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Monday, June 24, 2013

Journey Complete

Hi everyone,

I think I'm calling this.

Sunday was a great night. We had a late game against the 2012 champions whom we had never beaten.  I got the start.

My line was simple:  4IP, 3H, 3R, 1ER, ?Ks ( I don't remember), Too many walks.

Our offense gave the defense a lead and we never lost it.  We never lost our confidence either. We had that game from the top of the 1st onward.  We weren't going to lose.  I don't think anyone in the dugout thought we were going to lose.  In fact, everyone KNEW we were going to win.

I certainly did.

I took the mound in the  bottom of the first and remembered what it was like when I faced these guys a few weeks ago (with my in-laws in attendance nonetheless).  I held them scoreless. Tonight I was determined to do the same.

I nearly did.

Despite walking too many, we pulled it out.  My catcher was with me all night.  My defense behind me was the best it has been all year.

I think it's hard for people to understand why this is such a big deal. I'm not sure I understand it. I guess that, when you have a passion for something and it's taken away from you..that's awfully destructive.  When you spend every day working toward a goal and achieving it, that's a pretty powerful thing.  When you finally get your second chance and you make it count...well, that's a special thing.

Lots of folks will scoff at something like this and write it off saying because it's not the major leagues then it doesn't matter.  Well, it does.  My gut tells me it does.  My wife tells me it does. My teammates tell me it does.  Color me convinced. 

Hell, maybe there are some big leaguers reading this and understanding it.  Well, probably not, but you never know. I know they could relate.  Ask Jake Peavy what it felt like to get on the mound again after tearing your lat muscle off of the bone. Ask Joe Nathan what it's like to be an elite closer again after TJ surgery. Ask Corey Luebke what it's like to spend every day waiting to get back on the mound again.  I'll bet they echo what I'm saying to some degree.

As I type, I'm about a day removed from a 70 pitch outing and my arm feels great.  I haven't pitched without pain in as long as I can remember.  It's almost odd.  You just get used to it after a while.  When it's not there, what nobody will tell you, is that you always expect it.  You wait for it.  You know it's coming so you change everything until you realize that this is the new normal.

So, this is it. I think I'm done with telling everyone about this crazy story of rehabs and Iron Man braces, and pain, skin flaking, and all of the stuff that people don't talk about. Well, here it is.  All of the crap in one place. I'll do a follow up that highlights the main points but for now, I have a lot of people to thank.  If you think you do this alone...ha! Never.  There is a gigantic supporting cast.

Dr. Thomas Trumble:  He shot me straight and told me rehab wouldn't fix it.  He then did a tremendous surgery which yielded a very small scar. I was going to go the Kyle Blanks route if it was big, but art is art.

Tim and the crew at IronWorks Gym:  I would go there every morning, arm in a sling, and do my rehab. Everyone in there was so encouraging and thoughtful that it meant starting the day off in a positive way every day of the week.  I'm still there 6 days a week getting weird looks as I throw into the sock.

Jamie Moyer: Jamie was 47 when he had this done. Spending 10 minutes with him learning what it takes to come back was priceless.  He'll never know how much he helped, but he did.  Just relating was a lot.

Teri and Jenn:  Just thanks.  You know.

Jake Peavy:  Not a small amount of inspiration.  I looked at that baseball every day.  It reminded me to keep going.  See also Teri and Jenn.

Nate Burgher:  See Moyer, Jamie but younger and more like me. Less cyborg

Ryan Alvis:  Thank you for going through this with me.  We need to be on the same team again really soon.

Joe Nathan: He was able to really talk straight to me as I was getting ready to pitch.  He told me the reality and encouraged me to learn how to pitch now instead of relying on what I did before. He reminded me that I may never be back to what I was and basically told me to figure it out.  Good advice. 

Jorge Reyes: The sock trick.  Saved my rehab. I owe you a beer in Peoria next spring.  I really do.

My Teammates:  Ivar, Chuck, Jim, Fred, George, Rich, Tim, and everyone on the Sierra Mariners and a lot of people in the Sierra division. My team believed in me coming back.  That is incredible faith.  I worked all winter with a lot of these guys and they had more faith in me than I had in myself.  That's a very empowering thing.  They helped me believe.  They encouraged me every step of the way.  My first outing, when I literally hit 3 batters, they should have given up. They didn't.  In fact, I got a lot of texts and emails just saying how happy they were that I could play again.  If you ever find teammates like this, don't let them go.  I'm thrilled to be a part of this team.

