I made my first start of the season last Sunday, which turned out a bit stranger than most games I remember being a part of. The first two innings of this thing were nightmarish, giving up five runs off five errors in the field. Yeah, only one of those runs were “earned”, but if I wasn’t just lobbing my shit right over the plate, the other team wouldn’t have been making good contact anyway. I wound up pitching another three innings, and things really started to click along for me and the guys; The defense worked out it’s initial skittishness and tightened up behind me, and I stopped just giving away at-bats. And we finally found our whoopin’ sticks in the fourth and fifth innings. We drove in three runs in the fourth, and another five in the fifth. So by the time I was switched out to play second base, things were in line to get the win.
For those who may be wondering why I got switched over to second, the answer is thus: While major and minor leagues have 25 man rosters, this league does not have that luxury. No, our rosters have a 12 man limit. Because of those limitations, our managers are forced to be a bit more creative with where we play. So when not pitching, I tend to find myself firmly ensconced at second. And while I had some reservations about this at first, I’m now quite happy with the arrangement. I get more plate appearances for one thing, and since I’ve always been a decent hitter it’s easy to enjoy the time hitting. And then, playing second base is giving me the opportunity I need outside practice to work on fielding. And to everyone’s credit, I’ve seen a vast improvement in my glove work (As stated in prior blog entries, I’m fucking awful at defense). I still have this weird tendency to over run on high fly balls. But hopefully I can work that out soon.
I made all the routine plays at second, and even turned a couple of double plays. And to top it off, I went two for five at the dish with both hits being doubles.
So we won the game 12-5. I got credit for the win, and was given a bonus for being named Player Of The Game by my teammates. I don’t really know if I earned the honor, since there were others who did a lot better for me at both the plate and mound (Our shortstop for example, hit 5-6 with an inside-the-park homer. And all of the opposing teams runs came while I was doing the pitching). But my manager took me aside afterwards and told me that the guys picked me for the award because I continued to play and contribute even though I was clearly injured during the second inning.
And yes you read that right: I got hurt. Again. Pulled my hip flexor running out of the box after laying down a bunt. At first, it didn’t hurt as much as it would. I just kept trying to stretch and rub out the kink and hoped it would work itself out. Early on it was very uncomfortable, but somewhat manageable. During the sixth inning though, I was running down a flyball when for some reason- I’m not sure if I stepped in a rut in the outfield or what- the leg just gave out. Granted, I was still able to finish out the game, though not without some seriously painful hobbling about.
This experience has reminded me of one very simple fact:
Injuries suck. We’re talking ass-to-mouth suckage here, kids.
First, there’s the simple quandary: As an athlete, do you tell your coach that you’re not sure whether you can keep going or not? What if he asks? After the sixth, my manager kept checking in with me to make sure I was alright. And each time, I said “Hell yeah! Of course I’m okay.”. Did I have doubts? Of course I did. It’s hard not to wonder about your condition when your leg screams at you with every step you take. Then again, what if I said I couldn’t go, and my replacement turns out to be just that much better? Nobody wants to get Wally Pipped out of their spot. Especially not Wally Pipp. That happens to me, and I wind up coming to the ballpark just to watch the games, and I have the MLB Network at home if I just want to watch games.
Then, there’s the question of the team. How an injury plays out with the other guys is also a double edged sword. On the one side, say you tell your coach that you can’t go. How will the guys see it? Depending on the injury, they can either see it as a tough break and commiserate with you. Or you’re a whiny bitch only out for yourself. Either way, you’ll never really know for sure since nobody really tells you those kind of things to your face.
There’s also a trust factor to keep in mind. When you are selected for a starting spot on a team, the message isn’t necessarily that you are a great player. What it tells you is that your manager and teammates trust you to be out there doing all the things needed without complaint. As I write this, I’ve had to be placed on the injured list twice now. I could show up for the game after next and find that nobody trusts that I can meet expectations. When that trust is lost, it’s almost impossible to regain. Then, there’s a pretty good chance that you might have to learn to like being a late-inning pinch hitter or situational arm in the bullpen. To be frank, I’m not sure if I could do that or not.
Finally we have the fans to take into account.
Seriously! Don’t laugh!
Yes, we DO have regular spectators at the games. The fact that the number of regular fans is in the teens doesn’t matter. Every week they sit in those stands. And every week, those guys come to watch you play. They aren’t coming to watch you perform Beckett, so they must be there to watch you play… right? Don’t even think about the answer to that question. It should be academic at this point: Of course they’re coming to watch you play! So what are they going to think when they find their place in the stands, and you’re just taking up space at the end of your team’s bench? I’ve been on that side of things. I’ve read roster updates and laughed at people getting placed on the DL for shit like bruises and such. I have written players off as pussies because they can’t go a whole season without spending time on the shelf. So I know this for a fact: I don’t want to be one of those guys so easily written off. I don’t want a single one of our thirteen or fourteen fans to look at me and view me a fragile primadonna because I can’t stay injury free.
So yeah, the whole situation sucks.
But there’s absolutely nothing I can do about it. Sooooo… guess I might as well try and get some practice in.