Hello again out there in cyberspace. Sorry for the absences of just more than a week, but during spring training time can be rather tricky. Because of its eerie resemblance to Groundhog Day (everyday being the same as the last and all) it is often hard to keep track of exactly what day certain happened. Like, for example, what day a blog entry was written. Oh well. Since I last checked in I have had three appearances, one poor and two good. The first was a poor game against the Dodgers that was basically a result of not throwing enough consistent strikes, but I have been much better in my two subsequent outings. In two games against the Brewers and Reds I threw two scoreless innings, gave up only one hit, had a few strikeouts, and most importantly was throwing consistent strikes. Obviously a poor outing is never something to look forward to, but the with the tally standing at three strong outings to one poor one and given that it is spring training and some ups and downs are to be expected I feel fairly satisfied with my spring performance so far. I have also been given the opportunity to travel with the major league team to Los Angeles to play the Dodgers in an exhibition game at Dodger Stadium on Thursday, which should be a fun experience. I’ll be sure to let you know how it goes next update.
Away from the field I have been spending most of my time cleaning up, packing and generally preparing to break camp when spring training ends this coming Sunday. I did manage to take in the Tempe Festival of the Arts on Sunday and actually bought an interesting metal and glass sculpture/coffee table from a couple from Cordelaine, Idaho. As with most art festivals there was a mix of very interesting and terrible stalls and everything in between, but on the whole I thoroughly enjoyed it. In addition to the major pluses of being free and not being in Scottsdale, it was extremely large and well organized so there was a lot to see and a much higher proportion of attention-worthy displays. It was fun seeing some new pieces by some of the artists I enjoyed from last year’s festival and overall it was just a great experience and I’d recommend taking it in if you’re ever around Phoenix in March. As always I’m still spending most of my clubhouse time glued to a book and at present I’m chipping away at both Empire Falls by Richard Russo and The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan. I finished off a couple of Pulitzer Prize winning books of poetry in Shadow of Sirius by W.S. Merwin and Late Wife by Claudia Emerson. Well, I guess I should get to bed so I can be well rested for another early day at the field tomorrow, so I’ll leave you with a poem and catch you on the flip side.
A Momentary Creed
By W.S. Merwin
I believe in the ordinary day
that is here at this moment and is me
I do not see it going its own way
but I never saw how it came to me
it extends beyond whatever I may
think I know and all that is real to me
it is the present that it bears away
where it has gone when it has gone from me
there is not place I know outside today
except for the unknown all around me
the only presence that appears to stay
everything that I call mine it lent me
even the way that I believe the day
for as long as it is here and is me
Hello again and welcome back for another installment. The past week or so has been typical of spring training in being mind numbingly boring with a few intermittent high points sprinkled in. I threw two live batting practice sessions early in the week, which as any of you who read this blog last spring are aware, is my absolute least favorite part of spring training. The idea behind them is that it gives the pitchers an opportunity to get a feel for all of their pitches with a batter in the box before the actual game action starts and it gives the hitters a chance to see some live pitching, but I have always questioned how much good is actually accomplished. I never leave live batting practice feeling really good about how I just threw because when the hitters are told every pitch that is coming they never swing at off-speed pitches or well located fastballs, i.e. the pitches we are trying to execute, with the resulting feeling being that even my best pitches are not fooling anyone. I am fully aware that this sounds ridiculous, because of course the hitters know what is coming and should not be fooled but it is an annoying feeling nonetheless. I also don’t like the fact that, knowing what is coming, every mistake made with a fastball gets absolutely crushed which doesn’t represent how things happen in an actual game. On the whole I guess I would rather just throw bullpens or in an actual game than tell the hitter what I’m throwing and let him take it or crush it, but such as it is both of my sessions went well so ultimately it isn’t a huge deal. Yesterday (Saturday) I got into my first game of the spring and threw two good innings, kept the pitch count down and was throwing strikes, which hopefully will continue to be the pattern for the rest of the spring.
