Hello again out there in cyberspace. You will hopefully excuse the extended period since my last post as there has been a lot going on of late. As many of you may know, my teammates and I with the Akron Aeros capped an impressive romp through the Eastern League with a 10-6 win over the Connecticut Defenders last Saturday to claim the Eastern League Championship. As a team we were both above .500 and in first place for every single day of the season, won our division, finished with the league’s best record, went 6-1 in the playoffs, won the league championship and nearly swept the league’s individual awards (MVP Carlos Santana, Pitcher of the Year Jeanmar Gomez, Manager of the Year Mike Sarbaugh). To call it a dominant year from a team perspective would not be an exaggeration. From a personal perspective I had a good season as well, going on a hot streak after the all-star break to just duck under a 3.00 ERA on the season and picking up my first win of the season in my last appearance. However, the nature of being a minor league baseball player is such that it is hard to be entirely satisfied with even a season as excellent as this one. Ultimately the goal of every minor league player is to continue to advance levels and eventually play in the major leagues. Winning a championship is something that most players never get to experience and I am happy to have experienced it and performed well in contributing to it, but I did not earn a promotion and thus cannot call myself entirely satisfied with the season. Maybe it isn’t the warm and happy team-oriented sentiment you would expect to hear less than a week after winning my first championship ring, but the fact of the matter is that in a business where players have no control over their contract and no recourse for mitigation of real or perceived grievances with the organizations that hold their contracts there is an inevitable focus on individual performance. So job well done, handshakes all around, but with the knowledge that there is a larger goal yet to be accomplished.
Now comes the much deserved portion of the season: the offseason. Since the beginning of my professional career I have not had a full offseason to rest and prepare myself for the upcoming season. I have done two instructional leagues, the Hawaii Winter League and the Arizona Fall League so I will definitely welcome the opportunity to not play and be able to focus on lifting, running and just being away from baseball to mentally decompress. The time away from throwing will be the most welcome part of the offseason as I’ve only had about six weeks off of throwing since I started getting ready for the 2007 season in December 2006 and while my arm is none the worse for the wear I feel some much deserved rest is in order. Thank you to everyone who logged on and followed this blog during the course of the season and one last time I’ll send you off with a poem for your enjoyment. Take care.
A Beginning & An End
by Dale Clark
Time is an infant
a new beginning, a new end
What came before is relived
We feel with our eyes,
The pristine magic of earth
Flat wooded shores, white oaks
Redwoods are sages,
They whisper of the past
We see the native ones,
as they lived in harmony
The great plains of grass
The desert of painted dunes
A myriad of purple hues
Herds of buffalo roam,
no man can own them
The nomads of the plains
the cliff dwellers of the desert
farm with ancient secrets
We come on great ships
sailing salty seas
White greed captures and owns,
it destroys all and itself as well
Cities covered with darkness
A beginning will be born to end
A civilized world shall remain savage.
Hello again. Since my last post I and my teammates with the Akron Aeros have continued rolling along, sweeping three games from the Reading Phillies on our way to a spot against either the Connecticut Defenders or New Britain Rock Cats in the Eastern League championship series. I threw twice in the series, registering a scoreless inning to finish game two and allowing a meaningless run in the eighth inning of last night’s series finale. As I mentioned last time, it was refreshing to give up a lead-off triple in the eighth inning and be able to look up at the scoreboard and think to myself that as long as I didn’t give up five more of those and turned the ball over to the next guy with the lead in tact I had done my job. In the playoffs the only thing that matters is the final score and it is nice to view the game in that light for once, rather than being primarily concerned with my individual numbers and knowing that if they are good it will probably help the team win games. We are now in Connecticut awaiting the outcome of the first round series on the other half of the draw, in the northern division.
In the interim between my last post and now, there has been precious little to report in off-field news. I have mostly finished packing up the apartment in Akron and tied up many of the loose ends there so all there is left to do is push off once the season comes to a conclusion. I started and finished John W. Dean’s interesting and educating (if somewhat predictably toned) book Broken Government in the last couple days in addition to what is certainly one of the best books I have read in recent memory, Richard Wright’s Native Son. It is an extremely compelling novel and if you haven’t read it I command you to go pick it up immediately. Well, I guess you don’t have to, but it really is a must read. Beyond that, there really is nothing new to report. I had hoped to check out a Chuck Close exhibition at the Akron Art Museum, but I’m not sure at this point if the scheduling is going to work out to allow me to go. If I make it though, you’ll be sure to hear about it. Look for updates on the playoffs soon and until next time I’ll leave you with a poem by Mark Strand from his award-winning collection Blizzard of One.
