“What exactly do you do every day during the off-season, besides tweet, play video games, and watch TV?” You would be amazed as to how often that question is asked. The fact is, yes, I do that a lot. However, that only takes up a small percentage of my off-season. Preparation for the next season begins not too long after the current season ends. Sure, there’s time to re-charge the batteries. There’s also time to engage in activities to keep us well-rounded individuals. The beauty of being an athlete in most cases is that there is down time. I know many athletes that are artists, sculptors, web designers, etc. We can’t possibly be in the gym, practicing on the field, or conditioning at all times. It’s just impossible. That would be the equivalent of someone spending all day and night at the office behind the desk.
After a few weeks of re-charge time, the training begins for the next season. This is nearly impossible without looking forward in excitement for the next season. Just like with anything else, the task at hand is easier when there’s something to look forward to. I feel that athletes, regardless of skill level, have something to improve upon. Being honest with ourselves, and filtering out the many opinions we receive, is key to realizing our off-season goals. Alternating the lower body and upper body lifts, producing an effective conditioning work out, and sticking to a strict eating plan are some of the mandatory off-season regimens. The gyms, training rooms, and running tracks are far removed from the bright lights of the stadiums we play in. Putting the hard work in there translates to success on the field. When it gets tough, I remember the saying: “Never give up on something you can’t go a day without thinking about.”
I am currently in a phase of the off-season where much of my future is unknown. The sense of “what’s next” is heightened by the unknown world of free agency. My job is to train like I have a job, throw like I’ll be in spring training, and leave the rest to God. I truly believe that He is in control of my future, and the doors that open, or close, are all because of Him. Faith and belief, for me, have recently changed from HOPING that I can perform at the professional level to KNOWING that God has given me the gifts to perform at the professional level at this point in my life. It’s a great feeling.
Thank you all for the constant support and encouragement. I am blessed to have a platform from which to spread positivity, happiness, and share my career. On Twitter (@michael_schlact), I am blown away by your kind words. Thanks for reading what I write, listening to what I say, and understanding where I come from. While being a professional athlete truly is a dream come true, it’s also a tough lifestyle. Having people there for me throughout the journey makes it a bit easier! Until next time…
It’s been a while, folks. I thank you for keeping this blog in your thoughts, for checking it out again, and for continually supporting me. The reason for my latest delay is because I have started college. I am able to take classes from a state university online, and I figured the best time was now to start. As many of you know, I was drafted in 2004 out of high school and never stepped foot on a college campus. Four years seems daunting, but chipping away at it seems to be the most logical choice.
That being said, I’m getting older. 27 years old. In minor league free agent years that’s “look for a retirement home” old. That’s “life alert” old. That’s “eat dinner at 4:30″ old. Here’s the difference: I won’t give up. I’ve been through a lot in my 9+ year professional career, and I don’t plan to stop now. On Twitter, I get asked daily why I don’t just give it up. The answer is simple. I love what I do.
There comes a time when everyone in baseball goes from being pursued by teams to in pursuit of teams. My status has shifted. I’m okay with that. The route I must take nowadays is to e-mail GM’s, throw for scouts, prove my health, and make a lasting impression. The road is up hill for sure, but I’m prepared. We must thrive on adversity. We must never let it tear us apart. We must use adversity to make us stronger, teach us lessons, and we must allow it to provide us with the fuel necessary to continue.
I may not be the most talented pitcher left in the free agent market. I may not have the fame, notoriety, or MLB service time that others have. I’m certainly not a household name. What I do have, however, is heart, grit, determination, and an unwavering faith in God. I’m excited for each opportunity that I’m given, and I can’t wait to see what’s next. I have an amazing wife, a great family, and many friends and supporters that believe in me.
As I move forward in this free agency journey, I know that the road is long, windy, and sometimes bumpy. I know that I may not end up where I think I should be, but I know that I’ll end up where I’m meant to be. Your support via social media has been incredible, and I can’t thank you enough. Never give up. You’re more than likely much closer to success than you think. Until next time…
I tweeted this morning that baseball started out as a game I played for fun with my friends and it ended up changing my life. The truthfulness of that statement really hits home every time I think about it. To be honest, my parents had to DRAG me to baseball practice when I was 7 years old. I think I even ended up not finishing the season that year. By the time I was 12 years old, you couldn’t pull me away from the game. Double header? ”Dad, can we toss in the backyard after the game?” It was fun, I was good at it, and my friends played it. That’s what kept me in the game. Now, on the morning of my 9th professional season and my 8th professional opening day, I sit here writing this post in complete awe of where my life has gone. Baseball has changed my life.
I grew up playing this game. Most of you know my story. Little League to travel baseball. Travel baseball to high school baseball. High school baseball to professional baseball. Drafted at 18 out of high school by the Texas Rangers. Thrown into the world of professional baseball having never left home. Standing in front of a hotel washing machine for hours contemplating which button to mash first. Talking to my girlfriend (now my wife Jillian) on the phone for hours knowing she was 2,000 miles away and I wouldn’t get to see her for 3 months. Striking out my first professional hitter. My first pro win. I guess you could say that this game is all I know. Maybe that’s true.
