This is my family.
This week, I will head to Scottsdale for spring training. My wife, on the other hand, who is currently pursuing a 2nd masters degree at the University of Texas, will be holding down the fort in Austin. The level at which this sucks can not be overstated.
So the common question, asked 1,437 different ways, is “why do you do it?”
Over the last few months, I have thought a lot about this question. Not with a foot out the door, voluntarily moseying out to pasture, but, honestly because someone asks me about it daily. So, while the answer to this question will be as varied from player to player as a favorite meal or ice cream flavor, these are mine, in no particular order whatsoever.
1.) Because I am good at it.
We all are. If you are playing professional baseball, you are good at it. I was told by a long time big leaguer that Major League Baseball* works out like this: 5% of the league is just flat out, God given, better than everyone else. 20% of the league, physically, has no real business being in the major leagues, but they just have willed themselves there, far outperforming their tool set. The remaining 75% are your talented enough, right place, right time, opportunistic players, who capitalize on opportunity by being remarkably consistent (and healthy). So no matter where you fall in these categories, there is a reason to hope. Whether you fit the mold of Giancarlo Stanton, Cody Ross, or Sam Fuld, you can see yourself making a mark. And to make it to the big leagues, for all of us, would be to fulfill the words of the 5 year old kid inside of you who swore to everyone he met that he would be a professional athlete.
*this breakdown is extremely visible all the way down the minor league ladder as well
2.) Because I love the game
Without getting all poetic, I truly think that baseball is the greatest game in the world. The fact that every little detail means something significant—a 3-2 pitch in the first inning to the 4 hole hitter, coming back from 3-0, with a lefty on deck and a man on first will be different from a 3-2 pitch in the 7th inning, up 1 with a base open, after starting at 0-2 to that same 4 hole hitter. Nothing happens in a vacuum, and there are countless constantly changing variables to consider… it is just remarkable.
3.) Because of my teammates
I know this would make most of my current and former teammates chuckle, because of my dry and sarcastic sense of humor. I am admittedly a tough crowd most of the time. The truth is, though, that baseball provides access to an incredible fraternity. I have been given more great relationships than I could have possibly hoped—not the least of which is that of RHPRambo, who was there standing right beside me on my wedding day… reaching into my pants, helping me put on my first pair of suspenders. These relationships help make the juice worth the squeeze.
This is where God has me. End of story. After getting shelled and proving incredibly mediocre, respectively, my first two seasons in pro ball, I cannot possibly explain why I am still in the game. God has me here, now, in the game of baseball for some reason, and I don’t think it is to achieve my own personal glory on the field. In fact I know it isn’t.
So we plug away. We play with the hopes that something will “click”. Hoping that our consistency, as members of the 75% will result in an opportunity to prove ourselves on the big club. As for me, I play every day hoping that I am making the most of the opportunity I have been given; knowing that neither my performance, nor my reward measures the success of my time between the white lines, or in the clubhouse.