April 2010

Home Stretch

     When something takes a year to accomplish or to overcome, it can be discouraging. When you are a professional baseball player, a year is a long time. Missing almost an entire season the previous year, and two months of the current season is not something that you want to happen. You show up to the complex in Arizona every day, doing shoulder exercises, working out, maybe playing catch. Then, you graduate to bullpens, live batting practices, and eventually game action. All the while, your teammates and friends are out at affiliates playing. They are doing the single thing you’ve wished you could do for a year now. It can be quite discouraging if you let it. It can be painful to watch toward the beginning of shoulder rehab, knowing that you still have a long way to go. That is all going to change for me very soon. So long as there are no major setbacks in my progress, I’ll be toeing the rubber in a real game within weeks!

     Tomorrow morning is my first bullpen in a few weeks. I had a minor setback a few weeks ago involving my shoulder. Typical soreness and tenderness post surgery. There is a much greater force involved in throwing a baseball from an elevated slab of dirt in the middle of a baseball field than there is just playing catch in the outfield. So naturally, the shoulder will need time to adjust. I hope that my period of adjusting is over and that my shoulder is ready to go. I’ll throw three bullpens this week. So long as everything goes well next week, the following week will include longer bullpen sessions that simulate innings. I’ll throw 25 pitches, sit down for 5 minutes, and throw 25 more pitches. In my opinion, simulating innings is a key part of shoulder rehab. Since I started throwing it’s been a timed session with no breaks. This is to build arm strength. However, pitching in games is different. It’s firing the shoulder for 15-25 pitches, letting it rest, and then firing it up again. That’s a whole new ball game for my arm. I believe that if my arm can withstand the force of 50 pitches and withstand the inning simulations, the medical staff could clear me for game action.
     I titled this entry “Home Stretch” because that’s the phase of rehabilitation i’m entering tomorrow. I’m starting to get real exciting about the coming weeks. I’ve said this many times before, but this past year has been one of the toughest years of my life. It’s had many discouraging moments. It’s tested my faith. It’s definitely tested my love for the game. When I toe that rubber in a real game for the first time, all of the negative events of the past year will fly out the window. All of the sleepless nights, long days, hard work, blood, sweat, and tears will be forgotten. It will be a moment that i’ll never forget. As i’ve said before, I am going to cherish each and every moment that I’m on that field from now on. Putting on a professional uniform is a privilege, and one that will not be taken for granted. In hard times, it’s easy to question why you’re putting yourself through this. Is it worth it? Am I getting anywhere? I asked those same questions. Being so close to attaining what I thought might be impossible is one of the greatest feelings in the world. The next few weeks are critical. The next few weeks are extremely tough. However, the next few weeks are going to lead up to the great accomplishment I’ve had in professional baseball. Overcoming something that some people said I may never overcome. 
     I have to thank you, my readers, for the encouragement and support. For those of you that follow me on Twitter, your constant kind words or encouragement do not go unnoticed. I appreciate every single one of you that take time out of your day to write me and make sure that all is well. To my friends, thank you all for being there for me. You have been there for me since before baseball was my profession. I sincerely appreciate that you always have my back. To my family, thank you for your tireless dedication to my success. My in-laws DO NOT miss a chance to support me. They listen to each game, send encouraging text-messages, and visit whenever they can. My parents and little brother have sacrificed so many minutes, days, weeks, months, and even years to make sure I had the best opportunity to succeed in baseball. Baseball took over summers that should’ve been spent vacationing, winters that probably should have been spent indoors, but instead were spent outdoors taking ground balls, pop-ups, and playing catch. Also, a huge thank you to my wonderful wife. She has sacrificed so much to support me these last few years. Having her with me throughout each season is amazing. But, the most amazing thing about her is that even when times have been tough she has stood by my side. This past year has been tough one me. But, I’m not the only one it’s affected. Each and every day that I’ve been rehabbing she has been by my side when I returned home. She is there when I’m discouraged, there when I’ve had a daily victory, there when I threw my first post-surgery throw. The good and the bad, the positive and the negative. She is with me and has my back through it all! Without her positive and uplifting attitude, I’m not sure that I could’ve made it this far. Last, I want to thank God. Thank You for giving me life. Thank You for putting people in my life to help me achieve success. Thank You for putting drive, heart, determination, and the will to succeed into my being. Thank You for giving me the opportunity to play the most wonderful game in the world. I owe it all to You.  Each and every person in my life has played some kind of role in helping me get where I am. For that, I am so thankful. I found a quote yesterday that really struck a chord with me. I’m going to end this entry with that quote. Thank you all for reading, and I hope you have a wonderful day! 


“Somewhere behind the athlete you’ve become, the hours of practice, the coaches who push you, and the fans who cheer for you, is the boy who fell in love with the sport and never looked back. Play for him.”

Hi, my name is Michael Schlact.

      Arizona. The 48th state. Located in the southwestern United States of America. A place with mountains, valleys, canyons, cacti, dust, and dirt. A place with planned retirement communities, speeding cameras on interstates, and home to some of the worst traffic ever. Arizona is also home to the Surprise Recreation Campus. This is the current home of the Extended Spring Training Rangers, and yours truly. Arizona is a place that I have gotten to know all too well over the last year. It’s the place where rehabbing baseball players unite. It’s a place that will eat you alive if you aren’t at the top of your game mentally each and every day. Arizona is, for me, my temporary home.

