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.
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!
“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.”
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!