August 2010

The Change

     For as long as I can remember, I’ve been the pitcher that you’ve seen warming up before the game, walking out to the mound, standing there for the national anthem, taking my warm up pitches, and it’s game-on. In my professional career from 2004-last week, I was a starter. I got used to that lifestyle. Every 5 days, I show up, drink lots of water, slowly put on my uniform, and head out around 6:30 pm to start my warm ups. I knew that in the early innings I needed to pace my effort level in order to make it deep into games. I knew when I was going to pitch, my pitch count, and what to expect. As of a few days ago, that has all changed.

     I received word that I was moving into the bullpen a few days ago. I took it in stride, as I do with most things. At first, I was a little taken back by it, but the more I thought about it the more I realized that it could be a good thing. There is a lot to consider when changing from a starter to a reliever. First, I had always known that 30 minutes was the time it took me to stretch, throw, get off the bullpen mound, and then into the game. Now, I could be called upon at any minute, mid-inning, late in the game after sitting and getting cold for an hour, or who knows what! I may have to come into a game with runners on base, game on the line, and someone else’s ERA and win on the line. I was always on the other end of things. Now it’s my turn to help “hold down the fort.” 
     Another thing I’ll have to take into consideration is when to start stretching, how much to throw pre-game, and how long it actually takes me to get loose. The bullpen guys seem to have a good gauge of when the starter is in trouble out there. A lot of what I’ve done these past few games has been strictly visual. I watch when they begin to stretch out. I watch when that phone rings from the dugout. I watch how the relievers warm up before heading into the game. The tough thing for me is going to be figuring out how to play long toss at 4 pm, and be loose at 8 pm to come into the game. There are tricks to the trade I’m sure, and that’s why I’m soaking in all I can from these guys.
     There is one thing that I’m nervous about over all else. It’s the “you’re in the game now run from the bullpen to the game mound with 8,000 fans watching your every step.” Do I jog? Do I sprint? Do I walk? I will tell you one thing. I won’t trip and fall. Well, I can’t promise that, but if I do I’m sure you’ll hear about it. The other things that go along with being a reliever will be figured out as I go. It’s something that will take time and practice. I’m certainly up for the challenge!
    As always, I thank you for taking this ride with me. It’s certainly been a long, interesting year. Surgery, rehab, throwing programs, bullpens, games, starting, relieving, traveling, the whole deal. You’ve been there to support me and encourage me the entire way. I sincerely appreciate all the kind words you send my way via Facebook, Twitter, this blog comment section. It all gets read, and certainly appreciated. I hope you all have a fantastic rest of your week. Until next time…
Michael Schlact

Trading Season

     Everyone in the world of baseball hears about the blockbuster trades toward the end of July. It’s plastered on every TV screen and sports ticker. It’s talked about on every sports talk show and morning radio show. You see the interviewed players during huge press conferences. People watch the superstars first appearances with new teams while wearing new uniforms in anticipation. There is a behind the scenes to these trades, however. In most cases, minor league players are the tiny blip on the ticker. They are the player to be named later, or the Cliff Lee for Justin Smoak and “some minor leaguers.” From the day I showed up here in Frisco, TX about a month ago, trading season took its toll on my team. I wanted to share with you a quick behind the scenes view on what it’s like when these trades go down.

     My second day in Double-A was in Springfield, MO. Our pre game throwing program had been delayed by some rain, so we were all sitting around watching the few TV’s scattered throughout the visitors clubhouse. The big story of that day was Cliff Lee “supposedly” being traded to the Yankees. We all sat around talking about how the Yankees were going to do it again! They were going to acquire Cliff Lee, one of the greatest pitchers in the game today. Ho-hum, right? The rain lets up and we head outside to play some catch. My throwing partner that day was Kentucky native Josh Lueke. We had just begun throwing when the manager, Steve Buechele, came running out of the clubhouse with the pitching coach and a bat boy. He says something to Lueke, the bat boy runs into the batting cage and grabs our 2nd baseman Matt Lawson, and they head down the tunnel and into the clubhouse. Umm….ok? After about 5 minutes, he comes back out real quick to yell at me that he’s been traded. To the Mariners. For Cliff Lee. Wow. At 4:38 pm I’m playing catch with my fellow pitcher, and at 4:41 pm, he is part of another organization from a huge trade that wasn’t even supposed to happen. Just. Like. That. 
     A few weeks later, we’re in Midland, TX. There had been news trickling in all day that the Rangers needed a corner infielder/utility guy. Jorge Cantu had been targeted by the Rangers to fit that mold. A name that we kept hearing was our closer, Evan Reed. He didn’t really understand that it could happen, nor did he want to understand. It’s always business as usual for him. Remember my story about Josh Lueke a few minutes ago? Stay tuned. While the players hit BP, pitchers shag flies in the outfield. That’s our job during BP. One favorite pastime of pitchers is called “power shagging.” We grab an outfielder’s glove, take a position, and do our best to run down every fly ball in the vicinity. It’s a full out “make the Top 10 play on SportsCenter” type thing for us. Yeah, we’re dorks sometimes. Anyway, we’re out there shagging fly balls, and again the manager comes running out to the cut of the grass behind 2nd base yelling for Evan Reed. He slowly jogs in to near the batting cage at home plate, grabs a cell phone, and begins talking to whomever is on the other end. After a 5 minute conversation he hands the cell phone back to the manager, and disappears into the tunnel. Once BP was done, we all headed in to grab food, and there sits Evan Reed. Bags packed, smile on his face, headed to the Marlins organization for Jorge Cantu. Just. Like. That.
     Remember the Evan Reed story I just told you about? Hang tight AGAIN. A few days later we’re back in Frisco. There had been more stories in the news about the Rangers wanting a utility infielder for Ian Kinsler while he was injured. Christian Guzman seemed to be the intended target. Just as I was leaving for the field that day, it was announced that the deal was agreed to and that 2 minor league pitchers were heading to Washington’s organization for Guzman. I knew right away that something was going to happen again. This time, TWO of our starting pitchers were taken from our team. Ryan Tatusko and Tanner Roark were informed of the trade as they arrived at the ballpark that day. Just. Like. That.
   Being traded for a major league player is an awesome opportunity. It allows you to head to a new organization with some investment in you. A team gave away a MLB player, and decided that YOU were worth receiving for him. Pretty cool, right? I’m very happy for all my buddies that were traded this year. I know that they will all help those clubs in the future, and I know that the player we received for them will help out the Rangers as we make a push for the postseason. All in all, teammates and friends of mine that were traded THIS YEAR include: Michael Main, Blake Beaven, Matt Lawson, Justin Smoak, Josh Lueke, Evan Reed, Ryan Tatusko, and Tanner Roark. All played for the RoughRiders this year, and all will do great things with their new organizations.
     As always, I appreciate you reading my blog entires, and I hope that you enjoyed this behind the scenes look at what goes down when the “minor leaguers” are traded.  From the outside, it seems easy to hear that you’re traded, hop on a plane, and head to a new city with new coaches and players and living arrangements. I can guarantee you that it’s not that easy.  However, the new opportunity that it gives you is well worth any trouble caused by having to pack your life up and move. Hope you all have a great week!
Michael Schlact