Away from the field, there is scant little to report as most of my time has been absorbed by meetings and the other attendant busy work that makes up spring training. I did manage to take in the Scottsdale Arts Festival last weekend, which was enjoyable but not extremely overwhelming. In addition to the work of a number of talented artists whose works I thoroughly enjoyed and sadly was unable to purchase, there was the inevitable contingent of smug and talentless oddballs that pass themselves off as artists by making junk and giving it a pretentious and important-sounding name whose efforts I found hilarious and enjoyed on an entirely different level. (To view a brief and humorous analysis of said artists, read this article http://www.artbusiness.com/hownot.html). Overall it was a nice break from the Groundhog Day-esque existence that is spring training baseball. I also finally finished off three of the four books I had been working on simultaneously and in the process disproved an old idiom: “Never judge a book by it’s cover.” When it came out last year I had little interest in reading South of Broad by Pat Conroy (of Prince of Tides fame), but I ended up buying it for no better reason than I kept seeing it in bookstores and something about the cover art convinced me to buy it. Good decision as it turns out, because South of Broad ended up being one of my all-time favorite novels and one that I see myself returning to at some point in the near future. I’m also on the verge of finishing up another instant favorite, this time non-fiction, by James Loewen titled Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong, so hopefully my next few books in the queue will be just as good. I’ve had my eye on Empire Falls by Richard Russo for a while now so I’m thinking that, along with one of the books from the unread stack of poetry, will be next in line. Anyway, before I bore you any further I’ll leave you with the traditional poem, which I will dedicate to the memory of Ron Urbach, a truly kind person and close family friend who passed away yesterday.
by Christina Rossetti
Remember me when I am gone away,
Gone far away into the silent land;
When you can no more hold me by the hand,
Nor I half turn to go, yet turning stay.
Remember me when no more day by day
You tell me of our future that you plann’d:
Only remember me; you understand
It will be late to counsel then or pray.
Yet if you should forget me for a while
And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
For if the darkness and corruption leave
A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad.
Welcome back campers. It has been 170 variously eventful days since I last logged on and polluted cyberspace with my assorted ramblings, but spring has arrived and with it comes baseball, green grass and the concomitant minor league blogging. I must say that I was very surprised by the positive response to the blog last season and hopefully I can continue to provide some occasional entertainment for those of you who choose to spend your time following this blog. This past offseason ranks as far and away the best I have had since signing with the Cleveland Indians in August of 2005. After two trips to the Fall Instructional League (2005, 2006), a trip to the Hawaii Winter League (2007), and the Arizona Fall League (2008) I actually had the entire period from the end of the playoffs until I reported to spring training this past Sunday to get in the gym, lift weights, run, swim and do all the things I like to do to physically prepare for the season. As a consequence I feel as good as I’ve ever felt going into spring training. Having the six or so months to decompress has also made a huge difference in my mental outlook going into spring training. I’ve always been very focused on what I need to do to be successful, but the time off has left me in a much better mindset in terms of not worrying about the multi-various things that affect my career that I cannot control. I’m very excited about this spring training and definitely feeling a lot more optimistic about it than I have felt about any previous spring training.
My offseason was mostly spent training for the upcoming baseball season, but I did manage to squeeze in some amazing hiking trips to the Grand Canyon (twice) and also to Zion National Park with my girlfriend. The Zion trip was especially cool, with the added bonus that there was a surprisingly large amount of wildlife active in the park (especially for January). In addition to the ever present deer (which were so common that it got to the point where we be driving, see something and say “oh, it’s just a deer, keep driving”) and small animals, we took in wild turkey and a recent reintroduction to the park, big horn sheep. Clearly I couldn’t go the entire offseason without plowing through a sizable stack of books, but I’ll spare you the reading list and get you up to date on my current reading material. I actually have a surprisingly large array of reading material on my plate at the moment. In addition to doing some studying for the MCAT, I have four different books going at the moment. The first is Wealth and Democracy by Kevin Phillips, which is a very interesting but also extremely dense examination of the role wealth concentration has played in the development of the United States. The second is Lies My Teacher Told Me by James Loewen, an examination of the inaccuracies and omissions in American history textbooks. I have also been spending some occasional time on Pat Conroy’s South of Broad, which I must confess I had low expectations for but has turned out to be simply sterling thus far. Last, but not least, I have been enjoying A Shropshire Lad by E.A. Housman, which contains one of my all-time favorite poems: “To An Athlete Dying Young.” Speaking of poems, this would seem like a natural place to bid you adieu for now and share with you the poem I have just mentioned. Until next time.
To An Athlete Dying Young
by A. E. Housman
The time you won your town the race
We chaired you through the market-place;
Man and boy stood cheering by,
And home we brought you shoulder-high.
To-day, the road all runners come,
Shoulder-high we bring you home,
And set you at your threshold down,
Townsman of a stiller town.
Smart lad, to slip betimes away
From fields were glory does not stay
And early though the laurel grows
It withers quicker than the rose.
Eyes the shady night has shut
Cannot see the record cut,
And silence sounds no worse than cheers
After earth has stopped the ears:
Now you will not swell the rout
Of lads that wore their honours out,
Runners whom renown outran
And the name died before the man.
So set, before its echoes fade,
The fleet foot on the sill of shade,
And hold to the low lintel up
The still-defended challenge-cup.
And round that early-laurelled head
Will flock to gaze the strengthless dead,
And find unwithered on its curls
The garland briefer than a girl’s.