These were 10 moments from April, 2017 that reminded us why baseball is the greatest
As April ends, we can finally stop saying things like "small sample size," "it's early" and "Oh my god, it's so cold, I thought it was supposed to be spring!"
Before we dive headfirst into those May flowers, let's look back at the 10 best and most fun moments from baseball's first month.
10. Opening Day
Yes, it's already been a month since the glory of baseball's greatest holiday. Fortunately, baseball's brightest day proved to be as majestic as possible. Like snow on Christmas or jack-o-lanterns on Halloween,
9. Bryce Harper is back and he's better than ever
After winning the NL MVP Award in 2015, Harper struggled with injuries and Space Jam-disease (that's when you stop being the best player in the world all of a sudden). Would Harper continue playing as an above-average regular or would 2017 mark his return to the land of legends?
I think we have our answer. As of April 30, Harper leads the league in on-base percentage, hits, RBIs and runs. He also smashed nine home runs, with each of them straining how far we think a ball can be hit. Welcome back, Bryce.
8. The Pirates are a veritable United Nations
Relievers getting the call to the Majors is nothing new. The transaction reports are filled with these men shuttling back and forth between leagues like it was their daily commute. But on April 24, the Pirates called up
Two days later, the Pirates called up infielder
If you need any proof of the long, strange journey that it takes for a Major League career to emerge, Ngoepe originally signed with the Pirates in 2009. That's a long time to work for that base hit.
The warning track is in place to alert players that the wall is near. "Feel that crunch under your feet?" it seems to ask, "Perhaps you should think twice before going for this baseball."
Because of their confidence, or perhaps because of a quasi-instinctual need to catch baseballs, players rarely heed that warning. Yelich certainly did not when racing to snare
It even created this wonderful Wile E. Coyote-style picture. Somehow, he not only caught the ball, but was OK, too. He probably doesn't even shout when he stubs his toe:
6. Kendall Graveman will do it all on his own
Pitchers generally aren't known for their athleticism: Throw the ball and then get out of the way is usually their job. After all, when a ball is popped up on the infield, the pitcher is basically just a human obstacle for the infielders that are trying to make the grab.
Graveman showed off his moves, though. In a month that saw the starter post a 2.25 ERA with the A's, the hurler pulled off the very rare pitcher's unassisted double play.
After fielding Juan Graterol's grounder, Graveman got the speedy Ben Revere in a rundown. Graveman then hurdled Revere and dove to tag the sliding Cliff Pennington. Hopefully while shouting, "Ask for me tomorrow and you'll find me a Graveman!" It would be a good catchphrase.
Even better: Graveman did it with Blue Moon Odom in attendance. He was the last A's player to pull it off, all the way back in 1971.
5. The Cubs get their first rings in four generations
Four generations of Cubs fans were born into rabid fandom and, when Spring came again, had no championship to celebrate. So, when the Cubs received their gorgeous and glitzy rings on April 12, it wasn't just a celebration to mark the champions of the 2017 season. It was also a moment for the hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of Cubs fans over the years to celebrate, too.
4. Ichiro's home run at Safeco
It has long been a rumor that Ichiro could have crushed hundreds of home runs if he wanted to sacrifice his batting average. We all laughed. Surely no player could simply choose to hit home runs when they want.
We seemed safe in that assessment when Ichiro merely tripled for his 3,000th hit -- after all, if he really wanted to homer, wouldn't he have hit the ball a little higher? "Ha ha," we laughed. "What a silly idea! A man who can homer on command."
Facing the Mariners, in the stadium he called home for 12 years, he hit that home run.
It was his first of the year. And it was also on his dual Mariners/Marlins bobblehead day.
And we are not laughing anymore.
3. The most lovable of cats
Throughout history, cats have been associated with magic. And there is certainly no cat more magical than the one that entered the field of play when the Marlins took on the Braves. He ran about the field, climbed the fence and wound up in the home run sculpture.
Which makes sense: Cats eat fish. The home run sculpture features dancing fish. Why wouldn't a cat want to hang out there?
Not only was it adorable, but the cat that fans voted to name "Don Cattingly" even managed to get Pedro Martinez to paw while on camera. And that's worth more than almost anything in the world:
The story ends on a happy note, too: The cat was given a home by a Marlins employee.
2. Chris Coghlan gave us the highlight of the year
It played out like a choose your own adventure novel: The catcher has the ball. Do you: Give up? You're out. Slide? Also out. Throw the book out the window and do something totally bonkers? That's the decision Coghlan chose.
With Yadier Molina holding the ball at home plate, the Blue Jays' Coghlan decided to go full Willie Mays Hayes and vault the catcher.
Usually when players study film, it means they're watching a specific pitcher or looking for a hitch in their swing. This time, it must have been "Major League 2."
Unfortunately for Molina, Coghlan did not stick to him like this baseball did:
1. Eric Thames can only hit home runs
Dingers were big this month. Ryan Zimmerman's changed swing helped him launch 11 dingers. Yankees rookie and large adult son Aaron Judge smashed 10 and made the concerns over his penchant to whiff look unfounded.
But no one made an impact quite like Thames.
After struggling in the Majors, Thames went to Korea. He proceeded to crush the ball. His yearly home run total: 37, 47, 40. That's good.
The Brewers signed him in the offseason, and he was the great unknown. After all, he showed power, but an inability to make consistent contact against Major League pitchers in his first few tastes of the bigs. Would his numbers prove to be a mirage from feasting on weaker KBO pitchers? Or did the non-stop breaking balls teach him something?
I think we have our answer. Thames has feasted on every variety of pitch en route to a Brewers-record 11 home runs in the month that -- tying him for the Major League lead.
It doesn't matter if the pitch is in or out, hard or soft -- if Thames likes it, he's going to crush it.
And woe be unto the Reds pitchers, who surrendered eight of the shots.
Can Thames keep up his dinger pace? Can Coghlan create any more cinematic beauty? Will we have a new baseball cat to fall in love with? The answer to all of those is ... definitely maybe. Because there is baseball every day, which means every day something amazingly fun is going to happen.