A Piece of the Storm
By Mark Strand
From the shadow of domes in the city of domes,
A snowflake, a blizzard of one, weightless, entered your room
And made its way to the arm of the chair where you, looking up
From your book, saw it the moment it landed. That’s all
There was to it. No more than a solemn waking
To brevity, to the lifting and falling away of attention, swiftly,
A time between times, a flowerless funeral. No more than that
Except for the feeling that this piece of the storm,
Which turned into nothing before your eyes, would come back,
That someone years hence, sitting as you are now, might say:
“It’s time. The air is ready. The sky has an opening.”
Hello again out there. Sorry for being a bit over a week between posts, but I no longer have internet access in my apartment so I had to find a convenient time to stop off at the library and write. The major development since my last post is the ending of the regular season. It is hard to believe but after 142 games the regular season is over and it is finally time for the playoffs. As a team we had an outstanding year. We spent a grand total of zero games at or below .500 and were in first place in our division for every day of the season. Our team also produced the Eastern League’s Player of the Year (Carlos Santana), Pitcher Player of the Year (Jeanmar Gomez) and Manager Player of the Year (Mike Sarbaugh) in addition to excellent performances by several other players. Heck, our closer Vinnie Pestano was only a save or two behind the league lead and he didn’t play at all after being shut down in early July with an “upper extremity” injury. Personally, I ended the season on a roll that pulled my overall numbers from mediocre at the all-star break to pretty good by season’s end, and I managed to just sneak in under the 3.00 ERA mark so I’d have to consider it a successful season. My long string of good performance was almost marred by a poor outing to end the season, but I managed to minimize the damage, keep my overall numbers in a satisfactory range, and end the season on a positive note. None of those numbers matter anymore, however, as it is now playoff time and the only numbers that matter are the numbers on the scoreboard at the end of the game. We open up the playoffs at home against the Reading Phillies with high hopes. We played well all season and ended the season with eight straight wins so hopefully we can carry that momentum into the playoffs against a tough Reading team. Stay tuned for those results.
Away from the field most of my focus of late (other than this past weekend when my girlfriend was in town) has been on cleaning and packing up my apartment so that whenever our playoff run ends I can throw all my stuff in my car and leave at a moment’s notice. This is genuinely one of the worst parts of being a minor league baseball player. The awful bus travel, getting paid like an unpaid summer intern, crappy hotels, distance from family…the hassle of moving out at the end of the season is right up there with all of that. The reason being that as players we are entirely responsible for setting up our own housing so despite the fact that we are setting up what amounts to temporary housing in our minds we still have to set everything up as though it were our permanent residence. Throw in the facts that guys move around during the course of the year and that we don’t know our move-out date because we are in the playoffs and it is a major headache. Our cable and gas bills are set up through players who are no longer in Akron and getting a final walk through on our apartment will be impossible so we will be at the mercy of the complex management on the final condition of our apartment. Fun times for all, capped off by long drives for most of us. Aside from dealing with the annoyance that is our apartment situation I have been doing my typical reading, painting and exploring the area on foot when I get the chance. On the heels of the sale of my first painting I decided to go back to the well again so I am working on selling another recently completed piece, again of what I would consider to be dubious workmanship but I guess beauty is in the eye of the beholder. On the reading front I recently polished off Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick and I’m currently working on Richard Wright’s masterpiece Native Son. I meant to read Native Son a few years ago when I went on an African-American literature kick over the winter, but I am just now getting around to reading it and I have been totally absorbed since the moment I picked it up. Well, I should really get back to packing and cleaning before I head to the field. Look for updates on the playoffs as they unfold and until next time, enjoy this poem.
By Anne Pierson Wiese
There are many people who spend their nights
on the subway trains. Often one encounters
them on the morning commute, settled int corners,
coats over their heads, ragged possessions heaped
around themselves, trying to remain in their own night.
This man was already up, bracing himself against
the motion of the train as he folded his blanket
the way my mother taught me, and donned his antique blazer,
his elderly sleep-soft eyes checking for the total effect.
Whoever you are–tell me what unforgiving series
of moments has added up to this one: a man
making himself presentable to the world in front
of the world, as if life has revealed to him the secret
that all our secrets from one another are imaginary.