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An Ode to the Catcher

OJo, SydStew, and Ruby reminded us why, in this house, we love and support the battery.

Photo by Sage Zipeto, UW Daily

Last week to reflect on Washington’s absurd regionals comeback over McNeese, I wrote this outline-less, um... “beauty” isn’t quite the word... "technically literate article” might be more apt...

But, just like last week, this week to celebrate Washington advancing to the Women’s College World Series for the first time since 2019, I’m writing another outline-less pile of... well, something.

That’s right, we’re word vomiting baby, without even a hint of outline or organized thoughts to make this piece make sense, just a phrase floating around in the primordial ooze of my prefrontal cortex*. And that phrase is:

*hack coughs to clear throat*

“Emotional support catcher.”

Because the moment that has already defined this weekend was Ruby Meylan’s final out.

For all the appreciation of her strikeout, beat, and cavalcade of tears as every emotion in the known universe went from 0-60 in .5 seconds (note to self: Google “cavalcade”), I feel like we all need to give Sydney Stewart and OJo their moment here too.

Don’t get me wrong, I have forced every single one of my friends to watch that scene at least 13 times. Just due to the circumstances of my life, most of these forced viewings have been to Canadians who have zero familiarity with what’s going on**, or indeed what a changeup is. And yet every single one of them had some form of the same reaction: “Oh lil’ bb!” Or, in one case, “I love women. We’re the freaking best.”

Basically, everyone agrees that A) that was awesome, B) she is awesome, and C) emotions are a wild ride, and what better way to ride that ride than being mobbed by your buds.

But the more times I watch that moment, the more my focus is pulled from Ruby’s initial emotional release to SydStew and especially OJo’s responses.

“I got you.”

*David Attenborough voice* the emotional support OJo in its natural habitat.
I mean come on how do you see this and not feel feelings?

Generally even from the outside we extremely recognize obvious partnerships: Figure skaters, relay teams, quarterbacks and receivers... Your parents (well, maybe not, I don’t know your home life). Meg and Tom. Ilana and Abby. Amy and Tina. Bill and Ted. Paul and John. Mick and Keith. That bonded pair of cats you adopted where one of them is a little neurotic and the other has like four brain cells. We see ‘em.

In the world of sports duos — or indeed, any duos — there are very few that are so completely, vulnerably intertwined with each other and yet whose relationship is so overlooked as the bonded pair pitcher and catcher.

Yesterday my roommate and I were taking her dog for a walk (sidenote: If the person in West Seattle with the cool UW flag with the old logo out front sees this, we really like that flag***) and she asked me if a pitcher would ever be like “Up yours I’m gonna throw what I want and not tell you!” My response, of course, was “I mean... I guess they could? But those two kiiiinda need to be on the same page lest it turns into, as baseball statisticians call it, ‘a complete clusterfuck.’”

There’s no two-person team like the battery.

And no one has their more famous half’s back so unconditionally with such little recognition to show for it as the catcher.

I mean, come on:

It’s not the shortstop who they share the moment with after a strikeout, or right field who comes to the circle when things are dicey for support, guidance, and gameplanning. And I love a good shortstop and right fielder. But damn right it’s the catcher. Who else could’ve been first to their pitcher and last one to let go but SydStew and OJo?

I’ve tried to articulate to myself why that interaction is a George Foreman right hook (or even grill clamp, works both ways) to the feelings and I think it comes down to the fact that in that moment, we all wanted to be there for Ruby. In the words of extremely successful restarateur Linda Belcher, that’s our girl, that’s our star!

Is it just because I’ve entered the part of life where I’m officially Old™ relative to this team for the first time ever and that’s making me maternally protective n’ crap? I mean, yeah, that’s probably part of it. (Also, I just realized how odd it feels to write that out when you all have been reading my garbage since I was, like, a year older than she is now.)

But there is a fundamental part of all of our lizard brains that wants to #love and #support the members of our tribe — especially people like her, who are so young, and so kickass, and due to their own ass-kicking-ness and nature of their job are in a massively vulnerable position, under a big ol’ flippin’ giant spotlight with a big ol’ giant amount of pressure.

All this to say, I guess, that everybody’s needed an OJo in their life before. Or needed to be the OJo.

God bless the emotional support catcher.

Do good things, don’t do bad things, and bow down to Washington.

*This was going to be a joke here about how the prefrontal cortex actually isn’t the part of the brain that’s responsible for thinking things like “emotional support catcher,” but then I looked it up and apparently it is actually a rather relevant part of the brain for that, so...

**Not just with this series or Washington Softball, but like, in general.

***Uh oh, did I just dox myself? Whoops.