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.”
Welcome back to another edition of The Schlact Stories. As always, thanks for joining me. Today’s topic deals with a transition, uncertainty, trust, faith, and hard work. These are all things that I am currently dealing with, or must deal with in the very near future. As of a few days after the World Series, I’ll be a free agent. I fully intend on playing next year. I love the game of baseball too much to not play. It’s the greatest game ever invented, and I’m so glad that I can be a part of something so special. And so it begins.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.