It was a dream five years in the making. Ever since losing to the Mets in the S4 NLCS, San Jose GM marsrover has strived to make it over the hump and into the World Series. "It feels like it took so long," he said. "After the back-to-back losses in Ss 4&5 to the Mets in the NLCS, we thought we'd never get over the hump. Then the sweep to Helena in S6 and we just about lost hope. But this. This is beyound our wildest dreams!"
The Classmates looked close in S7 with the addition of rookie sensation Bart Martin and a genuine power-hitting first-baseman in Ismael Ordonez. That year the team saw franchise records in steals, home-runs, OPS, team steals, team RBIs, and team runs. But it wasn't enough. The Classmates met up with old friend Ariel Moraga in the first round. The S4 Int'l signing beat the Classmates twice in a 4-1 drubbing at the hands of the Atlases in the NLCS.
Then, this year, the Classmates lost two veteran presences to free agency. 33 year-old Jaime Decker was 3rd on the team's career wins list and signed with the Ballsmackers for a big payday. Prennially underrated LF'er J.D. Lockwood was 3rd on the team's career home run list and first on the career steals list. He signed a sweetheart two-year deal with the SJ Diablos.
The team seemed to fall from within as soon as the season started and was 8 games back in the division as late as June 5th. But then, something happened. The team made a crazy trade for overpriced Japanese righty Hong-Jin Miyakazi. "When mars pulled the trigger on that deal, it really showed us he was committed to winning this year," team spokesman Tanyon Walls said. "There was alot of talk about a firesale and everyone got worried. But Hong-Jin never gave up and everyday he went out there, we knew we could win.
Hong-Jin's confidence seemed to spread through the team like a wildfire. Newly acquired Al Izturis started to crush the ball (finishing with a franchise-tying 51 homeruns). Bart Martin started to run, and hit (last year's ROY turned in his second straight season with at least 30 homeruns, 50 steals, 120 runs, and 100 RBIs), the bullpen started to hold and save games. When glass-arm pitcher Einar Lee went down again with a season-ending injury, rookie David Shin came up and pitched his pants off.
"From top-to-bottom, we just started to play like a team," first baseman Ismael Ordonez said. "It was hard losing those two guys [Decker and Lockwood], and we all took it pretty hard at the start of the season. Then there was the talk of trading away Bart. We just didn't think management was committed to us. But then we started winning, and the season was going, and we said, 'hey, we're in first place here.'"
Hong-Jin took home the series trophy for Most Valuable Player. But it really could have gone to anyone. Al Izturis crushed the ball all post-season and finished with 8 total. Bart Martin more than made up for his futility in last year's postseason by turning in .348/.436/.636 with 19 RBIs and 6 steals. Ordonez found his swing, and Michael Chong cemented his reputation as a premiere postseason player.
The real suprise of the posteason though, may have been Al Timlin's sweet swing. The 25 y/o Rule 5'er only logged 100 regular season at bats and was a suprise addition to the postseason roster. But this postseason neophyte CRUSHED the ball in New York, hitting .438/.471/.875 there. "I didn't even think I'd be on this team. And here I am covered in champagne. Just amazing," he said.
Although team owners could not be reached for comment, it is safe to say that this team's long wait has made winning just a little sweeter. There's something that makes this win just a little more rewarding, though. Every team that ever beat the Classmates in the postseasons of past, lost to them in this one. Helena, New York (NL), and Nashville had all given San Jose the early exit before. This time, it was San Jose all the way.