Suitcase Chronicles: Answering The Mail

For this week's Suitcase Chronicle, Garrett Broshuis is going to the e-mailbag.

For my husband (who grew up in Peoria and is not a baseball fan): Why do baseball players SPIT all the time? He even has me thinking it's gross.
From Debbie, in Stanford

This required a little research. I found that the submandibular glands produce over 70 percent of human saliva. Well, apparently throwing a baseball is directly linked to overactive glands. The repeated internal rotation of the shoulder stimulates these glands, resulting in increased growth and increased saliva output. It's similar to an overactive bladder. We can't control it, and it's actually embarrassing. The result: We spit more than camels.

Okay, so I'm full of crap. In reality, waaay too many players still use tobacco products. In the minor leagues a strict fine policy is in place, but it's not enforced. (I'm not sure about MLB's policy.) For example, the "Dip Police" routinely visit our clubhouses but only give a cursory glance.

Many players have used since high school, and it's not easy for them to quit. Teams do have tobacco cessation programs and help players by giving them such things as nicotine gum and patches upon request. I think this is a better approach than the fine system, which if actually used would result in players being fined almost an entire month's salary.

What's interesting is that even guys who don't use tobacco also spit a lot. Maybe it's because they eat a lot of sunflower seeds and they become accustomed to spitting, or maybe it's just being on a baseball field that prompts it. Or maybe there really is something to the submandibular gland/throwing motion correlation.

So yes, players spit and adjust their jock straps. It's gross. Sorry.

Will you ever beat me in RBI baseball?
From Mike, in some small town in Missouri

This comes via a buddy from college. (Yes, we still played the original Nintendo even though it was 2004.)

Answer: Your record was approximately 221-0 against me, even when I had John Tudor pitching. So probably not, unless your thumbs suddenly stop working.

This season has been a tough one for you—emotionally. Albeit we only know that from your blogs, so that's all we have to go by. Are you getting tired of this game?
From Anonymous, in San Jose

This question struck me. I spent a lot of time thinking about it, and it's not easy to answer. It goes to the core of everything that I'm currently contemplating.

Sometimes I think that this game is abandoning me. I feel that it has mistreated me. But I know this is wrong. I know that these thoughts are simply a result of the strong emotions that I feel for it. It's a result of knowing that a boyhood dream might soon be dying. It's a result of realism entering my life, as I'm forced to acknowledge that not every story has a Hollywood ending.

There are certain things that tire me. I'm tired of being away from my wife. I spent around 28 weeks in baseball this year. I was with my wife for around 3 of them. I know other professions require this as well. I have a couple of buddies in the military that have it much worse than me. But I still miss my wife.

I'm tired of feeling that I'm spinning my wheels. With so many great players to compete against, sometimes it seems that my pursuit of this dream is futile. I'm 27 now, a minor league geriatric. The Giants keep around 100 pitchers in their minor league system, and most of them have better stuff than me. I'll put my work ethic and preparation against any of them, but most have the upper hand in raw ability. How can I break through? The thought is maddening.

I'm tired of sleepless nights after bad outings. The window of opportunity is so short in this game. I overanalyze each and every outing, spending my nights singing "Bang My Head Against the Wall."

But am I tired of pitching? No. Spontaneous thoughts still creep into my head like a snake in the night. Often it's the feeling of a perfect change-up: Feeling it roll off the finger tips at full arm speed, knowing the end-result upon release, seeing the hitter begin the swing too soon, watching the ball harmlessly pound the mitt. Will I ever be without these thoughts? Or will this phantom pitch syndrome haunt me forever?

There are so many little things of beauty in this game. A few times this year I sat outside of the clubhouse and ate my post-game meal. The crowd had already shuffled out, but the lights were still on. I ate slowly, watching the simple serenity of workers preparing the field for the next day. The music had been turned off, and the sounds of clay being pounded, the infield being drug, and homeplate being raked provided a soundtrack. I'll never grow tired of moments such as these.

So the answer: It's complicated.

And lastly, I'll end with not a question, but a statement. It comes from Kaleb, who has just begun college recently. It's in response to my previous story, in which I talked of the difficulties of unpacking my baseball bag, knowing that I might never use it again.

I had to let baseball go on April 17 when my team was put out of our state playoffs. That was the worst feeling I have ever experienced because I knew I wasn't good enough to keep playing the game I love so much. I didn't even think about my baseball bag until I read your article today. I realized that my bag still hasn't been unpacked, 6 months later. I guess I can't bring myself to it.

It doesn't matter if it's high school ball or professional ball. It's not easy to leave this game. It never leaves you.

Broshuis is a pitcher in the San Francisco Giants minor league system. You can follow him on Twitter @Broshuis.