Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Good Days And Bad Days

I always say that when writing, motivation and perspective are the two most important things. Perhaps I'm motivated to write, but not enough time has passed for the events of which I am motivated to write about have any real context. On the other hand, there might be a great subject primed and ready to go, but the inspiration to write it fails me. Either way, people kept telling me "You need to write about this season. So many things that have happened!" Therein lies precisely my dilemma.

Things this season seems to be happening at such a rapid pace that I haven't felt capable of sitting and digesting all of it without fear of missing something else. It's like a roller coaster that keeps making sharp turns and dips while all the people standing in line keep screaming at you to take a good picture. There's a reason so few players (especially in the course of a 162 game baseball season) write, journal, chronicle, etc. their experiences. I had fans and reporters coming up to me after my first start of the season telling me that surely I would have to blog about that night. 12 strikeouts! No runs! It's basically written itself, right? And maybe they were right. But the reality of the matter is that after celebrating well that night with a glass of wine and some dark chocolate Raisinets, I had mentally moved onto my next start. I woke up early the next morning before our day game and was the first to the field, knowing that I had to eat, run, throw, lift and go over video before the 12:05 game began. For better or worse that's the nature of this game. It leaves little time for dwelling on things, good or bad. 5 days later I had another good outing at home. I was fortunate enough to throw into the 9th inning for the first time in my major league career and had a chance for my first shutout as well. Neither the complete game nor the shutout remained intact, but it was, nevertheless, one of the best games I've pitched in my short career thus far. I was greeted with not one, but two, Gatorade baths and a bunch of hugs and kisses from my wife and family afterwards. Once again we celebrated well; this time with friends, a couple local beers and some pimento cheese (classy, i know). Yet just as before, once that night was over, so were the warm fuzzy feelings of success.

The next day brought more of the same questions and pleadings from friends and media alike. "Write!" "Tell us what it feels like to have success like this after being so mediocre for the last two years" (I'm paraphrasing, but you get the point). For whatever reason, however, both the motivation and perspective didn't feel right. Maybe it was a superstitious fear that as soon as I wrote down what it felt like it would be over. Maybe it was a selfish longing to hold onto the emotions that those two weeks had given me. You know, keep something for myself. Either way, I didn't write, and when the sun rose the next morning I was once again full steam ahead for my next start.

I'm a man of routine. I had 7 days between start number 2 and 3, and I did pretty much everything the exact same as the previous week. I did the same workouts. I got all of the same treatment from our trainers. I even ate at the same Mexican restaurant the night before my start just as I did the week prior. But if I had any faith in superstition, it was broken that night of my 3rd start. It wasn't that I pitched poorly. I actually felt good out there! It wasn't that I gave up a million runs (although 6 is pretty close). It was the simple fact that all things equal, I should've done really well against the team I did really well against 15 days beforehand. But baseball isn't a simple game. Sure everyone gets 3 strikes and you have to get 3 outs, but beyond the playing rules there are so many variables that discourage consistently great performances. Perhaps that's why streaks in baseball are so fun to watch. Players defying the "baseball gods" by stringing together success after success. And still, they all come to an end. For me, it was two really good starts before the odds caught up with me.

Sitting in the locker room after that start, cameras and microphones in front of my face, I was asked what the difference was between that night and the previous starts. My answers were generic. Stuff wasn't as sharp. Give credit to the other guys, they swung the bat well. Wish I could've given our team some more innings. All true answers, but not the truth that was ringing between my ears. What I really wanted to say, the real difference between this start and the other starts, was nothing. I had prepared the same, given the same effort against the same team and had come out on the short end this time. Baseball has a way of evening things out over the long run...a concept that's hard to grasp when you, as a player, don't know how long that run will be. Before, in my career, I would worry that one bad outing would define me. That if I pitched poorly I would get sent down, and if I got sent down or designated enough, teams would have a bad opinion of me. It was a self fulfilling prophecy. I would pitch poorly (because, as we already said, everyone does at some point), freak out that it was the end, heap more and more pressure on, only to find myself back on the mound again fighting for my baseball life. It was unsustainable and draining in every way. My wife and I, over the course of our 5 years of marriage/baseball, have tried really hard to fight that mentality. We prayed for patience and perspective, and practiced living it out as often as possible. But until this season I wasn't sure if it had really sunk in.

That night, however, standing tall and undaunted after a loss...I realized that it had. Days like that are going to happen. In baseball and life, there will be good days and bad, but they are both fleeting. Each day can only hold 24 hours, so when life is good CELEBRATE WELL! And when life is tough, remember that there is a newer one, a potentially much better one, just on the other side of the horizon. In the end, we will be judged by the entire body of work, so don't let one good day paralyze you with contentment and don't let the bad ones crush your resolve. Keep plugging away and chances are, in the end, you'll end up right where you're supposed to be.