MINNEAPOLIS—Cleveland Indians manager Manny Acta and pitcher Justin Masterson said they "shared a great baseball moment…a great human moment" while splitting a bottle of chilled white wine during an "exceptional" mound visit during Tuesday night's game against the Twins.
"Justin was doing great out there. It was a pleasure to watch him," Acta said of Masterson, who pitched 7.2 scoreless innings. "But he was looking pretty tired, so I thought I'd call time, talk things over, give him a breather. Then I remembered I had this nice little 2008 Seven Hills Winery Viognier that I'd put on ice at the start of the game, and I thought, why not? It's a lovely night."
In the fifth inning, Acta took a time-out, uncorked the Viognier, and brought the bottle and two glasses out to the mound, where Masterson appeared pleasantly surprised to see him.
"It was a little unusual for Manny to call time like that given how well I was doing," Masterson said. "But then I saw he had that nice bottle of white, which was just perfect, because red can be a little too heavy when you’re trying to win a game. Plus, I was like, ‘Oh, wow, I thought he was saving that for a special occasion.’”
"And Manny said, 'It's the middle of summer, this is a gorgeous ballpark, you're grounding everybody out—what's more special than this?'" Masterson added. "And you know, he was right. He was absolutely right."
Acta and Masterson confirmed that their discussion—conducted between long, leisurely sips—initially revolved around pitching, specifically the fact that Masterson had thrown nothing but fastballs all evening, but they said the talk eventually turned to politics, family, friends, and enjoying life’s simple pleasures. As the bottle slowly emptied, the conversation drifted far afield, encompassing subjects as prosaic as the unusually hot weather, as contemplative as baseball's place in the greater scheme of things, and as poignant and profound as the love of a beautiful woman.
"After a minute or so, I went out to see what was going on," said catcher Carlos Santana, who stopped by the dugout to pick up some Stanser Rotelli cheese after seeing the bottle of wine in Acta's hand. "It was pretty clear they were just enjoying a moment, so I slipped away as soon as I thought it was polite. I left the cheese, though. It’s a Swiss washed-rind reblochon-style cheese that goes perfect with the Viognier, and it would be a shame for it to go to waste.”
When they had finished roughly two-thirds of the wine, which they later described as "nice, not too dry, maybe a little floral" but "still more crisp than really sweet," Acta and Masterson lapsed into a companionable silence, content to gaze around the park and enjoy each other’s company.
After a period of time that Masterson later said "seemed like no time at all, as if the whole world were just Manny and me in a little summer snow globe," umpire Rob Drake came over to the mound to ask why their visit had lasted almost 40 minutes.
"I was a little upset, actually, because I'd been making hurry-up gestures at them for almost half an hour," Drake said. "But when I actually got out there, I was a little embarrassed. I was obviously intruding on something private. They were polite enough about it, but still, I felt bad, even though a mound visit should never take more than a couple minutes."
Upon realizing their moment had passed, Acta and Masterson finished what was left in their glasses, nodded to each other, and, according to those in attendance, seemed to assume their roles as manager and pitcher again, save for one brief exchange.
"Hey, skipper?" Masterson said as Acta turned to leave the mound. "Summer's almost over, isn't it? It's only July, but summer's almost over."
"It's never over, kid," responded Acta, reportedly looking back over his shoulder with the slightest glimmer in his eye. "Not where it matters. Summer's never really over."