arrow keep pointing up in 2018 — hopefully even between the lines — and while I know it’s trendy to say things like “Next year can’t get here fast enough,” I’m looking forward to 2018, not necessarily in the sense of putting anything behind us, but instead feeding a little optimism that things that got better this year are just getting started.