Sunday, November 6, 2011

Travel Light & Hope For The Best

It's getting close to that time of the year. The time when baseball organizations have decisions to make with free agents, arbitration, next year's payroll, and the Winter Meetings. The season after the season, where all the behind the scenes work starts in preparation for next year. For us Minor Leaguers, however, we're narrowing in on the offseason. A time of decision making as well, but on a much more personal level.

Ashley and I have made our offseason home in Atlanta for the last 2 years. We don't own a house or an apartment. We don't have a dog, cat, or any children. We have 2 cars and an apartment's worth of furniture in a storage unit (yes, it's air conditioned...don't worry). Our lives are light in comparison to most people. We aren't weighed down by much, mostly because baseball won't allow us to. It would be great to have a place in Atlanta to call home. A place where our furniture lived and our pictures hung on walls. It would be great to have a place to come "home" to after the season, or a place of refuge for Ashley when my life sends me 1500 miles across the USA in a couple weeks. It would cut down on the post season headache of having to look for 6 month leases (or 3 months this year). Our lives are light, but our burden can be heavy at times.

Some ballplayers have the resources to buy or build. Their signing bonuses stretching a bit further than ours, into the home-owner category. Other ballplayers live light, similar to us, but without a significant other. They move all over the place with their closet in their backseat. The beach one week, the city the next. Moving where the weather is warm enough to play catch. Some work in the offseason and some don't. Some need the money...some don't. Personally, I enjoy working during the Winter months. It keeps my mind and hands occupied while keeping us out of the poor house. Not to mention, when you're doing work you really enjoy it becomes satisfying on a different level. I've worked for a company called Booster Enterprises for the last 2 years, and it truly is fulfilling work. Booster is a fund-raising company that partners with elementary and middle schools throughout the country, helping them raise funds through a character based leadership development program. They get the privilege of interacting with students everyday and helping to build the next generation of leaders. It's rare that a company would take such a vested interest in a personal situation like mine and Ashley's. We are gone for 6 months out of every year playing baseball all over the country, but when we are back in Atlanta the Booster family has welcomed us back with open arms. Not all baseball players who want to work get an opportunity like this. It's a real blessing.

More than finding a home, finding work, and working out, minor league ballplayers use the time ahead to take inventory of their careers. For 6-7 months of the year they grind, day in and day out, trying to play at the highest level they can in hopes of making it to the Show. Once the season ends and the pace of life slows (even just a bit) ballplayers sit back and look at their body of work. How did they play statistically? Where did they end up? What do their chances of making it look like next season? I've said before that most baseball players contemplate quitting about 4 or 5 times every year. I think it's our coping mechanism. The idea that we could hang 'em up at any point keeps the illusion of control close at hand. But when the games stop and there's no competition, the idea of being done playing ball actually begins to take shape. You get a closer look at what it would look like to live in a "normal" life. To have the brick house with the picket fence, 9-5 job, and 2.5 kids. So far in my experience, that nostalgic comfortable feeling begins to wear off around the new year. The itch to play comes back and there is nothing you want more than to get back out on the field. One day that desire will fade, though. It's our job to keep asking ourselves the tough questions and make sure the passion is still there.

So far, so good!

None of us (minor leaguers and major leaguers alike) know exactly where we will be when camp breaks April 1, 2012. There are too many variables between now and then to triangulate which city/team/organization we will play for. If we want to continue to play, we have to face that reality. It's not for the faint of heart, nor the "heavy" lifestyle. For now, we will continue to travel light and hope that we can drop anchor in Queens, NY...sooner rather than later.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Second Half Success

I know it's been a while since I've posted anything. Perhaps it's because we are 165 games into the season (longer than any stretch i've ever played) and it's all we can do to focus on what's going on between the lines. Perhaps it's because I'm not throwing as well as I would have liked thus far, and motivation to write has eluded me. Or perhaps it's because with our free time Ashley and I have been catching up on our favorite TV shows each night (already caught up on The Office, now working on Bones). Whatever the reason, i'm back and It feels good.

I'm 6 outings into the Fall League with an astronomical ERA. The Javelinas are floating around .500 and we've got just about half the season left. Not to toot my own horn, but i'm a notoriously good finisher. Each of my last 4 professional seasons I have finished much better than I started. It might be that my starts were so bad that I could only go up from there...but whatever the reason, now is the time to finish strong once again. If you read some of my old blog posts, you know that I talk to myself. I talk myself into things, out of things, and through some of the tougher things. Halfway through each of the last few seasons I've had a "look myself in the mirror" pep talk. In each of those, I look in the mirror and tell myself that no one will pitch better than me for the rest of the season. It has worked in the past...why not do it again right now?

It's only three weeks before I go home for three months. The time is winding down out here in the desert and I have already learned a ton about myself and my development. But there's more that I want from the AFL. I want to leave with the taste of satisfaction in my mouth. The taste of success that can be carried into next championship season.

Well, I gotta run guys. There's a mirror calling my name and it's not gonna give itself a pep talk!