As feelings go, few are better than when you’re naked with someone for the first time and become pleasantly surprised that they’re bringing more to the table than what was expected. Your initial assessment was slightly off. Their clothes were a lie. When our expectations are exceeded and attached to the possibility of a future, it’s exciting. Austin Hedges emerged through the ranks of the Padres organization with the promise that he would always be a wizard behind the plate. Even though AJ Preller didn’t draft him, his loud tool was always clear. Compounded with his devastating good looks, no matter what happened he would at least be an elite defender. Everything Hedges has done offensively this year beyond that simple baseline of expectation has been thrilling and Padres fans are swooning. It’s not that we merely want to have sex with our new starting catcher. That would be too easy. We want to believe he will stand up to our past with his burgeoning skill set and grow the future that’s been promised.
We want Austin inside us. #SWOON
Last week, Cubs first basemen and former Padre Anthony Rizzo knocked Hedges out of a game in what was clearly an avoidable home plate collision. This sparked a huge debate about old baseball rules, the toughness of Padres manager Andy Green, and overall masculinity on the field and online. The Padres didn’t retaliate and lost the series in Chicago 1-2. Regardless of what the team’s response was, Padres fans felt something that was uniquely heightened in those few days. Anthony Rizzo was traded away from San Diego shortly after coming over from Boston in the Adrian Gonzalez deal during a time of great uncertainty for the franchise. As it turns out, Rizzo is on his way to having a better career than the player he replaced. When he illegally crashed into Hedges, we lost our minds and wanted blood. The Cubs are who we want the Padres to be and the anchor of their undeniably successful rebuild tried to take out the beginning of our foundation.
The ideal narrative for Hedges is that he refines his skills as a major league catcher with this short term veteran staff. Then when Adrian Morejon, Anderson Espinoza, Cal Quantril, and the other waves of pitching talent come to the major league level, their seasoned battery mate will be ready to take them through the maturation process. A confidence-gaining Austin now will make the rebuild go smoothly later. It’s not the same for other young Padres finding their way this year. Hunter Renfroe might be a nice piece in the outfield, but he’s just a baseball player. With the tank in full swing, Austin is a bridge that provides safe passage to somewhere we as fans need to go.
When Careless Whisper, the greatest musical choice a Padre has made since Trevor Hoffman with ACDC’s Hells Bells, pours through the speakers at Petco Park the feeling that it brings is that of knowing there’s hope. Sure, it’s exciting because it’s Austin’s time to hit, but it’s also comforting because he knew it was the perfect walk up song to pick. That was his choice. He saw that we needed a sensual ‘80s sax line to ease us through this process. Austin’s growing connection with fans has always felt very direct. However, recently the team has become keenly aware of the feeling he provides. They’ve pinpointed a response from the public and they’re playing with it. When Hedges returned to the lineup in the Detroit series, the Padres put out a video that was well produced and came from a place of confidence that it was in on the romance. This is all fine if the Padres become the Cubs. If they don’t, this video will be held against us.
As feelings go, few are worse than realizing you’ve seen the person you’re naked with for too long. Their body is exactly what you expect and their jokes aren’t funny anymore. To get through the day you have to focus on whatever good qualities you can make yourself believe they still have and swoon towards them. Austin Hedges is the clearest example that the system the San Diego Padres have in place can do something right. If the organization wants to be in on the fun they should be careful. Even though Austin is dreamy, they can still destroy the Hedges dream. Where it goes from here is up to them.
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