As I watched the playoffs unfold in a most dramatic fashion the last few days, the reality of my station in life began to sink in. I was sitting on a couch halfway through a slice of pizza while these guys were playing for a championship. No less than 2 weeks ago I was there playing in the same league against the same guys, but from my TV the grass literally looked greener out there than when I stood on it. I was (am) a major league pitcher just like these men on TV, but I felt a long way off and yearning for a taste of what they're having. The more that statement sank in, the more I felt compelled to talk about it in the wake of my month-long stint in the big leagues.
The moment the season ended, my own personal debriefing began. Looking at the ups and downs (as discussed in my last post) I started to draw out the significances buried in my 21.1 innings of major league work. We should all take a moment...me included...to recognize and confess the fact that I am an analyzer. Clearly, as this blog would give credence to. So I analyzed how each outing unfolded. How my mechanics changed. How my routine got more defined and more polished. How I felt about my thoughts and what I thought about my feelings. After roughy 20 minutes of this uber-analysis my mind felt like mush and my spirit wasn't exactly soaring. I cleaned out my locker and got everything in order to leave for the offseason, feeling more than a little sorry for myself and licking my proverbial wounds. We all said our goodbyes and exited towards our neck of the world, me towards Georgia. Then something happened. Something good and completely normal. Something that shook me from my stupor.
As we approached the taxi headed to the airport, a boy and his father headed us off. These people were the only thing between me and my offseason, so I was not in a hurry to stop and oblige. The boy wore an oversized Mets hat. The kind you wear because you can, not because it fits. He tore it off his head and held it out towards me in longing. His father, without saying a word, gave his son the consent and gave me a look that said "Sorry man, but can you?" Feeling obligated, I leaned down to the boy trying my best not to make too much eye contact in lieu of further conversation. But he caught my eyes. His big genuine smile and his eyes tracing every stroke of my pen as I signed the bill of his hat. In one month how could I have gotten so calloused? In that instant, my heart felt something it hadn't for over a month. There was joy. I put the cap back on the boy and smiled, thanking him for coming out. He and his father returned thanks and headed on their way. I wish that I could say an immediate weight was lifted and I haven't thought about giving up runs since then, but that would be an exaggeration. It still comes back to mind on occasion, but instead of dwelling on it I can step back and appreciate the simple fact that I was there. That perhaps even for a second, it doesn't matter to the little boy whether I pitched well or not. I was a major leaguer and that's all that mattered to him. Shouldn't that be the thing I focus on too?
I realized that I had spent so much time agonizing over my performances and perceived lack of success, that the truly great things has been neglected. I was in the big leagues. My childhood dream of pitching at Turner field had happened. I was a Met. The greatest city in the world had welcomed me in with open arms and embraced me as one of their own. People cheered for me, knew my name, even had the inclination to want my name on their caps. I had a jersey (multiple jerseys actually) with my name stitched in the back and a locker of my own to hold all the stuff they freely gave me. I was learning from some of the best players in the game and became so familiar with them that we called each other "bro". I struck out guys that I grew up watching. I hit against pitchers that grew up emulating. I was there. It really happened!
We could go over the way things went down on the field until we're blue in the face, but that won't change the experience that this last month offered me. Clearly there are things to work on, and clearly there is more work to be done to make the team again next year. But let's take a moment (something that doesn't happen often enough) and enjoy life for exactly what it is. A bunch of ups a downs, experiences and emotions, that make us who we are. I know that I am not only a better pitcher because of my experiences this last month, but a better man, husband and one-day father as well.
It's easy to look at life and say that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. Perhaps it even is. There might be better soil or climate, less predators or more cultivators. But often if you look down at the grass under your feet, not comparing it to any other, it's quite green too. It's soft, comfortable and meant to be enjoyed. Looking for greener pastures and more strikeouts isn't a bad thing, but don't forget that the grass you're standing on is someone else's greener pasture and being there is a very very good thing.