Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Marriage Of The Traveling Suitcases

As my wife and I reached our All-Star break destination we sat down with our two suitcases. These two suitcases contained almost the entirety of our "in season" wardrobe. You see we've gotten progressively better at packing/traveling/living abroad as my career has gone on. We've narrowed it down this season to whatever we can fit in the back seat, trunk, and any potential nook and cranny of my compact car. It hasn't always been that way...let's take a journey back in time.

Year one: Kingsport, TN
Professional college kid. Age 20. Single. Youthful exuberance and youthful hygiene. I brought one bag of regular clothes (clothes that I could wear to and from the field) and one bag of baseball clothes/equipment. I never once unpacked my suitcase, deciding instead to house my insanely diverse selection of white v-neck tees and khaki shorts within a 5 foot perimeter of said (Samsonite) suitcase. Having 3 other recently freed Collegiate roommates, our apartment could best be described as unorganized chaos.
Amount of times laundry was done that season: don't ask, don't tell.

Year two: Brooklyn, NY
I'm a city boy. Proudly and unapologetically. New York was the ultimate metropolitan paradise for me. However, for my clothing, it was unapologetically difficult. New York, as some of you probably know, can be quite sweltering in the middle of the summer. But unlike Atlanta, it get's downright chilly at night in September. My lone suitcase multiplied (thanks to Chinatown's Adidas sector) into a duffle bag hanging off the suitcase running (late) through the JFK terminal. My wardrobe expanded, unfortunately that was just about the time the airlines redacted the right of free checked bags.
Amount of knock off Ray Bans I collected that season: 3
How many I still have: ugh...0

Year 3: Savannah, GA
This is where it gets complicated. Ashley and I had been married for roughly 6 months and collected roughly 300 sq. ft. (our storage space) of wedding gifts and KitchenAid gadgets. Being new to a full baseball season and so close to home, Ashley and I decided to take both of our cars (and mom's SUV) down there. We packed the vehicles to the brim with an Industrial sewing machine, waffle maker, dishes, mugs (which I lost), etc. The cracks in the master plan began when Ashley left before the season ended, leaving me to pack up the aforementioned compact car. I crammed everything I could into it, including the oddly shaped mop that I stuffed through the back window. Unfortunately, on the first turn I lost the mop to Interstate 16, never to be heard from again. Something had to give. My vote was for the food, the other food processor...the smaller one.
Amount of shirts that I sweat through moving out of the top floor apt: 3...and 2 pair of athletic shorts

Year 4: Port St. Lucie, Fl: Atlanta, GA: Binghamton, NY
Yikes. Where to start?
We did a better job of packing this time around. We narrowed it down to just the back seats (trunks, nooks, crannies, etc.) of our two small cars. Our wardrobe was easily pared down to summer clothes. The FL heat made that an easy decision. We were settled and it felt good. And just like that, baseball yanked the rug out from underneath us. With Ashley back home in Atlanta for some work stuff and me in FL playing ball, the Mets promoted me 1200 miles away to Binghamton, NY. I had about 8 hours to pack up my two bags and catch a flight, leaving little to no time to pack up the rest of our life down there. When Ashley was finally able to join me in NY, she first had to drive back to Port St. Lucie, pack up everything we had from an apartment that we no longer lived in, then haul it up the Eastern seaboard. Not exactly how we planned it before the season started. On top of all that, we added another teammate passenger on the way back home. It was cozy. It was crowded.
Amount of times the mantra "We need a bigger car" was repeated: Everyday

Year 5: Binghamton, NY: Buffalo, NY: Present
We did it. We're down to 2 bags. Granted, we just upgraded Ashley's clothes receptacle from a couple Target bags to a ballin' Samsonite with 4 WHEELS. Movin' on up! We've also absorbed a couple necessities along the way this season. Pillow top mattress cover, Polartec blanket, and a mountain of mail that we've collected from various residences. The good news is, however, that we finally have room to grow. Maybe not enough room to have a baby or a dog right now, but definitely enough margin for the other important things. I believe that's what they call progress. Good to know we're learning something new every year in this whole journey!
Amount of years it takes to get it right: We'll let you know when we get there

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Stay Back

This is my first post from a new level. AAA Buffalo to be exact. Thus far I have four starts under my belt. Three of which were mediocre (bordering on bad) and one that was pretty good (bordering on...well, pretty good). As I wrote last year upon my promotion to AA, there is always a learning curve. The goal is to shorten that curve as much as possible, and hopefully I'm moving in the right direction. 

People have asked me what the differences are between AA and AAA. There are the the obvious ones like stricter strike zones, more patient hitters and better post game spreads. However, there are other nuances of the level that make for a more interesting topic. 

My first three outings, as previously noted, were less than spectacular. I gave up something in the neighborhood of 11 runs in 14 innings, walking about a half dozen and plunking a couple to boot. Running through the gauntlet of "fixes" in my head, I couldn't seem to figure out where I was going wrong. After watching a few minutes of video, however, it was soon very apparent what was "off". My balance was bad. I was leaning forward towards home plate without gathering my momentum first. My arm wasn't catching up, the ball had no option but to be up in the zone and that ball got hit...hard. Once I learned what I was doing wrong it made it easy to fix. It was simple. Stay back.

AAA is filled with guys like me. Up and coming players. Players looking to make their mark. However, it's also filled with players who have tasted the big leagues. Some for a sip of coffee and others who have feasted up there for years. With that dichotomy brings an interesting mix of emotions. As younger players, we begin to realize that our dream of playing in the Big Leagues is closer than ever before. Literally one step away. The veteran guys also understand the proximity to the promised land. They've been there. They've tasted the milk and honey. Where once I was worried that I would never make it, now it's a struggle to...stay back. 

The temptation for everyone here is to rush. Rush our careers to the big leagues or rush our way out of the minor leagues. Look at it either way you want! Momentum, just as in pitching, is a huge factor in the make up of a minor leaguer. Coming up through the ranks you're trying to keep the momentum moving forward. Coming down from the Bigs the goal is to get the ball rolling once more. We push and push towards the Bigs like a track runner lunging toward the finish line. What I'm beginning to learn, however, is that lunging forward can often be counterproductive. After talking to coaches and staff up here, they all preach the same thing. Be consistent. Be you. Be patient. When we feel the need to push so hard, we often lose the focus that got us here in the first place. 

One of our veteran catchers said to me before my last start, "The thing that separates the great pitchers from the rest is their ability to focus one pitch at a time." That fact is especially true at this level. If we get too far ahead of ourselves and try to nose our way into the Big Leagues before it's our time, our focus isn't narrowed enough. Our scope is too broad, and the distractions hinder any momentum we might have or might be building. 

What makes my mechanics sound is the same thing that makes for a sound head and heart. Stay patient. Stay balanced. Stay back.