Off days are wonderful! No baseball activities whatsoever, with the exception of the hour-and-a-half I spend at the local Best Buy playing MLB 2K10 and any other games they have for my enjoyment. If only they had Call of Duty online set up in there. I don't know if I would leave the store! Lunch is usually at Chick-Fil-A, where I get two of those delicious new spicy chicken sandwiches and a cookies and cream shake to balance the sizzle. I d
Walking a mile to Wal-Mart and back is no problem, however, I did learn that three miles is too long of a walk in the Arizona heat. One day, after being at the field for most of the morning, instead of waiting the usual 40+ minutes for the vans to load up, I talked one of my teammates into walking back with me to the hotel from the field. By the end of the trip, the soles of my shoes were melted to the sidewalk. I ruined a perfectly good pair of shoes that day, so no more three-mile walks for me.
There is so much raw talent here. We have three or four guys with "K.K. Chalmers" speed, both on the bases and in the outfield. We have an 18-year old, 5'10", 150 lb Dominican with not a single muscle on his body, who throws 98 mph to any spot he wants. Every time I see him pitch, I question why I am even here. I also see a group of Dominicans who play baseball like it is the only thing that they have ever known. They don't seem to get caught up in all of the politics of the game. They just want to play the game as long as they live. I see a single Korean catcher who speaks almost no English. The only person he has to talk to is his translator. I thought I was alone when I first got here, but looking at someone who cannot communicate with anyone around him, with the exception of a few hand gestures and head nods, has put my whole experience here into perspective. I don't realize how lucky I am just to be able to communicate with those around me, no matter how trivial the topic of conversation.
One thing that I hate finding out is how much someone received for their signing bonus. Not that it makes me jealous or anything, even though I do wish I had an extra 500 grand in my back pocket, but it makes me look at a player in a completely different manner. Analyzing his every mistake, watching the effort, or lack of, he exhibits each and everyday, trying to figure out how he could be worth millions of dollars more than the guy to his right or left. I realize that my judgment means nothing, so I would rather be oblivious to it altogether and just focus only on what I can control.
Like I have before mentioned, the days here have become very monotonous. The coaching staff tries to mix things up each day to prevent this same routine, but there is not much that can be done to avoid it. Others can only do so much, but ultimately, you have to find your own way to alter your routine to keep things fresh and exciting. Finding that change, no matter how small it may be, can provide a boost of energy that can rejuvenate the passion that you have for that routine. The day I don't feel nervous walking on up on that mound is the day that I am done with baseball. Getting that dry mouth feeling and those butterflies in your stomach before each start is a good thing. Those nerves can elevate your level of play.
Today during practice, the smallest thing changed everyone's normal routine. During the second group of batting practice, the entire team stopped everything they were doing and looked up at the sky for about 30 seconds. We were all mesmerized, not by a UFO or a large display of unused fireworks from last week's 4th of July celebration, but by a small cloud that was inching closer to the huge ball of skin cancer in the sky. As it crept closer and closer, a slow clap began as we cheered on this much-needed shield of light. Once the cloud reached what we thought should be its destination, a roar of victory was let out across Surprise, AZ. Practice continued as usual, but now stood a team filled with energy and a determination to take full advantage of what had been given to them. That was the fourth cloud I saw in Surprise, and it brought much more than just a break from the wearing sun.