Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Good Guy Syndrome

There is no such thing as a good guy. For all of you economists out there, i'll shorten it to TINSTAAGG.

For my entire life, and especially my baseball career, I have been incorrectly labeled a good guy. I didn't drink until I was 21. I didn't smoke any sort of legal or illegal things until recently (still nothing illegal, just my tobacco pipe). I was not quick to start fights or arguments, raise my voice or throw a punch. In fact, I prided myself on the premise that I could be friends with just about anyone. I tried not to be intentionally hurtful to people and understand where they were coming from. A lot of this was from the way I was raised (Kudos to my parents for that), but still a lot of it came from a different place.

Somewhere inside of me was a need to be liked and accepted. This probably stems from being a middle child (yes, i'm aware of the stigmas associated). I was kind to people because of the prospect of them being kind back. I didn't drink, smoke, or fight because it wasn't legal for me at the time. It's almost as if not doing those things afforded me some sort of compensation to do other "less bad" things more often. In the end, it seemed like I was still on the good side of the spectrum. But i've realized as of late (and why I'm writing this) that there seems to be a self-fulfilling prophecy that goes along with this kind of mindset.

The truth about life is (Get ready for it!) bad things happen to people. Friends, family, spouses, neighbors, that guy on the bus; they all let you down at some point. No one, not even the best person, is perfect and incapable of falling short of expectations set on them. This was a problem for me. I spent so much of my time and effort being the "good" guy, that when things didn't go my way (and trust me, they didn't) I wash shocked and appalled. I kept telling myself over and over, "Why did this happen to ME. I'm trying so hard to do everything right and other people just keep screwing me over." Woe Is Me!!!!

I believe I would've been content to stay that way for a long time. But Alas, I could not.

In any and all situations Good Guy Syndrome forces the first thought you have to be about yourself. All other thoughts revolve around that one central thought. Because you spend so much time thinking about yourself (doing things right and making people happy), you lose the reality that the world doesn't revolve around you and your problems. For me, I had to see it in another person for me to realize this tough fact. I saw a person do bad things. I mean bad things that anyone would call bad. But for some reason, instead of calling it what it is and moving forward; they seemed to take 2 steps back and justify why the bad thing happened. As if justification in their wrongs would bring them back closer to "good" status. I saw that and finally realized what I had felt for so long. "I'm that guy!"

I had been trying so hard to do things right for so long. There was this persona...a "good guy"...that I had to live up to. The only problem is that I couldn't do enough good things to keep bad things from happening to me. And every time a bad thing happened it started this cycle of self-pity all over again.

-My job is unfair right now. I work so hard to do things the right way at work, but no one seems to care about that.
-My marriage is hard. I put so much work into making sure that we're doing well, and for whatever reason I just can't catch a break.
-My friends don't care about me as much as they should. I'm the best friend in the world to them and they can't even repay me with a little of their time.
-etc., etc., etc.

These images of my reactions started to play in my head as I realized my disease. It wasn't that I was unusual, or that my situations were worse than everyone else's. It was that when something happened to me, my first reaction was to wonder how that effects me and why it's not fair. It was exhausting!

So I was telling Ashley all of this the other day, relishing in the freeing truth that there is no such thing as a "good guy". I don't have to live like the world is against me. I can just keep doing things the best way I know how and understanding that life isn't always going to go exactly how you planned. I think the better test of a man and his "goodness" is how he can respond to the tough situations that will fall on him. No more self-pity, no more "Woe is me!!", no more disillusionment. I am not a good guy. Who needs all that pressure? I'm just Collin. And I'm ok with that.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Winning and Losing: Part 2

Freedom.

There's something about this word that evokes emotion out of a man (or woman. I'm not sexist). We cherish the idea of freedom in this country. Freedom of press. Freedom of speech. Freedom to bear arms (thanks NRA). For whatever reason, we cling to this as our inherent right...To be free. But how many of us truly live in this reality?

