The Bullpen Banter: Rainy days

Episode #8

Hi Everyone,

We are currently commuting back from our Memorial Day game in Columbia, SC. ~1.5 hrs each way, so it is not too bad.

So what has been going on?

After Charleston, the rain turtle worked its butt off! We had three consecutive rainouts against West Virginia. Two of my buddies from the Cape Cod league play for WV. They were furious. While teams typically like rainouts, it stinks to drive 6-8 hrs from WV to sit in the Augusta GreenJackets visiting locker room with nothing to show for it.

While the three days off seem like a vacation, we spent 5-7 hrs in the locker room each day. At some point in each day, we worked to throw, lift, stretch, etc. Each day, they waited as long as possible to cancel the games. 

What do we do for 5-7 hours? We go crazy. Legitimately, insane. We played 5,000 hands of pasoy. When that got old, I spent an hour playing "high or low" with Ash Fulmer. When that got old, we all downloaded Clash Of Clans. When that got old, I bought a great book off of Elon Musk's reading list.

This is definitely a common misconception of rainouts. If they happen early, they truly are a day off, but in many cases, it does not happen that way. Minor league teams often have significant money on the line. If the game is cancelled, they forfeit concessions revenue, as well as return gate revenue. For this reason, they will wait as long as possible to cancel the game. Consequently, the players sit in the locker room passing time, and we wait for a 30-40 minute heads up that we are playing.

True story. In Salem my first year, we played in Vancouver, Canada. We tried to squeeze in a game, so we played in constant rain for two innings. After two innings, it was postponed because the field was soaked. The next day, we watched as groundscrew spent HOURS trying to soak up the water on the field, so we could play a doubleheader. We still had a ~10 hour bus ride home, but we had to hang around to play ~14 innings of baseball. It was the last home game of the year for Vancouver, so they really wanted the concessions revenue.

After hours of delays, it was pretty clear the field would never be playable. The team decided they had sold three hours of beer, so they finally cancelled it. The head of the groundscrew heard it announced, and he realized he had just wasted hours of hard work for a game that was not happening. Immediately, he tossed his rake and emphatically said “You’re f***ing kidding me!!” We laughed about it for ten hours on the way home!

By day 3, I was running out of ideas to kill time. 20 hours in a cinder block box filled with 30 guys eating chicken wings and Cocoa Puffs can be maddening. We were a bunch of caged animals. I almost grabbed a sledgehammer and created a window to the room for fresh air. Not to mention, management likes to keep the locker room thermostat at a steamy 79 degrees. That is blasphemy. If you keep your thermostat at 79 degrees, you are a certified psycho. That's a fact. No debate.

Anyways, Baseball has been awful. While I described my dreadful and unlucky outing in Charleston, it has only gotten worse. In my outing against the Rome Braves, I came in in the 9th inning of a 1-1 game. I gave up a weak base hit, but I got three weak groundballs to throw a scoreless inning. In the 10th, however, things went awful. I gave up 5 runs. 4 runs were earned. How'd it happen? I gave up a weak groundball to our first baseman, and when he threw it to me at first, he threw it 5 feet behind me. Somehow, the ruled it a hit and not an error. The next guy bunted for a hit. The next guy bunted to me, and I caught it. The next guy hit a groundball to our shortstop, and he overthrew it for an error. After that, a double, a single, and a groundball got me two outs before I was removed. 

Between Rome and Charleston, I threw really well, but five or six mistakes by our defense cost me 9 runs. My two best outings became my worst.

Tonight, in Columbia, I threw two innings, and I gave up four more runs. This includes the first homerun of my professional career. Remember that lonely feeling on the mound I described, definitely felt that tonight. 

Last three appearances: 4.2 innings. 12 runs. 16 hits. 7 infield hits. 2 broken bat singles. This is the worst luck/results I have ever had in my baseball career. In two weeks, I went from All-Star caliber Stats to the worst on the team. 

I would rather teach a 3rd grade class filled with 25 pixie-stick fueled boys than relive this stretch of baseball. This stretch of baseball was the wrath of 2020 in baseball form. It felt like somebody repeatedly kicked me in the groin. Sometimes, I think I miss baseball. Then I remember this stretch and realize I am glad to be in consulting!

With all of this being said, the coaches and higher-ups seem to think my transition to throwing sidearm is going well. They said I looked great in Charleston and Rome. Tonight, my coach said he loved my slider, but I left fastballs up. Unfortunately, that is the problem. Because
sidearm is so new to me, my mistakes happen to be very very very hittable fastballs. I throw 90% quality pitches, but my mistakes tonight were really really bad. This is what happens when you change your throwing motion at the professional level. You fail a lot. Tonight, I failed a lot.

Those 10% of misses repeatedly got whacked. It was almost statistically impossible how well they were hitting me!

What's the worse thing about baseball after outings like these? We have to play tomorrow.

What's the best thing about baseball after outings like these? I get an opportunity to bounce back tomorrow. In The Martian, Matt Damon ends the movie by explaining how he survived on Mars.

 "At some point, everything's gonna go south on you... everything's going to go south and you're going to say, this is it. This is how I end. Now you can either accept that, or you can get to work. That's all it is. You just begin. You do the math. You solve one problem... and you solve the next one... and then the next. And If you solve enough problems, you get to come home"

Fun fact. I actually had a roommate once ask me if The Martian was based on a true story… that was an “Oh dear” moment. Jokes aside, this quote continues to be one of my favorites, and it was an odd preamble to my life in consulting!!

Now, the movie is completely fictional. In addition, I realize I am not stuck on Mars (although, the heat and humidity in Augusta might be similar). On top of it all, I am not in a life/death scenario. As a matter of fact, it is quite the opposite. I am living a dream. With all of this being said, it is a really good quote, and tomorrow I intend to solve that next problem by gosh.

While the stories have been less eventful than before, I will end with some positivity! First, as of today, the Scabies are gone. I am no longer the town Leper.

Second, one of the readers of this email told me her son (shoutout to Dash) just finished a couple months of baseball. He got hooked on baseball after watching me play in Salem last summer. That made my day, and after tonight's outing, reading that I passed this sport onto a young kid made me feel way better. With that being said, DO NOT START THROWING SIDEARM DASH. Also, I gave up my first career homerun to a guy named Dash tonight. Not sure what that coincidence might mean, but I prefer to avoid it. Maybe Dash will be a big left-handed hitter who enjoys hitting sidearm sliders a long way?!?

Finally, I had Melissa and my mom in town this past weekend. Made my weekend. The journey is all about who you share it with! Also, I find it funny that they only got a five or six photos of me. In one, I am joking around with teammates. In the other, I am picking up baseballs after the game. While I am listed as a relief pitcher, I think Bullpen Captain and Supervisor of Morale are more astute classifications of what I do. Especially now that I stink on the mound.

That about does it though!