Baseball has taught me more than just baseball. Dedication, work ethic, perseverance, time management, self-control, nutrition, and respect to name a few. I’m a big believer that you have to be thrown into something to truly learn what it’s all about. Sure, reading a book or studying can help prepare you for what’s coming, but actually going through it teaches you the most. Now, as I sit here writing this post, I can’t help but be so thankful to everyone that has played a huge role in helping me along.
My parents and brother sacrificed thousands of days and dollars to help me achieve my dream. Lessons, equipment, traveling, tournaments, showcases, and hard metal bleachers. Their support has kept me going when I didn’t have much else. My friends that wanted to play a pick up game in the backyard kept me interested in this great game and were great teammates. My coaches along the way that showed me how much better you could get with hard work. The Texas Rangers organization for taking a chance on me in the 2004 draft. I’m forever grateful for the opportunity. Dr. Keith Meister and the Texas Rangers Medical staff and the Gwinnett Medical Center for helping me continue my dream as a pro baseball player by surgically repairing and rehabbing my right shoulder. All of my current and former teammates that each taught me a little bit about the way the game is meant to be played. Last but not least, a huge thanks to my wife Jillian and her family. Since the moment I met them, they have supported my dream and have been by my side the whole way. It’s great to have family like that.
Today, as I drive to the stadium, I’ll be thinking about all those hours I spent practicing with my Dad in the backyard. I’ll be thinking about the countless games on those little league fields with my friends, and the hours I spent working hard on that high school field. I’ll be thinking about the first professional pitch I threw and the one that almost ended my career. I’ll be thinking about the first pitch I threw after surgery, and the many sacrifices my wife has made to be here by my side day after day. I’ll be thinking about how tough this life can be, yet how rewarding it can be at the same time. I’ll be thinking about the many great friends and teammates I have made, and I’ll be thinking about those that aren’t playing anymore and wish that they could be. All the while, I’ll be thinking about how incredibly blessed I am to be playing such a great game. It doesn’t get much better than baseball, folks. Have a great day!
Welcome to another edition of the Schlact Stories. Many people have been asking me about free agency. What’s it like? How do you handle it? Are you scared? Those are all valid questions. Yes, free agency is scary. You are correct, I have no idea what next season will bring. Sometimes yes, I get nervous about the future. There is however, certainty within the uncertainty.
As a professional baseball player, I have become conditioned to the routine that comes with the job. For instance, I know that I should start throwing the baseball right around my birthday (December 9th). I also know that I’ll be way behind on my conditioning if I haven’t started running by new years. Regardless of the team or the situation, these things remain the same. Spring Training comes every spring. The season lasts until right around Labor Day. The more routine I can keep in my schedule the better. There is no point in focusing on what may or may not happen. As my wife so boldly and lovingly pointed out, “If you love the game, you’ll play it. Somewhere. Take the opportunity that’s given to you.”
There are few things that are certain about the life of a baseball player. Especially one who is grinding his way through the minor leagues or independent ball. Where will I play this season? Where will my wife and I live? Will we make enough money to live? What about our place back home? How much “stuff” should we bring with us for the season? What if I get signed or moved mid-season? How will that affect my wife? What if I get released? I could go on and on. These questions are a tiny snapshot of the uncertainty surrounding the game I love. The certainty, as I pointed out earlier, can be found within the uncertainty. I will begin throwing on my birthday. I’ll start running on new year’s day. I’ll hop on the mound for bullpens February 1. In March, I’ll head to spring training. July 4th, I’ll be playing baseball and there will be a fireworks show after the game.
Focusing on the certainty helps me cope with the uncertainty. As a creature of habit and routine, it’s really all I can do. I love baseball. This game has given me opportunities that I wouldn’t have doing anything else. I’m blessed and thankful for all of them. The people I’ve met, the places I’ve seen, and the scenery that I’ve soaked up through charter bus windows is all part of the wonderful journey I’m on. I don’t know what tomorrow brings. I do know, however, that you can probably find me at the gym or on a baseball field preparing for it!
Where to begin. It’s been a while since I’ve posted, obviously. For that, I do apologize. This season was amazing for me on many levels. I’ll use this blog entry to fill everyone in. Thanks for checking in and keeping up via Twitter and Facebook. I can honestly say that I have the best fans in the world.
As many of you know, I had shoulder surgery in July of 2009. That was life changing for me. If you want to know the whole story, read the rest of my blog entries. Coming into my first full season after the surgery (2011), I didn’t know what to expect. I did know, however, that I needed to prove to MLB teams that I was healthy and back to the way I used to be. I had a few goals going into this past season. Throw 100 innings, E.R.A under 5, and less than 40 walks. I accomplished all of those and more. I’m not using this platform to gloat or to sell myself. I’m just taking everyone on a journey through my mind and letting you in on what I was thinking. I finished the regular season 6-4 with a 4.60 ERA in 107.1 IP. I made the Atlantic League All-Star team, and more importantly showed MLB teams that I was healthy again. I am so thankful for all of the strides that I made this year. I have my teammates, training staff, and coaches to thank for that. Our coaching staff was fantastic. The wealth of baseball knowledge that I was surrounded by daily made me a better player. The talent of the players around me helped me to step up my game each night. All you have to do is check out atlanticleague.com and see all the names that play there each year.