As I was talking about in my last post, I've gotten a new sense of what it means to play baseball. To be free from the self-induced and outside stresses that make the game into something it was never meant to be. It's a refreshing realization that I'm hoping seeps into every aspect of my life. But i'll ask it again...How many of us really embrace the freedom we have in our lives? Jobs become something more than they were intended to be. Whereas you might have started working because you liked it and you felt like a part of something bigger than yourself. Perhaps now it's just a means to an end. A way for you to make some money and afford those vacations you've wanted. Think about it this way...if you work 8 hours a day 5 days a week 50 weeks a year, that's 2,000 hours a year. Can you look at that and say "I'm satisfied/fulfilled with the way i'm spending those 2000 hours?"

The idea of taking away the power Winning and Losing has over us isn't just a baseball concept for me right now. It's a HUGE part of my Marriage. I like to be right and I hate being wrong. Very similar to winning and losing, no? I do whatever I can to make Ashley happy and satisfied, hoping that my "score" is moving in the right direction. I figure if I can rack up enough good-husband points then she will be happy, and I will have won at marriage. Big Mistake. You see, I'm not very skilled at racking up good-husband points. And even if I was, the number I need to win keeps getting higher and higher and I keep falling more and more behind. Where's the freedom in being married like that? I've realized that the freedom comes, not in doing enough things to keep her happy, but in knowing her on a deeper level everyday. You see, when you take the time and effort to know someone more deeply, you figure out what makes them tick. Not flowers, candy, mushy letters (although those can be good things); But really seeing them. Taking time to remember they exist. Asking about their emotions. Listening. Being spontaneous when possible, not just when convenient.

I believe that these last few weeks have been hard for a reason. They've shown Ashley and I that baseball is a game. Our marriage is not. Winning and Losing happens, but who cares. God is good and gracious even though we can be really thick-headed. And that life is too short to worry about things out of your control. Who knows what will happen in the next week. I could be moved across the country...again. I could be released and head back home. I could get hurt. There are too many variables to make an accurate prediction on anything in Minor League baseball. But I know this; When it's over and I can look back at my career, I won't see how many championships I won or games that i've lost. I will see the relationships I formed and how I grew as man and as a husband.

That freedom is oh-so-satisfying.

Monday, June 13, 2011

It's not about Winning or Losing...

While talking to my wise and deep thinking wife, Ashley, the idea of winning and losing came up.

I am a winner...or at least I want to be. I don't like losing in just about anything in my life. Making good grades was important to me, not because I wanted to go ivy league or anything but because I wanted to be better than all the other kids at it. Playing sports was not something that me (nor my family) took lightly either. I loved to play sports; baseball, basketball, soccer AND especially ping pong. My older brother and I have played ping pong since I was 7 and he was about 12 or 13. He used to absolutely wear me out. He'd beat me constantly. 7-0. 11-1. left handed. while eating a sandwich. You name it, he'd beaten me that way. But I remember the one day when I was about 13 that everything changed. We got down to the end of a close match, the time in the game when he would typically turn it on and beat me with his eyes closed. But that didn't happen this time. On this occasion I won! I remember the bewildered look on his face and the shock at what I had done...and the fear that he might hit me or throw the paddle at me or something. I'm pretty sure we just put our paddles down and went back upstairs, but it was a big moment for me. It had made me realize that I could win..and that I liked winning. After that I began playing my younger brother in ping pong and beating him the same way I'd been beaten earlier. I won. I got used to winning. I liked it.

As baseball started getting more serious (high school, college, pro ball) so did my need to win. I "wanted" to win a state championship in HS. I "really wanted" to win a national championship at Berry. But since beginning pro ball my "want" had turned into more of a "need". I no longer simply wanted to win, I felt like if I didn't win, if I didn't progress, then my life of playing baseball would be kinda worthless. That all of the work I'd put into this game would be for naught. I could feel myself getting less and less satisfied with playing the game, and more dependent on winning the games and improving my status in the organization for fulfillment. I still loved pitching, but it had become so diluted with this need to win that it was a vague remnant of what I loved doing when I was growing up. This needed to be remedied...

