Freedom Can Be Overrated

During a long season, a pitcher misses his wife

Freedom. William Wallace wanted it; so did Thomas Paine. We, as men, have made progress, but we're still enchained, held captive by that most inescapable force: our wife's commands. Yet in this game, that blissful state of pure freedom can be attained, as you hardly ever see your wife.

Okay, so that was the stupidest thing I've ever said in my life. (Perhaps more stupid than the time I said that I liked the Backstreet Boys, but hey, I was young, okay?) First, I realize that I'm mangling the meaning of freedom, but beyond that it's actually one of the miseries of this game that you don't see your wife, or any other loved one, for around half of the year.

I guess this only holds true if you love your wife, or otherwise the initial statement proves more veracious. Some people play for love; others play to escape their love.

"I like being away from my wife," I've heard teammates, as well as a few people from my tiny hometown of 1,200 people say. "Gives me a break from all the nagging!"

These people confuse the feeling of spending a day or two away from their wife with the feeling of spending half of a revolution around the sun away from their wife. These people are also the people that still entertain themselves by crushing beer cans on their foreheads and whose idea of perseverance is attempting to wait until halftime of a football game to take a piss. Hence, I take their opinions with a few thousand grains of sea salt. (Disclaimer: These opinionated few are in now way an accurate reflection of the majority of people from my hometown, most of whom are incredibly nice people who grow gardens.)

I've now seen my wife 14 out of the past 152 days. Since I'm neither a philanderer nor a skull crusher, and because I love my wife as much as the ocean loves water, I miss her dearly. With bills eating at us like angry termites though, she's stuck in the real world with a real job, paying our mortgage. Meanwhile, I run around like a conquistador chasing the Holy Grail, making four digits a year (five if I'm lucky) by throwing a 5 oz orb at a piece of leather.

It's particularly hard being away from your wife when rough times arrive, such as:

A) when you only last four innings and you think that you suck.

B) when you switch teams three times in one week and you think that you suck.

C) when one of us has hip surgery (my wife) and thinks that they suck.

D) when one of your last remaining friends in the organization is released and you have nobody to tell you that you don't suck.

E) when you have to start on two days rest and you get blasted like the Tunguska Event, and again, you think that you suck.

Event E, especially peculiar, can only be seen in minor league baseball. Our
scheduled starter, Tim Alderson, received a phone call from Neal Huntington, the Pirates' GM, thirty minutes prior to the game informing him that he had been acquired by them. The state of our bullpen, decimated by an extra-inning game the previous night, left us with these options:

A) enlist the batboy to pitch or

B) ask the traveling gypsy to pitch (that would be me).

The coaches closed their eyes and circled B.

"Can you give us a couple?" they asked me. I obliged as my own elbow jabbed me in the stomach. On hindsight, I should've listened to my elbow.

In Bowie, Maryland, the clouds that hinted at rain that day instead brought line drives. Before long, four runs had scored through only 2/3 of an inning. I walked off the mound apologizing to my manager, feeling as if a woodpecker had just pecked a hole in my forehead. Once in the dugout, I looked on the mound and saw Bobby Felmy, our left fielder, pitching and getting me out of a jam. Four position players threw that night, as the game began to resemble an American Legion game instead of a professional baseball game.

Back in my room at the local Best Western, I spent the night staring at the ceiling. Completely alone, as I have been after almost every bad outing—and good outing—that I have ever had professionally, I simply wanted her at my side. She remained 1,500 miles away.

She visited recently, only her second visit of the nearly five-month-old season. For seven days my life felt normal. For seven days my life companion watched TV with me, discussed the health care debate with me, ate breakfast with me, and made fun of Tom Cruise with me.

For seven days I slept a little better, reassured by the knowledge that my wife was at my side and that whatever happened, we would have each other. But then she left, and a feeling that has become all too normal has now displaced the feeling of normalcy that I so desire.

So yes, I miss my wife. And no, it's not good to be away from her. Bring on the chains; the skull crushers can keep this version of freedom.