As I enter the 2011-2012 off season, I am a free agent again. Another winter of the unknown. Another winter of hoping that phone rings with an opportunity to play the game I love. Another winter of training as hard as I can to be ready at the drop of a hat. But, in all honesty, I wouldn’t want it any other way. I feel blessed to play the greatest game in the world as my job. The unknown is just part of the gig. My dream is to play baseball in the major leagues. As I’ve said before, I won’t stop chasing that dream until I physically can’t, or “they” rip that uniform off my back and won’t return it to me.
Thank you to the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs for such an amazing opportunity in 2011. There are so many people that become involved in a baseball player’s season. Instead of naming them all individually, I would like to extend a HUGE thank you to each of them. I can assure you that I will update my blog more often. Feel free to comment, ask questions, and send idea requests for any future blog entry topics. Thanks for reading, and until next time….have a great day!
The moment that every ballplayer works toward each winter is opening day. It’s when all the hard work pays off. It’s what makes those cold, dark days seem worth all the trouble. It’s like when that final bell rings at school letting all the kids out for summer break. Get it? Opening day is awesome. Also, for myself and the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs, it’s tonight.
I’ve been training with this team now for a few weeks, and I’m very impressed with everything. The caliber of play is some of the best I’ve been around. Every guy on this team brings something very special to the field. Also, all the guys that our manager has put in that clubhouse are exceptional people. In a nutshell, I’m really looking forward to spending my summer with these guys on this team. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to be signed back in to affiliated ball. That’s everyone’s goal. However, if this is where I end up playing all season, I’d be totally fine with that.
Thank you guys for all the encouragement and kind words throughout this off season. Thank you also for reading this blog, and for spreading the word about it. You’re the reason that I write it! My goal is to bridge the gap between player and fan, give you all an insight to this game like nowhere else, and hopefully give you a sense that I’m just a normal guy with a really cool opportunity. Follow along with the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs all season long here: http://www.somdbluecrabs.com or http://www.atlanticleague.com
Thanks again for reading, and play ball!
Welcome back. I appreciate you all following along with me on Twitter, Facebook, and my MLBlog. Many of you might have heard the news regarding my free agency for this season. If you haven’t heard yet, here you go. I have signed a 2011 contract with the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs of the independent Atlantic League. As I wrote in a previous blog entry, independent ball is great for guys who want to prove their health, abilities, or that just love the game. Since day 1, I’ve heard nothing but positive things about the Atlantic League. Many former MLB players are in the league, and the competition is said to be the best in all of indy ball. I am blessed to have signed a contract in that league and I look forward to the season.
Just so that you know, signing with an independent league team doesn’t mean that I can’t sign with a MLB team. If a MLB team approaches me and wants me to sign before I’ve thrown my first pitch in Southern Maryland, the contract just voids without any stipulations. If the Atlantic League season has begun, a MLB team will have to buy me out of the Southern Maryland contract. This of course is not totally confirmed, it’s just my understanding.
I’ll attach a few links for you guys to read up on my new team, and check out the stadium I’ll be playing in for this season. It looks like a wonderful place to call home, and I know some guys that have played there that say you just can’t beat it. Thanks for all the well wishes and kind words from you guys. As you’ve followed my free agency and injury journey, it’s been very comforting to know that so many people are supporting me. I thank each and every one of you sincerely, and I hope to see you at a ballpark this summer!
Many people have been asking me what I’m going to do if a MLB team doesn’t pick me up. I wanted to write a short entry that will hopefully let you guys in on the decision making that a free agent has to make. There are many factors that go in to a team being hesitant to sign a pitcher. Stats, history, character, surgeries, etc. In my case, teams have been hesitant to pick me up because of my 2009 shoulder surgery. I missed most of 2009 and more than half of 2010 because of it, and my comeback wasn’t exactly strong. Granted, I had some great outings. However, towards the end of the season, when my innings started adding up, arm fatigue set in and I got hit around a little bit. All of that is to be expected with shoulder surgery. Ups, downs, highs, lows. So, with very little consistency and not much time to prove my health, you can imagine why teams would be hesitant to sign me. There is a way for me to prove to teams that I am healthy. That I can throw a lot of innings. That I can be consistent. That’s independent league baseball.
I wanted to write a quick blog entry to wish all of my readers a very happy, healthy, and blessed new year. I sincerely hope that it’s the best year yet for all of you! The new year is a time when a baseball player’s internal clock gets ticking a little faster. We can sense that spring training is fast approaching, and the need to be ready becomes critical. The work ethic that we display these next few months will definitely have a direct impact on our start to 2011.
It’s always tough for me to find the words on days like this. That’s probably why this will be one of the shorter blog entries that I write. Days like this one remind a person of what’s truly important in life. Days like this remind you to always give loved ones hugs before you leave them. Days like this remind you to live each day as if it’s your last. Today, November 14, 2010, is “one of those days.”