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The fourth pitch is the fastest one Atlanta Braves flamethrower Spencer Strider has hurled in the at-bat, but it’s also just outside. Bryson Stott tracks it and watches it miss. Two balls, two strikes.

It is Oct. 14, 2022. The first home game in the postseason for the Philadelphia Phillies in 4,025 days is scoreless, but suddenly, an errant pickoff throw has given the Phils a runner at third with only one out in the third inning. My parents and sister, in town that weekend for a football game, sit next to me in the random Buffalo Wild Wings we decided to watch the game at, heads titled toward the closest of the endless TVs around us. Anticipation and anxiety fill the air with equal weight.

The entire postseason journey was something I had thought about for what felt like forever. I was nine the last time the Phillies had even made it. And, naturally, great stress came with those high hopes. I wanted it to be perfect. Dreaming the Phils would jump out to a big lead early every game, eliminating all of the anxiety before it could build up, was the easy way out.

But I knew this was too important of an experience to wish away. So, whenever I would find myself looking ahead that October, at risk of not soaking everything in, I would repeat a few words to myself over and over again until the haze faded.

“Stay here. Stay in this moment. It’s a really great moment, no matter what comes next.”

Pitch number five is another fastball. Stott fouls it off.

I’d never said that phrase before those fateful Phillies games. Yet in the time since that postseason journey ended, the sentiment has only become more relevant.

My time at Notre Dame has been the same — too meaningful not to savor to the fullest. Doing so, though, hasn’t always been easy. As any college student in 2020 could tell you, especially my fellow freshmen, it was easy to wish that year — 25% of my college experience — away. We were HERE, but barely. The excitement of starting a new chapter and meeting new people was there, but it was muted.

Fastball again on pitch number six. Stott gets a piece of it.

Things started normalizing sophomore year, but it still felt like I was playing catch-up. I still had that freshman feeling but with more pressure on my shoulders. Excitement surfaced as I started to find my people and my place on the campus I had grown up visiting since I was one year old. Yet there were still pangs of emotion that made it feel like high school hadn’t ended.

The seventh pitch is thrown at 97.4 miles per hour. Shot foul down past third.

Junior year was fleeting, but I recognized how lucky I was to have it even then. So many goofy activities with friends throughout Siegfried Hall and beyond; immeasurable laughter abounds. The perfect blend of responsibility and carefreeness. Inside jokes, games of Chel, broadcasts and editing shifts that will always strike a wholesome chord. I wish it had come together sooner, though, producing an occasional frustration this feeling should last longer than I knew it would.

Pitch number eight is also fastball number eight, and consecutive foul ball number four.

And, so, senior year arrived. There have been days I’ve been painfully aware that the end is near and days it hasn’t crossed my mind. Many great people from the beginning remain. Some have gone, others have arrived. My timid freshman self morphed into a leader in my dorm and work, even if it didn’t always feel like it.

There were nights for studying and nights for work and nights for fun. There were high-fives in bars and hugs on the football field and staring into space in my room late at night. Silly debates in our paper’s office and talks of growth with the underclassmen in my section. I enjoyed the culmination of some four-year-long journeys and found fulfillment in trying new things. There was more independence than before, and with it some more loneliness, but there was always a smile on my face when friends were around.

My nearly 1,400 days at Notre Dame have been amazing. Leaving something special is always hard. But I never could have gotten here without leaving my wonderful friends and memories from high school behind. And I won’t be able to get to wherever I’m going and meet the next great people out there if I don’t say goodbye to this incredible place.

It’s been a dream. It’s been surreal. And, now, it’s time. This is how it’s meant to be.

There will be times in the future when I long for these days. Sometimes, when I truly need it, I may let myself fall into a daydream that I’ve never left. But when I need to move forward and achieve the things the last four years have equipped me for and to be the best person I can be, I know just what to tell myself.

“Stay here, stay in this moment. It’s a really great moment, no matter what comes next.”

On the ninth pitch, Strider finally deviates from his heater. Stott drops his hands and brings the barrel of the bat through the strike zone.

The crowd roars. Brandon Marsh trots home from third. My family and I pop out of our seats in jubilation.

That dream became a reality. And, when graduation arrives in just a few days, so will another.

Here we are.

Andrew McGuinness is from Haddonfield, New Jersey. He is graduating with a major in film, television and theatre with a TV concentration and minors in sport, media and culture, digital marketing and Business Economics. After graduation, he will work at NBC Sports during the 2024 Summer Olympics in the one and only Paris… of Connecticut (Stamford, where its headquarters are). This is his 259th and final story for The Observer. He will miss it here, but he’s happy to be on the other side. You can reach him there at awmcguinn@gmail.com.


Andrew McGuinness

Andrew McGuinness is a 2024 graduate of the University of Notre Dame. Originally from Haddonfield, New Jersey, Andrew graduated with a major in Film, Television, and Theatre (TV concentration) and minors in *deep breath* Sport, Media, and Culture, Digital Marketing, and Business Economics. He wrote for The Observer all four years as a student, serving as an Associate Sports Editor in 2022-23 and Sports Editor in 2023-24. And yes -- he loves this place.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.