     There are a lot of things a ballplayer may take for granted in this game. I think it’s safe to say that the majority of professional baseball players were probably the best players at their little league, on their travel teams, and on their high school and college teams. The opportunity that has been given to us is life changing. Succeed, and play in the Major Leagues. That means making lots of money, being famous, and being able to tell everyone you’ve ever known, “I told you so.” After a few years of playing professionally the game can wear on you. Spring trainings that are full of fundamentals and long days, 140 game seasons with lots of overnight bus trips and small towns, and a salary that can be tough to live on. However, I can bet that there are thousands and thousands and thousands of people that would trade out their day jobs for our profession any second of any day.  I believe that sometimes it takes a setback to truly realize what that means. Let me paint a picture in your mind. Imagine being on a mound in Little Rock, Arkansas. Imagine feeling great that day. Imagine pitching three innings, and thinking that in your mind, it’s just another day at the office. Now imagine getting two strikes on a hitter. Imagine seeing that catcher put down the signal for a slider. Now imagine going through your windup, letting that pitch go, and feeling the worst stabbing, gnawing, excruciating pain you’ve ever felt rip through your throwing shoulder. Imagine trying to throw the next warm up pitch and the ball travels MAYBE 30 feet. Not a good feeling right? Everything that I knew was taken from me on that single pitch. Any sense of comfort, stability, and confidence was ripped from me. People talk about seeing their lives flash before their eyes. I saw my career flash before my eyes. I knew something was wrong. Seriously wrong.
     That walk from the pitcher’s mound in Little Rock, Arkansas to the clubhouse was the longest 250 foot walk of my life. So many things were racing through my head. How? Why? What just happened? Did that really just happen? I then starting thinking back to things I probably took for granted in my career. All those times that I didn’t want to shag batting practice. All those times that I didn’t want to do those PFP’s. All those times that I didn’t want to throw a bullpen. Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE doing those things. But just like anybody else, somedays you just don’t FEEL like doing them. It takes a moment like the one I had on April 13, 2009 in the 4th inning of a AA baseball game in Little Rock, Arkansas to realize how much I actually love this game. As you already know, I went on to have July 2009 shoulder surgery, and missed the remainder of that season. To make a long story short, all of those things have now become something I ENJOY doing again. Watching guys just show up and throw bullpens like it was nothing made me miss doing that. Taking ground balls and making that short throw from the pitcher’s mound to first base made me miss doing that. I missed hanging out with other pitchers in the outfield during BP and just talking about anything and everything. I missed showing up to the ballpark every day, suiting up in a professional baseball uniform, and playing the game I love.
     The reason I am telling you all of this is so that you may realize what a changed person I am. This past year has been the toughest year of my life. Hands down. It has challenged every bit of my being. This year has not only shown me how much I really do love the game, it showed me that I took the tiny things for granted. I have made a promise to myself. I understand that baseball is a business at this level. However, it’s still a game. A game that I played when I was 8, before stats and internet. Before heckling fans and pitcher’s conditioning. When my Dad was my coach, and my best friend could be my teammate because my Dad could make that happen! Same game. I have promised myself to soak in each and every day that I have left to play this game. I have promised myself to savor the little moments in this game like eating sunflower seeds in the dugout with a fellow pitcher. I have promised myself to remember how genuinely excited I used to get when I could toe that rubber at 12 years old. Why should it be any different now? This game will continue to be played long after my career is over. Baseball is NOT waiting on me. I have to make the most out of each opportunity and each day that I have to suit up in that uniform. I have to take it back to basics and be that little kid that couldn’t wait to get home from school, just so that I could put that uniform on and head to the park. The promise that I’ve made to myself begins now.
Michael Schlact

Happy Easter!

     I wanted to write a quick entry today and wish you all a very happy Easter Sunday! I hope that you enjoy spending time with family and friends. It’s tough to gather Easter traditions as a ballplayer. Each year, we are either in a different city or moving to a different city. Usually our families are at home and we make the best of the situation we are in. Since I’ve been in professional baseball, my wife has always done a great job making sure that holidays during the baseball season aren’t forgotten. It’s a guarantee that at the very least, I’ll have a little Easter basket with some of my favorite candies in it. That’s what it is all about to me. If you don’t have holiday traditions, make them! It’s never too late to begin making memories! 

     I am in the middle of a four day break from shoulder rehabilitation. That’s a time to clear the mind, get away from everything for a little bit, and just rest. The fact that my four day break came during Easter weekend couldn’t have worked out better. My wife and I are at home in Atlanta right now spending the weekend with our closest friends and family! I haven’t been home in April since 2004. My wife hasn’t been home in April since 2006. It is safe to say that we’re really enjoying ourselves.
     On Tuesday, we will fly back to Phoenix so that I can resume my shoulder rehabilitation. I have learned from Texas that I will be conditioned back as a starter, and then once deemed healthy, I’ll slide into the organization wherever there is an opening. The last two and a half years have been spent in AA Frisco, Texas. To be honest, after being out almost a year now, I just want to play. Whether it’s A ball or AAA, whether I’m a starter or a reliever,  I’m excited to play and to continue my progress.  Being healthy and playing the game regardless of the level allows me the opportunity to chase my dream of being a big leaguer!
  I hope you all enjoy your Easter.  Thanks for reading, and God bless!
Michael Schlact