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Roger Clemens syndrom

Wednesday, May 9th, 2007

Do you ever notice how whenever Roger Clemens pitches for the Astros, they score little or no runs against him?   I know exactly how he feels.   Of course, his $22M paycheck helps it be less painful, I’m sure.

Fastpitch, at it’s highest level, is a low scoring game.  It’s not very often that 2 of the top teams playing will result in a mercy rule game.   It does happen on occassion but, that’s not the norm.  But, my team has the hardest time scoring runs when I pitch.  It’s almost comical. In fact, the running joke on the team is “You throw shutouts and we’ll tie them!”

I’m not sure where it is but, there is a line there that separates the mentality of a pitcher from these 2 thoughts:  1. I need to throw my best to keep my team in the game.   And #2. it doesn’t matter how well I pitch, we are not going to score anyway.   Personally, I don’t know where that line is.  It’s easy for anyone to say that thought #2 is flat out wrong and anyone who believes that is a quitter.  It’s not true.   They don’t understand.  Wanting to win is what drives many people.  Ultimately, all people remember are wins and losses.   The majority doesn’t care that it was a close game, most people just want to know who won, who lost.

The only solice in this is keeping the head up that those who know and understand the game can tell the difference.  And you as a pitcher can tell the difference.   It’s not as if teammates are striking out on purpose and don’t want to score runs.  On the contrary. But, that sometimes doesn’t cushion the blow of a 1-0 defeat.

On top of all of this, most pitchers like batting.  Yet, the higher one goes in their career, the less likely they are to get to bat.   Hardly seems fair, huh?   And it cuts like a knife to see the DH struck out for the 3rd time with runners in scoring position during the 7th inning.

So what’s the solution?  Well, there isn’t one.  It takes self control and discipline to keep one’s chin up.   While it doesn’t seem like it at the time, even a 1 run loss is a great game.  It may take a few years but, eventually I can look back and smile.. remembering a good game.   Of course, if I was batting, we’d win on my Homerun but that’s another blog topic.

From frying pan to fire

Wednesday, May 9th, 2007

Well, what’s the old saying?  “Out of the frying pan and into the fire”?   If you’re not sure what that means, I’ll give you an example.   As those who read this know, I’m coming back slowly from a back injury.   Taking 5 weeks off is almost like starting the season over again.   I pitched last weekend but I really didn’t “push” myself.   Instead I had to just battle through the pain and get the work in.   This past weekend, pain or not… I needed to push or I’d be the one getting pushed!

The dates change annually (this year it was July 21-23) but, it’s always the fourth weekend of July: Bob Walsh Memorial Classic Tournament.   It’s held in Allentown PA and it attracts the top teams in North America.   My team opened with Orillia Riversharks, of Orillia Ontario ranked #2 in the entire world.   This team is loaded with great pitching and a batting line up that is hard as nails through and through.   Our next game… Kitchener Ontario, ranked #4 in the world.   Yikes.

All things considered, I threw ok.  We lost to Orillia 3-1 but, the score doesn’t tell the full story.  2 of their runs were solo home runs… we out hit them 5-3.. and we left about 5 guys in scoring position.   It’s hard to do that in games like this, great teams capitalize on everything.  We simply didn’t execute or get the big hits when we needed.    The next game against Kitchener Ontario wasn’t as successful, we lost 4-0.   We gave them 2 runs in the first on a defensive miscue and some very very suspect umpire calls.  Then, in the 5th inning I gave up my 3rd home run of the day.   A 2 run shot putting the team out 4-0, which is where it ended.   Regardless of how many runs given up, we aren’t going to win unless we score.   But, as strange as it sounds… apon thinking about it, I’m almost relieved I gave up the 2 run HR in the 2nd game.  I’d hate to think we lost to a great team by simply giving them the game.   I’d rather the team ‘earn it’.

This was our last games before the ASA Men’s Major Nationals in August, then it’s off to the ISC World tournament the following week.   All in all, I’m not too disappointed in my pitching.  I think I’m on the right track and I still have time before I need to be at my best.   With luck, I’ll get there before it’s too late.

Time to prepare

Wednesday, May 9th, 2007

As I write this, I’m in the frequent flier club/lounge at Cleveland airport.  I fly about 150,000 miles per year between games, clinics, lessons, and visiting Europe.  In case you’re wondering, 150,000 is equal to 6 free domestic plane tickets or 3 tickets to Europe, New Zealand, etc.  I rarely get to use my miles though.  When I get a weekend off from travel, the last thing I generally do is fly somewhere!   Instead, I give my tickets away to friends, family, etc.   I also use them for wedding presents for my closest friends; 2 tickets wherever they’d like to honeymoon.    Anyway, I’ve gone off on a complete rant about airlines, flying, etc. and it has very little to do with what I intended to write about.

