SAN DIEGO -- Last time baseball came this close to Osama bin Laden, it went dark for a week while the United States shook off the horror and the world regained its breath, both slowly staggering forward after 9/11.
I was in Dodger Stadium on the night baseball returned in September, 2001, and the raw emotion still resonates from a night that did what baseball does when it is at its best: It brought communities together. Coaxed smiles. Provided, for a couple of hours, a shelter from the storm.
Monday night, 24 hours after bin Laden's death, you could trace a line drive straight back to that horror and tragedy.
In Pittsburgh's clubhouse here, three ballgames played out silently on the televisions in the background before batting practice. But the television with the sound up was tuned to CNN and its news coverage. Pitcher Chris Resop talked with a teammate about Homeland Security.
Over in San Diego's clubhouse, pitcher Mat Latos hung a navy blue "USA" basketball jersey in front of his locker. For the first time on a non-Sunday, the Padres were wearing their camouflage jerseys honoring the military.
"We never take it lightly," Padres closer Heath Bell said. "But it means a little more tonight."
The game might exist in its own corner of the world, but so much of that corner is woven into the rest of life the way a baseball is stitched together by its seams. And so there was no stepping away Monday, no tuning out. Not that anyone wanted to.
Several clubs offered various forms of free tickets to games. As the Padres offered two free tickets to any active or retired military member for Monday night's game, infielder Orlando Hudson was lobbying to take that several steps forward.
"I think there should be free tickets all around the game of baseball," Hudson said. "And free tickets to the playoff games, basketball games and hockey games."
Emotions came from every angle, probably much like you encountered on a Monday unlike any we've had in a long, long time.
"I just think everybody feels like they have the pride of the United States in them today," said Bell, the Padres closer and son of a U.S. Marine. "But I don't think it should be a day of celebration.
"I don't think killing a guy is a reason to celebrate, because I don't think we should stoop to their level. After 9/11, they were jumping up and down. I don't want us to be doing the same thing. ... I'm totally behind my country, but it's hard. Half of me wanted to kill the dude, and the other half of me thinks killing is wrong.
"I was proud when I heard we gave him a proper burial. I think it was a class act by the United States.
The Pirates earlier in the day visited the Navy SEAL training base on Coronado Island, just minutes from the team hotel and Petco Park. It was a tour planned long before Sunday's historic day, and it reinforces the fact that baseball -- all sports -- is not an island unto itself.
Pittsburgh trainer Brad Henderson has been bringing small groups of Pirates to the Navy base for the past several years, since a former minor-league trainer in the Pirates' system left and went to work as a trainer for the Navy SEALS (which stands for the Navy Sea, Air and Land teams).
There is a man on base named John McTighe, who serves as a special assistant at the Navy Special Warfare Command center -- where all of the Navy SEALS report to run through their early training -- and he is a native of the Pittsburgh area. He sets up the tours when the Pirates come to town. Sometimes the players are able to shoot the Navy's guns. Monday, they went out on boats.
Anyway, a couple of years ago, McTighe invited Henderson to write letters to the other major league clubs, and now many take the same tour the Pirates do when they come to San Diego.
"It's a treat for us," Henderson said.
It's not just a one-way street. In gratitude, the Pirates -- and other clubs -- leave behind autographs and memorabilia to be auctioned off. Last year, Henderson said, these baseball items helped the Navy SEALS raise some $90,000 for the families of fallen soldiers.
With adrenalin still in the stratosphere on both sides as news tidbits continued to rocket around the globe, the feeling as Pittsburgh visited Monday was unlike any in the past.
"There was a sense of accomplishment in the air," Henderson said. "This is what those guys do. They go and look for the bad guys.
"They weren't patting themselves on the back. They completed their task, and now they've moving forward."
Shanksville, Pa., where Flight 93 crashed on that horrific day after the heroic "Let's roll" passengers overtook the hijackers, is about an hour east of Pittsburgh
"It was fun for us, knowing we were standing in the same spot where all the Navy SEALS stood," Henderson said. "Knowing that this is where they all started, including the group that got bin Laden."
Knowing that, he said, was pretty darned special.