I’m sitting in a doctor’s office, waiting to undergo the first two MRIs of my life. Like the person beside me, I’m staring at the drab lines of aging wallpaper, wondering when my turn will come. Also like my new speechless friend, a dull ache reminds me of the purpose of my visit.
My right hip feels as if a small tack invaded the joint. An accomplice attacked my back, which sounds like a bowl of Rice Krispies each time I twist—a frequent occurrence for a pitcher. But these pains don’t occupy my mind.
I have plenty of time to allow my thoughts to wander. Terms such as labrums and vertebrae float about my jumbled neurological space, but inevitably I think of baseball, my career, and my expiring dream.
For some reason I recall my first visit to San Francisco: arriving at the bustling stadium on a clear game day, taking a tour of the clubhouse, seeing Barry Bonds isolated in a corner, conversing with Jason Schmidt in the training room, going through a cursory physical, watching BP from the press box.
I walked around as if I belonged in that stadium. My shoulders drawn back and my head held high, I was another just-drafted punk kid. I assumed that in a few years I would be playing there. Naí¯ve optimism and confidence stupidly consumed me.
Almost six years have passed since that June day, and my dam of promise has fissured. A void now exists where my future slowly seeped out, and my baseball life is marred with disappointment.
The emotional pain that results from this thought is much greater than the physical pain I now feel. Yet as a competitor, I want to keep trying. I don’t give up easily, and if my own existence was my sole concern, I’d endlessly continue my pursuit. The self-consumed, lifelong passion for a leather orb would still guide me, and I’d be playing long toss right now instead of writing. I would be a pitching Crash Davis.
But in addition to baseball, I have another love, and I must think of her. She too had a pain in her hip recently. Like my pain, it developed slowly. It didn’t simply show up as a haunting dream in the middle of the night, but instead arrived gradually. Soon my wife, a runner in college, was unable to do the thing that she loved—run. It blemished her life.
This past spring she had surgery to repair the torn labrum in her hip. “Hip arthroscopy for impingement and labral tear,” they termed it. “A-Rod had virtually the same thing done,” they assured me.
In the weeks leading up to surgery I listened to bouts of tears from a thousand miles away. As the date grew near, I pleaded for days off. At the end of April, I was granted two days home with her. I arrived late one night. The next morning I saw her enter the operating room in a hospital gown. Four hours later I held a basin to capture vomit as she came out of anesthesia, the sour smell of bile filling the air. A day later I left her on the couch, immobile and full of painkillers, and flew back into the clouds where my dreams remained.
To the casual observer, nothing had happened to my persona. I brought the same work ethic to the field each day, and competed as hard as ever on the mound. But something had indeed taken place. The event had not taken place on a street, where all eyes could see, but instead happened in my mind, an invisible force as sure as gravity.
I realized my wife is more important than any dream of stardom. When I took the vows three years ago, our lives merged. My dreams became our dreams. At times these past few years I placed baseball before her. She accepted this and was completely supportive of my pursuit, but it was hardly fair. Each spring I left her at the airport, asking her to work tirelessly to support us while I cruised around with the boys of summer, making pennies, putting our lives on hold.
I always justified this by saying that I was working towards a lifelong dream, and towards bettering our future. I can no longer rationally say this. A career in the major leagues is now less likely than gaining 10 mph on my fastball. After all, only computers and cellphones age quicker than minor leaguers. With 28 years attached to my body, and after six years in the minors, rust has accumulated where luster once shone.
The Giants have promised me my release, something I have sought for some time. I’m not sure who would want an aging righthander with most of his experience in Double A, but part of me thinks I just need a fresh start with a new team. Perhaps then the magical season would finally arrive.
The thought is uplifting, but I must brush it aside.
The doctor just called my name. An image of my smiling wife, waiting at home, comes to mind. I’ll spend the next two hours stuck in an MRI tube as a stranger monitors a computer screen, laughing as my bladder grows. With any luck, I’ll discover my medical fate. As for my career? I know my fate before I even enter those tubes. For all my 28 years I’ve loved this game. It’s defined my life, but it’s time to move on. The sheen of my career is gone, and I love my wife too much. And that’s the reason I’m not Crash Davis.
Garrett Broshuis is now a former pitcher for the San Francisco Giants. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.