Ashley has told me this before. That I have a weird need to be the best at everything I do. I need to be the best worker, best son, best pitcher, best husband. She said that simply being good at all of those things isn't good enough for me. It's kind of true. I saw it as a good thing. I mean, if being great (better than anyone else) is a bad thing, I couldn't see it. It pushed me to work hard. It made it hard for me to let my guard down, keeping me from potential bad decisions. It made me keep to a higher standard. However, this standard was both unrealistic and unfocused on God. It was a line in the sand that I had created and was constantly erasing and redrawing after each failure. Ashley would ask me "why don't you let someone else be the best in the world at something?"

The last few weeks, as I mentioned earlier in the blog, has been tough. I've come to a lot of realizations about myself, my marriage, and about the way I play baseball. The reality of the fleeting nature of baseball careers has become really evident to me lately. I don't know how many days I have left to play this game, and to spend it worrying about whether my time in it has been a success or failure, a win or loss, isn't doing the game (or my life) justice. All this to say, I pitched the other day and it was something I haven't felt in a long long time. I felt completely happy and content to be simply pitching. Not worried about winning or losing. Giving up runs or throwing shutouts. ERA or WHIP. Just enjoying the act and art of pitching.

And guess what...I threw really well. I don't know exactly where I heard it first, but I think it's a pretty true statement. It really isn't about winning or losing. It's about how you play the game.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Learning Curves

I'm two weeks into Double A (not going to refer to it as AA anymore. Apparently there's something else that has dibs on that abbreviation). I've seen the great things about it and I've seen the challenging things about it. Let's start with the good...

The food is way better. Not that it's that difficult to be better than the food I've had in the past couple years, but it's a step in the right direction. We don't just have spreads after BP and after games, we have snacks. There's pudding, granola bars, ramen noodles, fresh fruit, oatmeal, coffee, powerade, spaghettios, juices, etc. I know this doesn't sound like a lot (it isn't) but for those of us who are used to only PB&J, it's nice. The service is much better as well. We have clubbies, both home and away, who give a damn about you. They have apparently realized at this level that they are getting paid to serve the players...and they get rewarded nicely for it. Clubhouse dues are steeper, but the bump up in service makes it well worth it. In general, you are treated more like adults than at any level previous. It's kinda refreshing. On to the challenging.

The hitters aren't necessarily that much more talented, they're just more seasoned. They've seen pitchers for a couple years longer and have a better approach at the plate. They're not afraid to get to two strikes and make you work. They hit the ball more consistently because they choose their pitches more cautiously. It's no longer just one or two guys in a line up who can hurt you. It's a big league type line up with speed and power. All that to say, I pitched pretty well against my first Double A lineup. I didn't over do it and I didn't try to change what I do well. I just did it better. The second time out I faced the other challenging aspect...umpires.

The umpires aren't bad. They still miss calls and they still can be inconsistent, but they keep a tighter strike zone. As the hitters have seen more pitches coming through the ranks, so have these umpires. They move up just like we do and hone their skills in the same fashion. My second outing I nibbled on the corners and got burned. Ball one. Ball two. Whereas in Low or High A I could usually get away with one of those pitches if I was consistently hitting that spot, here I was getting what I deserved...behind in the count. When I get behind in the count (as i mentioned earlier) the hitters get that much better. I gave up 4 er in 4.1 innings on 90 pitches. As I mentioned on my Twitter account, there is a learning curve here. I can see what I need to do to be successful, now I must simply execute. Easier said than done, right.

Minor league baseball is still as challenging as ever. The travel is hard. Long bus rides in cramped seats. Day games after extra inning night games. Hotel beds, your bed, back to hotel beds. Sore backs. Being away from your significant others...Ashley. It's hard. Fun, but hard. I still have no idea how long I will be up here for. I could pitch great and get sent back down, pitch bad and stay here, or any other combination of pitching and moving. It's in God's hands, not mine. It's hard to relinquish control over my career, but it seems to be the best option every time I do. We can adapt. We always do. But someday it will be over, and so far I can say I've given it my all. In the end, that's all we can ask for.