I guess it’s a sign Tracy and I are on an amazing journey that seemingly every step of the way we look at each other and one of us will say this is going to make a great chapter in the book. The book itself doesn’t exist in paper form, yet as each page turns in our life, it’s so good, we just can’t put it down. But then again, we don’t really have a choice.
I don’t know if we’ll ever sit down to write our story years after the baseball journey has come to an end, but seemingly countless “low points” have, at the time, looked like perfect opening chapters. Ours is a story of progress—ascension, in a way—and we’ve thought it would only make sense to start at the lowest point and let the reader work “up” with us through the book. Yes, there have been peaks. Almost always they have been more spectacular than we could even dream up. But there have also been plenty of “valleys”. And as the journey continues to unfold, each new “valley” we’re mired in makes for the best opening chapter yet.
Two weeks ago, I tore my Ulnar Collateral Ligament.
It was Saturday, May 21st and I was pitching in Somerset, NJ against the Somerset Patriots with two outs in the bottom of the 3rd inning. After five submarine offerings including a foul ball on the last one, I decided to throw Josh Pressley an overhand sinker. I came set and delivered the pitch. Upon the release I felt sudden and sharp tightness in my forearm.
The pitch was fouled off and the count remained 2-2. My heart began to race and as I got a new ball from the umpire, I shook out my forearm to evaluate what was going on in my arm. I knew it wasn’t good, but adrenaline was in charge and a fair assessment was near impossible. I remember thinking in the next 10 seconds before I should deliver the next pitch, I easily could either grossly under-diagnose the issue just as easily as grossly over-diagnose it. Neither were good options.
I don’t normally check the radar gun in the ballpark while I’m pitching (the ego can only take so much), but I wondered if the pitch, despite feeling like it came out with good velocity, actually was insanely slow. I figured if I had blown out, which I didn’t think I had, I’d turn around and see a big FIVE-EIGHT. Turns out I was wrong…on both regards.
I should take a step back and acquaint people new to this blog. Ever since I was a tiny child I have thrown things, balls, rocks, crunched up paper. You name it, if it could be thrown, (even if it couldn’t be thrown) I’d throw it. It just feels like the right thing to do. I remember one time throwing a Nerf baseball against a door and counting how many times in a row I could do so error-free. I honestly don’t remember what the number was when my mom asked me to stop, but I do remember saying “one-thousand” to myself a lot of times. I’m not saying this to brag (frankly it wasn’t very difficult going error-free for so long when I was only five feet away from a perfectly flat surface) I’m saying this because despite knowing I would no doubt make an error, I still did it over a thousand times. I don’t know how old I was, but I do know we moved out of that house when I was eight. In that same house I remember breaking countless artifacts my mom held dear to her heart. At that point in my life, I threw harder than I should safely throw in the house. And come to think of it, I guess my aim pretty lousy.
From those roots, I became a soft-throwing control pitcher in professional baseball. The Disco nickname comes from my fastball not being able to get out of the 70s. Overhand I have thrown as fast as 86 and maybe on occasion I’ve been lucky enough to have hit 87; but then again, I’m not quite sure.
The stadium radar gun in Somerset read 91mph. That is faster than any radar gun has ever clocked me, ever, in my entire life, even on a good day with a fast gun.
I don’t remember experiencing any excitement over the 91; I was still in diagnosis mode and this was just another data point. It couldn’t be blown out if the pitch came out that well. I stepped back on the mound and found the rubber. The pain wasn’t in my elbow; it was in my forearm. Our catcher called for a fastball. Just throw it, don’t baby it. If it’s blown out, it’s blown out. I came set. What if it’s just hanging on a thread? The submarine offering was again fouled off and the count remained 2-2. The tightness continued to clamp down.
After two more non-competitive pitches out of the zone, the batter headed towards first base and I began to pray. I started to pray for health, but then without any conscious intent to do so, my prayers shifted towards asking for the strength to summons the trainer and our manager out to the mound to let them what was going on.
I have been blessed to wear a professional uniform for over 1,000 games in my career and up until this point had been unavailable to play in exactly zero of them. Gaining the courage to admit I actually had an injury was significantly harder than I thought it would be. I surely didn’t have the strength to do so, but my prayers were answered.
When I told my manager what had happened he immediately signaled to take me out of the game. I was hurt.
That night, my arm numb from the effects of the ice, we couldn’t help it… This is going to make for a great chapter in the book. Heck, THIS has got to be the opening chapter.