I’m flying to Allentown PA today.  Generally, flying to a tournament is no big deal and something I do 12 times per summer but this one is special.  Why?  Because it’s my first time traveling and will be my first real games since my injury.

The is a real balancing act I’ll have to do for the next couple weeks.  You see, the World tournament is in August (Kitchener Ontario Canada).  Like most teams and pitchers, I spend the summer preparing for that event.   It’s not that other tournaments are meaningless but, in reality they are used to prepare myself for the end of the year.   I’d rather have my worst games in June/July than in August when it REALLY counts.   So, the season for me is a slow climb to the top of a mountain.  At the top of that mountain is the world tournament.  I need to be in peak condition physically and mentally for it, and that usually happens through the course of a season.  This year is different.

I’ve missed almost 5 complete weeks of the the summer with this injury.  I’ve now got 3 weeks to make up for the 5 I’ve missed.   In these 3 weeks, I need to get my body into game condition.. be able to pitch multiple games and/or extra inning games (sometimes multiple times) and have the self confidence that I’m ready to face the best.   These tasks are hard enough when someone is 100% healthy.  But, there’s a tremendous amount of added pressure coming off a pretty serious injury and being sidelined for weeks.

Unfortunately there’s no way to make up for lost time.  I’ll have to work through it all without doing too much and re-injuring myself.    Working through it and doing too much is a contradiction sometimes.   For the next several weeks I’m going to fine that line and hope I don’t cross it.

on the mend

Wednesday, May 9th, 2007

Thanks so much to everyone who’s shown concern for my injury.  I’m on the mend and doing MUCH better.  Physical therepy and chiropractic maintainance seem to be helping a lot. Bulging disks are fairly common.. the placement of mine was a little odd.   But, wear and tear on the body takes it’s toll eventually.   While I just turned 34, my body is 44 when you consider I spent 10 years playing year round softball.  That’s 10 extra seasons without a break.  I guess it’s amazing that I haven’t had too many injuries with all that softball, knock on wood.

As I said, I do appreciate everyones kind words and emails.  But, also keep my friend Doug Gillis in your thoughts and prayers.  Doug owns one of the (if not THE) best pitching schools in the country and he suffered a stroke recently.   He’s doing very well and is expected to make a solid recovery.   He even showed up at a tournament in Canada this past weekend (July 4th weekend) in Canada.  He didn’t play but, his appearance a week removed from the stroke was an inspiration to everyone.   While it’s hard to see such things as strokes coming.. Doug is only 41 years old so NOBODY saw that coming!    Anyway, get well soon Doug.   I’m looking forward to pitching against you soon.

the good with the bad

Wednesday, May 9th, 2007

I remember pinching a nerve in my neck when I was about 17 years old.  I think you’ll laugh when I tell you how it happened but, it’s the truth.  I got out of the shower, was using a towel to dry my head when I felt pure agony run through my neck.  I had pinched a nerve and couldn’t turn my head.  I remember at that moment thinking that I will never again take for granted the ability to turn my head and look around.  Here I am, 17 years later and I still remember that situation.  I admit that everytime I turn my head as I give up a homerun, I wish I had that pinch nerve so I didn’t have to see the ball leave the park.  But, I digress.

This back injury is something else.  Right now, as I sit here… there is a pulsing pain running through my body.   The Doctor is recommending rest, treatment, and physical therapy.   Surgery is a last resort.   In moments like this, it’s hard to see the positive side of it.   It’s not a life threatening injury, in fact I’ll probably be able to pitch this year… late in the year.  I can still move around and do day to day things, etc.  So, there are many things that I’m fortunate for.    But, like most people… I tend to dwell on the negative.  I’m going to miss an entire month of the season.    Not only that but, July is an important month.  Our National and world tournaments are held over the first 2 weeks of August so… July is used as preparation for that.  It kills me to wait all winter to play ball, then have this happen.

The worst part is, the back isn’t like other parts of the body.   If it were my arm, I could put it in a sling and not use it for a while.   But, the back is something constantly in use. So, how does one rest that?   I have coaching lessons, house to maintain, etc.  Not to mention the most important thing:  I have several scheduled wrestling matches with Alexander.   WWE Wrestlemania has NOTHING on our bouts.   And, I really believe he smells injury and knows right where to attack…. without mercy.   But somehow, I don’t mind that pain as much!  :)

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