May 2010

The Waiting Game

     Well, folks, as you may or may not have heard, I’ve been deemed healthy by the Texas Rangers medical staff. The last year of blood, sweat, tears, and surgery is now “in the books.” The game that I love is now within reach. It’s now become a waiting game. Once I’m healthy, I can’t just….leave. I can’t just be deemed healthy and expect to be put right out into the system. It’s understandable that the Rangers want to see me throw a few times in Arizona. Throwing multiple games will ensure health. The last thing anyone wants is a pitcher who thinks he’s healthy because all he really wants is to leave Arizona. That mindset benefits no one. Allowing myself and the Rangers to know that I’m healthy benefits everyone.

     Throwing in games has been such an amazing feeling. Putting on the uniform, strolling out to that mound, and facing live hitters is one of the greatest feelings a pitcher will ever have. I’m blessed to be out there again, feeling great, and doing what I love to do. I’ve had 3 outings so far in Arizona totaling 6 innings. The next step for me, hopefully, is being activated.
     Have you ever had that dream where something you want so badly is right in front of your face? The only problem is that your hands just can’t move. You can see it, but you just can’t grasp it. That’s the feeling I have right now. I’m healthy. I’m ready to go. Now, I just wait and see what happens. In the mean time, I’ll definitely still be blessed to be pitching anywhere. 
     I have to take this time to thank the Texas Rangers and the staff at Gwinnett Sports Rehab in Duluth, GA. Over the last year, the strength and conditioning staff, along with the medical staff, have whipped me back into shape. They have taken me from a guy with a broken shoulder back to a pitcher again. The guys in that weight room and training room for the Texas Rangers and Gwinnett Sports Rehab have worked tirelessly and patiently to get me back to where I am today. I’ve never been in as good of shape as I am right now. I’ve never felt more confident in the strength of my new shoulder. A lot of the success of overcoming shoulder surgery rests on the individual. But, if you all could see the work that was put in by the medical staff, you’d be amazed. So, from the bottom of my heart, I thank each and every person that has assisted me and helped me in my comeback. I owe you guys everything. 
     As I said earlier, the next step for me is unknown, but I feel that it’s coming soon. I’ll keep everyone updated during the coming days and weeks. I appreciate all of your kind words and uplifting messages. Fans and friends like you all are one of the main reasons I play this game. Until next time….
Michael Schlact

The Day I’ve Been Waiting For

     I woke up yesterday morning anxiously awaiting that 20 minute bus ride to the Peoria Sports Complex. During the last year, that trip down Bell Road is one that either involved In-N-Out, the mall, or some kind of trip to waste time. Yesterday however, that trip meant something to me. Not that In-N-Out doesn’t. I was rolling down Bell Road on my way to throw the first game in about a year. 

     I’ve put my cleats on while rehabbing my shoulder. But it didn’t feel the same as it did yesterday. I’ve worn my glove, grabbed a baseball, and played catch while rehabbing my shoulder. But it wasn’t to warm up for an actual game. The one thing that I’ve done thousands of times before is put on a professional uniform. However, it has never felt so rewarding as it did yesterday. Don’t get me wrong. It’s ALWAYS cool to be able to put on a professional baseball uniform. I’ve just never soaked it all in while doing it. I’ve never had appreciation, humility, happiness, and nervousness rush through my mind while putting on that uniform. I’ve never truly appreciated the opportunity for what it really is. Until yesterday. 
     As I’ve said before, you really understand how much you take for granted when something you love is taken from you. For me, having baseball taken away while rehabbing my shoulder has made me realize how much I took it for granted. Being on that mound in a game (whether extended spring training, rookie ball, high A, AA…) is the greatest feeling in the world. I felt like everything was going to be ok yesterday. I felt like, even if only for 15 pitches, that I had made it through the tough times. Yes, there is still a lot more hard work to be done. The first few outings are the true test of a rehabber’s hard work during recovery from shoulder surgery. Being on that mound yesterday and throwing pain free was a great start in showing everyone how hard I have truly worked. The first hitter I faced walked. Honestly, the pitches weren’t even that close to the plate. Jitters? Maybe. I got the second hitter to swing at a sinker inside, and he grounded into a double play. The third guy grounded out weakly to the first baseman. Three outs. End of the inning, right? Not in extended spring training with a rehabbing pitcher on the hill for the first time in a year! They want me to get close to my intended pitch count, so they threw another hitter up there. First pitch he saw was a fastball. He hit it off the end of the bat, but found its way up the middle for a single. I still had a few more pitches to work with, so they threw another hitter up there for me. Three pitches. All strikes. I got him swinging for strike 3 on a slider. I honestly forgot how great it felt to strike a guy out! That was the end of my first professional outing in a year. I walked a guy, struck a guy out, and even let my fielders get in on the action a little. Well rounded outing!
     The next step for me is a 2 inning/35 pitch outing on Thursday. Each rehab outing after that will increase my pitch count in order to strengthen my shoulder. Once the training staff feels I am ready to handle a workload of at least 4 innings in a game, I’ll hopefully be activated. There is no telling where I’ll go once activated. Frankly, it doesn’t matter. As long as I’m healthy and pitching well, the opportunity to play in the big leagues will still be there. Thank you all for your kind words the last few days. It means a lot to me that you all would remember to wish me well, or pray, or keep me in your thoughts as I embark on this journey toward health. I truly appreciate each and every one of you. Until next time….
Michael Schlact

Personal Milestones

     There are days in shoulder surgery rehabilitation that made me feel as if I was in a deep, dark hole that I couldn’t escape from. I would drive to the baseball field each day, yet never be able to step on it. I could hold a baseball, yet only for shoulder exercises. I could watch other guys run out there and toss the ball around, take ground balls, throw bullpens, and pitch in games. However, I couldn’t. The game that I love so much was taken from me. Slowly but surely I dug myself out of that hole. I scratched and clawed my way back. Little daily victories, followed by weekly victories, followed by monthly ones. I slipped and fell a few times on my way back out of that dark hole. I hit the ground hard, but got back up and started scratching and clawing again. There was only one option for me. To overcome. To play baseball again. I wasn’t going to let anything stop me.

     Today was a huge personal milestone for me. I threw in a live BP to a live hitter who was swinging away at my pitches. A live BP is short for live batting practice. Hitters take BP each day from a coach who is throwing the ball relatively slowly at them. In a LIVE BP there is a pitcher out there getting his work in, throwing close to game speed. So, today, I was that pitcher. I have waited almost a year to the day to face a hitter. I’m sure you can imagine the adrenaline rush as I toed the rubber this morning. Sure, there was NO ONE in the stands. Yes, it was only in Arizona. And no, I wasn’t even wearing my uniform. But for 10 short minutes I was back on the mound. My home. My office. Doing what I love to do. Feelings like that can’t be put into words. You’ll just have to take my word for it. Pretty awesome.
     The next step for me is a light bullpen on Saturday. Following the Saturday bullpen is another live BP on Tuesday. Tuesday’s live BP will be a little different. I’ll throw for 8 minutes or so, sit down for 8 minutes, and get up and throw 8 more minutes. The reason is to simulate the start/stop pitching style as a starting pitcher. As long as those go well, I’m scheduled to be in a game sometime around next Saturday, May 15.  
     Just as today was a huge personal milestone for me, actually being in a game sometime toward the end of next week will be an even bigger one. As always, I appreciate all of you reading my blog. I appreciate those Facebook/Twitter followers that constantly keep me motivated/uplifted/focused on my goal. You guys are the best. Thanks again for reading. Until next time…
Michael Schlact