I’m going to ask Tracy to write this section of the blog. I will preface it by saying I sit here absolutely thrilled about what comes next for us. We have talked about this for hours on end and we both feel exactly the same way, but my perfect and pretty little wife has an amazing knack for making things especially uplifting and it wouldn’t be fair to you to have me try to write this and obstruct her energy even in the slightest. Without further ado, here’s Tracy:
Honey, first let me say, I’m so grateful you decided to start blogging again. (Holy cow! I already have to add a side-note here. Sheesh! Before I started writing my little portion only moments ago, I quickly prayed for the perfect words. A simple and quick prayer to help me engagingly express our excitement with the perfect words and as soon as I said Amen, I felt the urge to start typing and this is what came out: “Honey, first let me say, I’m so grateful you decided to start blogging again.” Then craziest thing happened (at least for us anyway), as soon as I typed that sentence, a beautifully hovering hummingbird appeared right outside my window!! You see, hummingbirds are incredibly, incredibly special to Chris and me and have appeared out of nowhere, more times than we can count at the perfect times… just like now. We’ve never seen a hummingbird in this area. Ever! Didn’t even know they existed here! For me, it was just yet another little wink and thumbs-up from God showing we’re still on the right path and most importantly for right now, He’s glad Chris is back, too. So cool.
Okay, I’m back. I’m not sure how much or little Chris wants me to write, so I’ll pick up where he left off – the night of his first ever game-removing injury. That night was especially peculiar for us because he had never been hurt. Together we’ve dealt with rough games, tough calls, disappointing roster moves, you name it – baseball related stresses – we’ve been through almost everything… except an injury. That night and over those next few days, the list of unknowns, what-ifs, and the inherent fear of what a real injury might mean for us were with no doubt at the forefront of our thoughts. Will he be ready to go before next start? What if he’s not? How long should he rehab? Can he even rehab from this? What if it’s a serious injury? What if he needs surgery? “Could you imagine if you needed surgery, honey?? Ha! You? Surgery? Mister always perfectly healthy. That would be crazy. So didn’t see that one coming.” How long would it take him to come back? Would he come back? What would we do if he didn’t come back? Is it even possible to come back? 28 years old in independent ball and now with a potential injury. At first glance, a future in baseball ain’t lookin’ so bright … or is it??
I don’t know how or why, but over the days following his injury we can honestly say God did some serious intervention with our thoughts and has shown us so many irrefutable signs and reasons why playing baseball is not only still very much a part of our future, but that He is preparing to absolutely blow us away in sheer amazement and awe of what is in store for us and what has already begun unfolding before our eyes.
I think I’m actually going to end my portion here. I didn’t even get to the good parts yet, but I’m getting the sense that for now, this is perfect and I will trust my next guest appearance will begin sharing the stinking awesome and amazing things that have happened to us recently. I can’t wait to share them!!!
In 2006 I had already begun writing down some stories from my experiences early on in baseball. The first one I ever wrote was my first professional appearance as a pitcher. I gave up something like 4 runs in 0.2 innings. At the time, it was a crushing experience. But there was a story within the inning that, despite not making any sense at the time, I knew was noteworthy. So I wrote it down. It was such a miserable performance on the field and a miserable feeling wondering if I just wasn’t good enough, I remember thinking at the time this is the perfect start to the book.
Since then, I had supplanted the story of my first outing countless times with other deeper “valleys” that have been “better opening chapters”.
Which takes us to the present. I get Tommy John surgery this week. I’ll miss the remainder of the season and be in a brace for weeks. We’re left hoping my left hand can step it up and Tracy won’t have to wipe my valley in the meantime. I’m 28 years old in independent ball and hurt for the first time in my career. Can’t get any lower, right? THIS is going to make for a great chapter in the book. Heck, THIS has got to be the opening chapter.
It may very well be the opening chapter. But if it is, it won’t be for the reasons we used to think. True, ours is a story of progress—ascension, in a way—but we have seen time and time again without exception that the supposed “valleys” turn out not to be “valleys” at all. Remember that confusing, noteworthy part of my first outing? Now it makes perfect sense and has perhaps helped me as much as anything I’ve learned in my entire career. I won’t share it here (this is painstakingly long enough already), but suffice to say each and every low point has proven to turn out in such a positive way. We could go on and on. We are grateful we have been more blessed by our low points than any other points along the way.
The only difference is this time—for this Tommy John chapter—we didn’t have to wait until after the fact for the low point to reveal it is actually a true and amazing blessing. This time it hasn’t taken us until after the fact to see that we’re not actually in a valley at all; we genuinely feel how blessed we are as each new page turns.
Here’s Tracy again with the final run down:
Much to Chris’s lovingly adoring chagrin, I admit, I can sometimes be the kind of person who needs a little explaining during a confusing movie, “Wait, so how did that guy end up there?” Like Inception with Leo DiCaprio, for instance. Confusing, yet amazing movie that I intentionally mention here because it also just so happens to have NLP (neuro-linguistic programming), subconscious suggestions, and hypnotherapy mixed in all over the place… which is a foreshadow into our coming blogs. See, instead of just leaving those comments here for someone to hopefully pick up on the foreshadowing in later blogs, I will just spell it out for you:
Here’s what’s to come –
- Disco officially back to blogging. Yay. Took ya long enough!
- Blog posts catching you up to the present day are coming, so if you read this and, like me, get confused when timing isn’t what it should be… I promise in a week or so, we will be up to speed, in real time, everyone all caught up, fully understanding what the heck is going on.
- Very cool, very awesome happenings we can’t wait to share
- Robotarm. It’s a thing.
Can I get a woop woop?
Roger. Over and out.