Michael Bailey:  You stuck with me through everything else, so why not surgery?  Despite my crappy effort thank you for being there.  It was huge.

Terry and Nadine Roberts:  Dad, you had enough faith in me coming back to buy me a new glove.  Mom, you knew  I would pitch in Safeco again. You never lost faith in me all of my life.  This is simply one example.

And Finally....
Ken Roll:  Trainer to the Mariners.  My therapist.  My Sherpa through this journey.  "The Claw". Had I not found you I don't know what I would have done. I wish you the best in your retirement my friend.  Please go fishing with Buhner in Montana until your freezer is full.  Then just go one more time because you can.  I hope to see you again. I'll look for you. One more good claw handshake would be just fine.

Katy: You helped me shower every day which was a gift to us both.  You dealt with my pain.  You took me to rehab.  You rubbed my back.  You watched out for me every hour.  You dealt with the ice packs, the Aleve, the early Saturday mornings, and every nerve before my pitching outings. You make it worth it.  You made it so much easier.  It's a wonderful gift to have you in my life every single day.


I always said that if I resurrect this blog, then something went really sideways. If you are that interested, go ahead and follow us here: 
http://pssbl.com/TeamSchedule.aspx?t=44&s=8

If you look up my stats, I only back up the long standing stereotype that pitchers cannot hit.

Please be well. 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Another good outing

Pitched a couple of innings and allowed an unearned run.  Not too shabby.  No soreness in the elbow at all.  My muscles are a bit sore though.

Did I mention my RBI double?

I've given up my physical therapy.  I'm moving back to just good old fashioned training combined with 3 days a week of sock throwing. I've been doing that for about 2 weeks now and it's been pretty successful so I'm not going to fix what is broken. I'm also going to be washing the same shirt, socks, and pants and wearing those until I have a bad outing.

Not superstitious or anything...

I swear I'm going to wrap this up soon.  I just haven't had the time.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Well, that went well

1 IP, 1H, 1K 0R

I would call that quite a bit better than last time. I threw the new cutter in all but 2 pitches.  I threw one change up and a four seam fastball. That was it. Probably threw about 15 pitches total.

I felt great.  I really did.

Felt good to have a great group of teammates coming around afterward. They know what that meant. They've been around long enough to understand.

Even a member of the opposite team came up to me afterward and gave me his congratulations. That was great.

It's funny how this works. It was a really neat feeling to get back on there knowing that this was going to go better. I. had that same weird feeling when I crossed the line but not when I took the mound. I felt completely relaxed on the mound for the first time in about 2 years. I knew I wasn't going to hurt later,  I knew I wasn't doing any new damage. Everything was  finally ok.  Felt like playing right field  has felt all year...just easy.

Man, I missed that feeling. I also missed the feeling of striking someone out and having someone ground out on the first pitch because they had heard I "bring it".

Unfortunately, we lost the game.  In a way though I think the team took a small victory away.  They seemed to anyway.  I certainly took that victory...even though the game didn't end well. 

I appreciate my teammates a lot. I was happy to be able to pitch well in front of them.  Not only that, but my wife, father in law, and mother in law were all there as well. 

I'm just thankful to be able to play ball.


Thursday, May 30, 2013

Saturday

Well, let's give it one more.

We have another game Saturday against the defending league champions so we'll see how that goes.

I haven't updated much because there hasn't been a lot ot say.  I'm about ready to close out this blog as most folks aren't terribly interested in how the season goes.  I guess I could go through the season and just post random things, but I don't think that's what this was about when I started.

I'll do a big wrap up post and then close this out. I have a lot to say about what it's been like to recover from this surgery both physicall and mentally.  I'll do a retrospective as well at some point.

I'm expecting to throw again on Saturday.  Otherwise, I'm getting a lot of good ABs and am playing a bad-ass right field.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Win #1

Not for me personally, but for our team. Felt great!

Turns out, I'm learning to play a decent right field.  I'm starting to wonder if my LASIK surgery was more important than my Tommy John.


Monday, May 13, 2013

Where did my mechanics go?

Whoa, been like 2 weeks. Sorry!

I fixed that little issue that was plaguing me earlier.  What was happening was my elbow was coming out lower in my delivery than my shoulder.  So, any deviation other than a 90 degree angle in delivery is going to cause everything to go haywire.

