I’ve put off writing this post — my first on the TortureCast blog — for about five days now.
Five days is a long time to try and sort out thoughts about something like this, and I’m not sure I’m any closer now than when I started. But it wouldn’t be much of a blog post if I didn’t try, so, let me start at the beginning:
Last Saturday, the San Francisco Yacht Club tragically lost five sailors to an accident, the worst accident in the history of a club that has existed since 1896. One freak wave, then another, hit the “Low Speed Chase”, sweeping nearly all of the crew overboard near the Farallon Islands, and while some survived and were recovered, others were not so lucky.
One of those unlucky ones was Alexis Busch, a former Giants bat girl from the days of Candlestick Park — the first bat girl in all of Major League Baseball. Daughter of former Giants executive VP Corey Busch, Alexis grew up around the game as a part of the Giants organization, or as Larry Baer put it, the Giants family.
I had already had tickets to the game on Monday, and didn’t learn they would have a memorial — or who it would be for — until that afternoon. Once I found out, I left work early, and what had originally been a resignation to missing the first inning or two became a desperate race to get to the stadium on time. I couldn’t miss it, no matter what, and suddenly, that game — that instant — had taken on a new meaning to me that transcended far past baseball.
You see, in perhaps a very roundabout way, the TortureCast might not be here if it wasn’t for Alex.
I first met Alex in 2006, working in the theater at San Francisco State University. Alex was the ultimate irrepressible spirit, a tomboy with energy to spare and a humongous smile when she really got going. Find a topic she was interested in and she’d hit the ground running, and being in a theater department, it’s safe to say we spent a lot of time on interesting topics.
It was a semester later that we took a lighting design class together, neither of us really being solidly lighting-inclined — lighting design was my emphasis, but I’d never worked with it on a professional level before, and Alex was more into stage management. Somehow, though, we’d always end up next to each other in class, and every other day it seemed I was nudging her to calm down and pay attention and she was kicking me to make sure I didn’t pass out on my drafting table after another long night in the theater. I never quite got where all of her energy came from, but you can bet I appreciated every bit of it.
See, it was right around 2006 that I got back into baseball. I don’t remember how it started — after years of loosely following a game I vaguely understood when my mother would happen to have the radio on — but sometime around late ’06, I started in again. Maybe it was Bonds’ home run chase. Maybe it was the timing, having met other fans working with SFSU’s Orientation team over the summer. Maybe it was just something inevitable, as a love for baseball that had percolated in my head for years finally re-emerged right when I had never expected it, but when baseball and I fell back in love, we fell hard, and Alex played a huge part in that.
Alex and I would talk baseball whenever we weren’t talking theater, and that was whenever we weren’t working in class. That’s a gross oversimplification, but I remember that out of all of my friends at the time, Alex had the clearest grasp on baseball, a game I was still sometimes struggling to figure out. Whether it was talking about playing, or about her experiences as a bat girl — something I still wish I’d asked her more about, now that I really can appreciate it — or working on an increasingly ambitious low-budget, high-talent musical called Floyd Collins, for which Alex was the hard-working and hard-pressed stage manager, it was impossible not to be astounded and inspired by Alex’s energy and sheer perseverance through the most stressful situations.
It seemed like the most natural thing when she went to umpire camp, something else I wish I’d quizzed her more on. I’d been back into baseball for a year or two by now, paying attention when I could, listening to more games than I missed, when I learned Alex had spent time training to be an umpire. For some reason I’d never considered the possibility before; maybe I thought umpires magically grew out of former players and tree leaves, I don’t know. But Alex really made me think about what it meant to “have a career in baseball”. I knew that was what she wanted to do, and I knew she spent some time working with and for the Giants when she wasn’t stage managing around the end of her college career. But it had never occurred to me to be more than just a consumer of baseball, but to really learn it, become involved, learn to talk about it — if not as an umpire, then at least in an educated manner.
I would have to guess that, even subconsciously, the TortureCast came out of some of that desire to make something more out of my relationship with baseball, and while Alex and I looked at the game in slightly different ways, if it wasn’t for her example maybe the podcast never would have happened, or become what it is — two statheads and a charismatic lug trying to provide the most in-depth and entertaining analysis we can on the game and team that we love.
The Daily Mail somehow found a photo of her in a dress, presumably from a wedding. I’ll be the first to admit Alex and I didn’t stay that close as we got older, but I’ll be darned if a dress is ever the first thing that comes to mind when I think of Alex Busch.
When I got to the park early that Monday, I stood quietly near the arcade, cap removed, as the names of the five sailors lost in the crash of the “Low Speed Chase” were displayed, prominently, simply, and respectfully, on the scoreboard. All around me, on the walkway, the crowd continued to buzz, buying snacks, chatting with friends, and paying little attention to the memorial as they prepared for what would be an exciting game against the Philadelphia Phillies, and for just an instant, I was annoyed that none of them seemed to understand what it was they as a Giants community, a theater community, a San Francisco community had just lost.
But then I remembered the girl that would sit next to me in lighting design class, in her tie-dyed shirts and backwards Giants caps, the one that could never sit still and found the funny side of the most serious situations, and I remembered how she never liked to get stuck thinking about just one thing for too long.
And I think, somehow, that she understands.
(EDIT 4/22: We took design in 2006, not ’07.)