Jesse Winker remembers the difficult nights of April, May and June, the nights where something was usually wrong instead of right for the Pensacola Blue Wahoos.
He also remembers his personal struggles when, too often, the balls he hit found the glove of a fielder rather than the green grass of the outfield.
Baseball is a challenging game. It can consume you with frustration if you allow it, especially when the expectations are as high as they are for Winker, one of the top prospects in the Cincinnati Reds organization.
Late Sunday, however, on a humid September night, the frustration of a miserable first half of the Southern League season was nowhere to be found.
Instead, Winker and his teammates were engulfed in a celebration, spraying champagne into the air and jumping around on the field as they savored the thrill of clinching the first postseason berth in franchise history.
An hour earlier, the Blue Wahoos bashed the Mobile BayBears 15-2 in front of a frenzied crowd of 4,949, moving within a game of the South Division crown. The second-place Mississippi Braves lost 7-3 later that night to Jacksonville, making the playoff dream a reality for Pensacola.
“It’s special,” Winker said. “It’s all about winning. Everyone is locked in and on board. It’s really fun. Hopefully we can keep it rolling.”
Read the full story in the Sept. 10 edition of Navarre Press or subscribe online here.