The story holds up on its own merits. When a relief pitcher comes into the game with nobody out and the bases loaded then strikes out the side, you don't have to look too far for an angle.
Stan Belinda would be just as happy to leave it there. Otherwise, his life becomes movie-of-the-week fodder. And that's not the life he wants to lead.
So when you say you're not going to ask him about his battle with multiple sclerosis, Belinda smiles and says, "Good."
But he understands.
He understood it Thursday as well as he has ever understood it. Because on what seemed like any other Coors Field day, something magical happened on the mound.
Belinda felt it before anyone could have noticed. It was a shaking in the legs that gave it away. And if you know anything about multiple sclerosis, you understand the irony of shaky legs. But Belinda wasn't thinking about irony or MS.
All he was thinking about was the adrenaline rush.
"My legs were shaking — I had so much adrenaline running through me," Belinda said. He then added: "It's really big for me because I didn't know if I'd ever feel that way again."
He said he hadn't felt that way in three years. He said he hadn't felt that way since, in his words, "everything happened."
Belinda had been struggling recently, giving up runs in three of his past five relief appearances. Gabe White, who never seems to struggle, had given up three consecutive singles to load the bases. Although the score was 9-4 in the eighth inning, this is Coors Field, meaning the situation was dire or getting there on a hurry.
The first batter Belinda faced was Ellis Burks, of whom you know.
On the first pitch, Burks pulled the ball hard and long and foul. The second pitch was high, but Burks waved at it.
And while Burks was digging in, Belinda was trying to keep his feet on the ground. Because that's when he was hit by the adrenaline surge. It was something Belinda hadn't felt in so long he barely recognized it.
He would ride the adrenaline as far as it would take him. He struck out Burks on the next pitch. He went 3-and-2 on pinch hitter Felipe Crespo, who had gone 9-for-19 with seven RBI as a pinch hitter from the left side, and struck him out.
There were two out, and in Belinda's mind, there was only one thing to do. He didn't pause to go back to 1998, but maybe we should. Then he was just a guy they called "Dirt," because he's a farmer — farm strong, Rockies manager Buddy Bell says. And to look at him now is to see him then. He's the kind of guy every clubhouse needs, the kind who typifies this Rockies team. He helps keep people loose. And he gives you innings. In Cincinnati in 1998, he was happy with his game. Then everything changed.
MS is a strange disease, striking people in different ways. And there are now drugs that, for some people, can help control the symptoms. But Belinda, a religious man before MS came along, thinks more is at work.
"I've always believed in miracles," Belinda would say. "Any time there's a miracle on the news or in the papers, I'll read it or watch it. I've always been that way. I pray all the time that He would touch His finger on me. You can't just wait for the touch. You have to work for it.
"I've always felt, deep down, I could do it. I think that's what has made it possible. I just would never give up. I never said no. I can't do that. I always said yes. I'll do the extra weights. I'll do whatever it takes."
On this day, he would do more. He's a strikeout pitcher who loves, he says, to strike out people.
"There have been a lot of situations where I didn't get the job done," he said. "I was in a containing mode, but that's not like going for jugular. This time, I was going for it. I'm not going to lie to you. If I didn't go for it right there, the opportunity might vanish.
"If I give up a (sacrifice) fly and base hit and two runs score and everyone says 'Good job,' that's not going for it."
He had the two strikeouts. He wanted the last one. He felt the last one. He got the last one, getting the called third strike on Marvin Benard.
In the dugout, he met his teammates with adrenaline-filled high-fives. And long afterward, in the quiet of the clubhouse, he said what was in his heart: "I wish everyone who had an affliction could feel what I feel today."
Contact Mike Littwin at (303) 892-5428 or littwinm@RockyMountainNews.com.
June 30, 2000