I made a few adjustments actually:
1. I am relaxing between pitches. I was working really fast which I normally do but it was way too fast.  I now take one or two breaths between pitches.
2. My hands are lower in my set position.  All my career I have been holding my hands at chest level.  I started dropping them at their length around my waist.  This does a few things for me: It makes me break my hands lower which forces my elbow even or above my shoulder and it breaks my hands earlier to allow that extra second (that I discussed earlier) for my feet to get to work.  It feels like there's a lot less torque on my elbow this way too.
3. I lean back a little. I was falling too much off of the 3rd base side during my windup so I worked on leaning back toward first base just a little bit. It keeps my balance better and lets me use my legs more.

These three things don't sound like much and they really aren't.  When they work together though they seem to be pretty solid. I threw the equivalent of 2 innings in an intrasquad game on Saturday and threw a lot of strikes already.  Sure, I got hit around pretty good, but I'm chalking that up to us having good hitters on the team.

The point is that I threw more strikes than balls and I was able to move my pitches around much better than before.  There were also a few things that just weren't working. My change up was not moving like it should. That's for sure. It wasn't sinking. It was hanging.  The cutter was working great and the fastball was fine.  I'm going to try to throw a slider again though.  Maybe with the improved mechanics I can throw it on occasion as a strikeout pitch and call it good.

We'll see!  I've got another game Sunday night.  We'll see what happens.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Whoops

So Saturday's outing didn't go as expect.  My pitching line looked terrible I'm sure. I hit 3 batters. I walked another one. I did manage to strike someone out on a change up down the middle that baffled him.  Beyond that, it was just flat out bad from the first pitch.  Jim wisely pulled me.

Now it's time to start wondering what happened.  I don't think it's a huge mystery.  I was way too up in my head and my mechanics went to all hell.  I suppose that's what happens when you spend 14 months preparing for that very moment.  When it's nearly all you can think about for over a year....

I crossed those white lines to the mound and I could barely walk. It was like everything I had worked for came rushing up.  All of the hours spent with a stupid green tube and a small bouncy ball.  All of the baseballs into a sock.  All of the conversations with Ken, Jamie, Joe, and others led up to me stepping across those lines and onto that mound.

And it all came over me at once.  I felt like I was going to trip over that chalk line.  Sure, it was weird taking over right field a few innings earlier.
-Side Note: It never fails.  I hadn't been in the outfield in almost two years and the first batter hits one right to me. 3 batters later I get a line drive.  I got both, but still....the ball always finds the new guy.
Even hitting was fine.  My swing was goofy a bit since I hadn't been in a game in a while and seen live pitching since about September of 2011 so I wasn't worried.  I made contact pretty well and had a good at bat on the strikeout.  Overall, not terrible.

For whatever reason, I expected pitching to just come back.  Like I had never left.  I had great practice outings and have thrown so many strikes over the last few months it was like I couldn't fail. But I did and did so in incredible style. I couldn't find a rhythm, a release poitn, movement, velocity, none of those things. I'm not sure I could have hti the broadside of a barn.  This after having yet another great bullpen a few days earlier and declaring myself ready to roll.  Hell, even our field manager Jim thought I'd be a nice surprise coming out of the bullpen.

Well, so much for that.  It's very hard to put into words the canyons of difference between expectations and execution.

Chuck, my regular catcher, texted me and said I should go out there and reverse my thinking.  Expect nothing.  Expect lots of line drives and home runs. See what happens.  I don't think he's wrong.

There are 23 more games this season.  I expect to throw in 22 of them and I expect to be good in 20 of them.  I have about one blow up per season.  Well, this was one of them. Let's hope there are no more.

I do want to mention a few things for those that have hung with me this long.
1. My teammates are great.  I got a lot of texts and emails that just said "Way to get back out there." They were from new guys, old guys, everyone.  I really appreciated those.  It meant a lot.  It was good to get back out there.  I'll only get better.  Eventually, nobody will remember that first outing.
2. The mental part of doing this was more than I could have imagined. It was REALLY hard.  I couldn't even see the catcher's glove out there.  I just saw a batter.  In all of my warmups, I couldn't believe how close home plate was.  Saturday, it felt like it was a mile away. Kudos to guys like Jamie Moyer, Jake Peavy, Joe Nathan and Nate Bergher who get back out there like nothing ever happened.  That's unreal.
3.  I'm ready to roll.  I'm want to do this. I don't want to be the right fielder. I want to be THE pitcher in this league.  I want my team to win. I want to come in and put them on my back and get to the finish line and win a championship.

That's what I signed up for. That's what I've worked for. I'll keep you guys posted. Keep up with us:
http://www.pssbl.com/Team.aspx?t=44

Thanks.