My parents are barbequing. My host parents (yes, I’m 27, married and can’t afford an apartment) are probably barbequing as well. My wife would like to BBQ but she’s a long ways away and doesn’t know how to open a bag of charcoal without me. My window is open to air-out the madness that is my thoughts and all I smell is BBQ.
It’s the Fourth of July and it’s a beautiful day. I, however, am stuck inside, packing my bags, waiting for the flight information that will carry me back to Double-A. My bags are ginormous, but the need to be. My employer will only pay for the checking of two bags (one baseball bag and one personal) and my own budget for checking bags is the same as my budget for an apartment. If the airlines didn’t possess such draconian rules on checking bags, this wouldn’t be a problem, but it is.
While not-so-neatly folding some shirts, I watch a replay of a game that Ryan Sadowski, perhaps my best friend in the entire Giants’ organization, pitched the night before for the big club, the same day that I received my demotion.
“His sinker is sick tonight,” I thought to myself.
It really was filthy, the best I’d ever seen it. The outing before, his debut, it had been more horizontal, and he’d commented on the big league balls (the seams, in addition to the spread, really are different). Now, I watched as he threw sinker after sinker, plowing through the Astros lineup, making guys like Berkman, Tejada, and Carlos Lee look as if they belonged on the South African WBC team instead of an MLB team.
This performance came on the same day that I learned of my return to AA Connecticut after failing to stick in Triple-A. A flood of memories returned to me as I thought of this state. Many of the fond ones involved Sadowski. Mostly, I kept thinking of the innumerable Sunday viewings of “The Big Lebowski” on Geno Espineli’s DVD projector before heading to the bowling alley after finally quoting, “Dude, let’s go bowling.” Now I watched the TV screen while Ryan made his own movie called “Pitching Made Easy.”
I folded a shirt, but I should’ve been folding my pride. We had played so long together, and I was completely, 100 percent happy for his success. Not a hint of jealousy came to mind. But it did bring sadness. It seemed his career headed one direction while mine went another. It was hard to swallow.
“It wasn’t supposed to be this way. We should be there together,” I thought. I wondered what had happened, how it had happened. I had no answers. “It is what it is,” I thought.
It’s not easy to accept the fact that you’ve become an organizational player, filling in wherever needed, no plan for you. At one time I was a mid-level prospect. Now I simply sell my services on baseball’s street corner, taking whatever I can get, wherever it might be. I had gotten a chance at a single start in Triple-A and had not taken advantage of it, while Ryan had clearly excelled when opportunity came his way in the major leagues.
I attempted to fold myself next to my shirts in my ginormous bag, hiding myself from this misery. Maybe it would be a magic bag and I would be transformed into a power-throwing lefty with a sharp breaking ball, but the zipper became stuck as I attempted to close it. I jiggled it back and forth, but to no avail. It smelled like baseball in there anyways, which at that moment was even worse than BBQ.
Around dusk, my bags completely packed, the Independence Day fireworks began. Roman candles of thoughts bursts through my head as I sat on my bed and stared at the ceiling, contemplating questions that had no answers. Finally my wife called. We talked about her day at work, which distracted me from my self-pity. She, being a physical therapist, had worked at a children’s hospital that day, and had massaged a severely burned three-year-old boy. Suddenly my selfish thoughts seemed pretty stupid.
I’ll go to Connecticut. I’ll still be playing professional baseball. I’ll be pitching and signing autographs (albeit a few). And I’ll be seeing a lot of great people. I’ll work hard. That is all I can do, and I should consider myself lucky to still be gaining opportunities in this game.
Before long, the Big Sadowski will start again, and I’ll be pouring a hope-filled white Russian in honor of him. He deserves it, and I couldn’t be happier for him. Meanwhile, I’ll be doing some Sunday bowling in Connecticut without him.