“Is he going to do it?”
“Is today going to be the day?”
“Will they let him win today?”
These questions and many others greeted me almost as soon as I walked through the turnstiles at Chase Field for the final home game of the 2010 season. Fans everywhere were curious whether today would finally be the day that Mark Grace would win a Legends race.
It’s funny, my stomach was filled with butterflies and I was nervous. I have no idea why. It wasn’t like I was running the race. Still, for the past three months I have lived vicariously through the Mark Grace Legend cheering wildly encouraging him to win and sitting dejectedly with each tough loss.
I couldn’t help but wonder, what if he does win? What then?
In the pre-game warm-ups the Legends were on the playing surface like every other game. This one seemed different. Maybe it was the fact that this was the final race of the season or maybe today was going to be unlike any other race.
The fans greeted the Legends on the main concourse cheering wildly and mobbing Matt Williams, Luis Gonzalez, Randy Johnson, and Grace. There were signs of encouragement all around the stadium wishing the racers the best, especially Grace.
Starting in the top of the fifth inning the crowd began peering out to the Dodgers bullpen looking for the Legends to emerge and begin their pre-race warm-ups. Fans were also looking up into the television booth to see if the real Mark Grace was there.
Everyone assumed that Legend Grace would never win on a day where the real Grace was not in attendance. That would just be too painful. There was Grace in the Fox Sports Arizona booth. His appearance brought excited murmurs from the eager crowd.
When the final out was recorded in the fifth inning the crowd rose in excitement as the public address announcer signaled it was time for the Legends races to begin. As the bell sounded Johnson, Gonzalez, and Williams emerged and began running towards home plate.
Wait let’s count again… One, two, three… Where’s Grace? The camera moved to the television booth where a confused Mark Grace stood wondering where his racing Legend was. My mind immediately went back to the bathroom incident. Surely Grace would not miss the last game of the season because of a potty break.
At that moment a cheer arose from the stadium. From the bullpen appeared Legend Grace. And he was driving D. Baxter’s Jeep! Grace had his pedal to the metal. A rooster tail of dirt was flying from under the tires as he sped towards home plate.
He reached the other racers at the on-deck circle and zoomed around the plate crossing the finish line. Mark Grace had won! It was pandemonium in the stands. Old women were weeping and religious zealots were proclaiming this was a sign of the apocalypse.
I stood there in utter disbelief. I was so stunned. Everything around me seemed to stop in time.
Sitting in front of me was a family. The little girl was jumping up and down (a result of Grace’s win and a full bag of cotton candy). She turned around and said to me, “HE DOESN’T HAVE A ZERO ANY MORE!”
On the one hand I was thrilled. It was the culmination of three months of work and finally it had come to an end. I sat back down and tried to reply the race in my head. I wanted to pinch myself to decide if I was just dreaming.
A quick glance at the National League West standings proved I was not dreaming, I’d never dream of the Diamondbacks being in last place by 24 games.
I took out my cell phone and began to text everyone I knew to tell them that Mark Grace had won a Legends race. I was sure no one was ever going to believe this. As I started to type an announcement came on dbTV.
A press conference was being held in the interview room of Chase Field. Officials were talking about the most recent race. According to the Legends Race governing body there was a problem with the results.
According to Article 5 Section 3 Paragraph 2 of the Legends Race By-laws the use of motorized vehicles or animals are not allowed. The result was that Grace would be disqualified for cheating. The win would be credited to Gonzalez who had finished second.
I sat there stunned. The joy I had felt was quickly replaced with pain and despair. The little girl sitting in front of me was likewise confused. Her brother explained that Grace cheated and therefore didn’t win.
Her lip began quivering and tears began falling down her cheeks. She was upset and crying. No matter what her family said to her she continued to cry. Finally dad went and got her a Cold Stone Creamery ice cream, which calmed her down.
I’m afraid there is not enough ice cream in this state that is going to help me get over this race. For a brief moment we felt what the world would be like when Grace won a Legends race. There were visions of world peace, free health care, and all the ice cream you could eat then suddenly it was all gone. Now we have a whole off-season to replay that in our minds. It’s going to be a long off-season