Let’s Catch Up

First and foremost, I’d like to apologize to all my readers on
the delay of this most recent entry. The last entry spoke about waiting to be
activated. I haven’t updated you since, so here we go. June 3rd, I got a phone
call saying that I was going to be activated in the California League for the
Bakersfield Blaze. I hadn’t been back to Bakersfield, CA since July 2007, so
heading back there definitely brought back many memories. Upon arrival in
Bakersfield, I was told by the coaching staff that I was moving into the
starting rotation, and that my first start would be in Stockton, CA. 


There are a lot of emotions that ran through my body each and
every milestone during shoulder rehab. The first time I threw a baseball I was
nervous. The first time I threw a bullpen, I was anxious. The first time I took
the mound during a real game in Arizona I had butterflies. However, walking out
of that clubhouse in Stockton and on to the field to stretch and throw before
my first REAL start was something completely different. I’ve always gotten a
kick out of hearing my name announced over the stadium speakers that I’m the
starting pitcher in a professional game. That’s really cool to me. I enjoy
seeing fans roll in through the stadium gates to find their seats. I love the smell
of the grills firing all over the stadium as I warm up. I even love it when the
opposing fans yell mean things at me as I warm up. It’s all part of what I
missed the last year. It’s part of my job.

        

         My
time in Bakersfield went very well. I was able to start getting back into the
groove of pitching, throwing in front of crowds again and competing in real
baseball situations was something I longed for during my down time. The definite highlight of my time in the California League
was throwing a 90 pitch complete game. In my opinion, that game represented
everything I had worked for the last year. Every pitcher dreams of finishing what he started. There is no better feeling in the world than getting the first and last outs of a ballgame with you on the mound. I wouldn’t have been able to do that
without the help of the Texas Rangers Medical Staff, pitching coaches, strength
coaches, and trainers. To go from shoulder surgery to throwing a complete game
in less than a year was something that really let me know everything was going
to be ok. A few weeks after my complete game win in Modesto, CA, I found out I
was going to be promoted to AA Frisco, TX of the Texas League.

 

         The
Frisco RoughRiders is the team I was playing for when I was injured last April.
AA is the level I was pitching at when I was injured, so naturally it’s the
level I wanted to be competing at again when I returned from shoulder rehab.
Getting that call that I was going to be promoted back to AA was really
exciting for me. Flying into Springfield, MO and meeting the team was great.
The jump from high-A to AA was the toughest jump in competition I made in my
career. I knew coming in a month ago that the competition would definitely
increase. My first two outings went really well, and my last two have been a
struggle.

 

         I
understand that post-surgery pitching will have its inconsistencies. I know
that my arm is re-learning how to pitch with this workload, and that each and
every time out will not be perfect. I also understand that there’s a chance
that my shoulder will never feel like it did before having surgery. But, I am
going to work as hard as I can each and every day to ensure that I get the most
out of my arm. As I’ve said before, I don’t want to look myself in the mirror
down the road and know that my career is over because I didn’t give it
everything I had. I want to look myself in the mirror and know that I gave all
I had every day on that mound and in the training room/weight room.

 

         As
the season winds down, I’ll definitely update my blog more often. I sincerely
appreciate my wife, family, friends, all my readers, Facebook friends, and
Twitter friends being there for me. Each and every milestone, outing (good or
bad), and every new day you all are there to lift me up, keep me entertained,
and offer positive and encouraging words. I’m glad that I can share this
journey with you guys. The Texas Rangers coaches, players, medical staff, and
training staff have been key in keeping me healthy and on that mound. I owe
many of them a debt of gratitude. Thanks for taking the time to read this
entry. Have a great day!

 

Michael
Schlact

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