Getting Over the “No” and Trying to Stay the Course March 25, 2012 Four weeks ago I was coming to grips with my impending forced retirement from baseball and in all honesty I was at peace with it. Despite an arm angle change and some success in winter ball opportunities for private workouts were not available to me like I thought they might be. It appeared my time had come and I was truly in a place of appreciation over discouragement. 2012 could have been my 19th season removed from my amateur draft as a professional, a humbling number when I think about how long the average career lasts. But then things changed, an opportunity I had been coveting for nearly 6 months opened up for me. The New York Mets wanted to see me throw first-hand at their spring training complex in Port St. Lucie, FL.  I was beyond excited for the invite. From the outside the Mets seemed to have a need for left-handed relief. I had prepared for the moment for over a year, this was my chance and I knew it might be my one and only. By the time I finished throwing in front of a team official and the major league pitching coach I was pleased. It was a good session for me, typical of how I’ve been throwing for the past 2-3 months and the immediate feedback was complimentary. I was appreciative of the opportunity and the comments. After the workout I drove to a convenience store right by the stadium, bought a bag of ice and made a makeshift ice bag for my shoulder. I hopped back in my truck and spent the next 9 hours driving back home to Atlanta in the same sweaty clothes I pitched in. It was the easiest 9 hour drive of my life, I was on an adrenaline high. I had a huge opportunity and I felt like I nailed it. I got a call from my agent on the way. All indications pointed to a shot with the Mets. He was excited for me, he felt good about the possibility of them offering me a chance to pitch, even if it was just for the rest of spring training, and so was I.  I was overwhelmed with humility at that time, I couldn’t believe I had gotten this close again. All the work over the past 14 months, the ups and downs, the uncertainty, it seemed like it was about to pay off. I have a rule about never celebrating until I cross the finish line, or in this case until I sign on the dotted line, but I allowed myself to start believing that my workout in Florida turned into another chance to pitch. I was thrilled about the opportunity to possibly compete in an MLB camp again, something I hadn’t done in 6 years. It sounds ridiculous when I read that sentence back, but it didn’t seem that way to me at all at the time. I’ve always taken what the media says with a grain of salt, but through their sources they were anticipating my arrival. I kept getting asked by many of them when I was coming. At the time they were hearing my signing was very likely and that added to my encouragement and excitement. Time went by---and then some more---and then an unsettling amount of silence passed. I realized things may be headed in a different direction for me. I thought I was OK, I did what I had to do and there was nothing more I could do about it. I’ve worked hard in my life to avoid worrying about the things I can’t control. It wasn’t always that way, I’ve learned from my mistakes. When I got the call that the Mets deal wasn’t going to happen I took it a lot harder than I expected. I wasn’t mad at anyone. I respected the Mets’ decision and really appreciated the time and feedback they gave me. Up to this point they have been the only ones to give me that much attention. But I definitely slipped into some momentary depression that lasted a day or two. I wondered and am still wondering if I could ever get another look. And if not, does that mean this is how it ends? It’s not a good feeling. Four weeks ago I was about as content as one could be with a sports career ending, but now that’s all changed. I stood on a big league mound again and I threw the baseball well. I had a respected baseball executive and major league pitching coach tell me it was good and indicate my new sidearm could play at the big league level. I pictured myself putting the uniform on again, competing successfully and making a sort of comeback that is extremely rare.  I was going to defy odds, which is a challenge I would have loved to conquer. But not now, the chance to make that happen may be gone, and it’s been eating me alive. I told my wife this may be it. She knows it has to end sooner or later but she hates to hear me consider giving up after all the effort and she knows it’s not in my personality to quit. She is my greatest supporter and has been with me every step of the way in my career. She believes in my work and this sidearm delivery as much as I do. Departing words from the Mets executive were to “keep with it, I think there’s something there.” I appreciate that but wonder how I make that happen.  An AL scouting director who saw me throw in a different setting recently told me “From what I saw I would not hang the spikes up just yet. The ball came out well and the slider angle was deceptive.”  Like the Mets his organization is going with what they have internally and are not in the market for adding a guy like me right now, I understand, but what option does that leave me? I’m encouraged by those words of advice from people whose opinions mean something and they definitely stop me from throwing in the towel all together. But now what? Independent ball? I told myself I wouldn’t do it. Not because I think I’m above it but because I figured I would have had enough team workouts that if I didn’t get signed then I just move on. But that hasn’t really happened. I have a friend who is a special assistant to an NL GM give me some advice two months back. He hasn’t seen my new sidearm live but told me, “if I were you I go to independent ball, that way you’re in AAA for all 30 teams. If you’re in AAA with one team then you’re at their mercy to get back to the big leagues.” It makes sense but at the time I thought I wouldn’t do it, now I’m not so sure. I am at a crossroads here trying to plot my next move, if any. The safe thing would have been to wait until something happened and then write this blog, but I think I wrote this more for me than for you.