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Aug
9
2009

Know When to Hold 'Em, Know When to Fold 'Em

http://www.cobrabrigade.com/img/cobra.23.jpgI had a great plan for the at-bat. I was going to line a single up the middle and take my time running to first. Then, after the next hitter laced a single, I was going to jog at a nice pace into second base. After the third consecutive hit, hopefully to the gap, I would run home and then retreat to the bench to relax. I was just getting warmed up, right?

Well, I did step one correctly but once I saw the next batter lace a ball to the right fielder my mind screamed, "First to third!!!"

When I reached third base I knew that I didn't have "it" any longer. I wasn't where I had been two years ago and, after looking at the beautiful TLD in the stands, I knew I didn't have the need to get back to that point again. I spent the rest of the day reflecting upon, and contemplating, my softball career.

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http://www.cobrabrigade.com/assets_c/2009/08/cobra.paine-thumb-250x187-10610.jpgBefore I get back to the subject on the front page, the great thing about this weekend was being able to hang out with Paine, Kelper, HoosierNation, Whitey, etc. You really can't beat going to battle with a group of guys you enjoy being around. They allowed me to play two years (four softball seasons) with them a few years ago and at the time it helped my mind, body and soul tremendously. It makes for some good stories when we're all together again.

Let's be honest though, I'm difficult to be around when in a competitive situation because I have high expectations for myself, my team and teammates. Expectations that could probably never be reached even if every game was won with ease. That's a major character flaw. I'd like to apologize for it but I'm not sure I'm even sorry for it. That's also why I don't play softball in my current town. I've tried to contain it but I'm unable to. If you are an alcoholic you don't spend time in bars (insert Josh Hamilton joke here). 

I believe I publicly stated two goals heading into this weekend: 1) don't come home with a cast on any part of my body and 2) don't glare or give a mean look to anyone on my team. I couldn't tell you what my batting stats were this weekend, other than to say they were subpar, but I know I was 100% with those two goals so I walked/limped away happy. 

http://www.cobrabrigade.com/assets_c/2009/08/cobra.23.2009-thumb-250x187-10608.jpgAnyways, if my feeling while standing at third base wasn't enough to get me thinking, a slew of bobbled/booted/misplayed ground balls did the trick. I took two years off but I never thought it would take only that short amount of inactivity on the ball diamond to turn me into a mediocre player, if even that. I knew my body would be sore this morning but little did I know that my soul would be most damaged part of me.

So, what does an 'athlete' do when he finally realizes that he can't play at the level he's used to playing at? Do you move to a new, less strenuous position in the hopes that can prolong your career? Do you try to work harder to get back to that point? Do you just ride off into the sunset and call it a career?

I guess it just depends on the kind of person you are.
10 Comments
Bruce Paine said

You asked me to watch your swing, well, I think you are a bit out front on this one but at least you didn't throw the bat at it.

As far as the rest, find the zen again. Baseball/softball has never been that thing where guys look to me to be the man, I am just a role player. In other things, when i am the man, and I feel myself slipping, I try to get back to the zen of things. Build myself psychologically, spiritually, and prepare for the moment and things will slow down again for you. The hypersensation comes back and the eyes in the back of your head will open up again. There is zen in all sorts of things, even the calamitous things. Find it, exhale, and squeeze the tip of the finger.

I think that picture is from my first at-bat of the day so you are probably right about being out front on it. I was jumping at everything until that last game. Like I said last week, it takes me about 10-12 at-bats to get everthing calibrated. I don't think I was killing the team but I wasn't producing the way a clean-up hitter should.

"In other things, when i am the man, and I feel myself slipping, I try to get back to the zen of things. Build myself psychologically, spiritually, and prepare for the moment and things will slow down again for you."

I think that brings about the question for athletes.....what if you just don't feel like you want to get back to the zen of things?

The last few innings of our final game I thought about how far I had fallen on the mountain and how difficult it would be to get back up to the top. Can I get there still? Probably. Is it something that I really want to do though? That remains to be seen. Can I live with moving to a different position and playing at a lower level? Probably not.

When I watch Omar Vizquel play shortstop for the Texas Rangers I try to think of how he feels as a former gold glove shortstop that now has to move all over the infield just to get playing time.

I think that's something that athletes deal with during their career arch. I was trying to take something I was dealing with and translate it into how an aging veteran ballplayer might feel.

Bruce Paine said

I will now, as I always have, advocate determination and an aggressive belief in one's ability to achieve their goals. Die tryin, Jack, die tryin.

I figured you would be the type of guy they would have to rip the jersey off of.

Michael Jordan, Muhammad Ali, Willie Mays, Jerry Rice, Joe Montana, Lance Armstrong, Tom Seaver, Jim Palmer....they realize they aren't what they used to be and they'll never get to that point so why not ride off into the sunset?

Staying in there until the tank is empty or leaving early doesn't mean you are a good/bad person so I'm not saying that. I'm just curious as to what ingredients go into that decision.

Bruce Paine said

Its a tough thing, I have always thought that Ali should have retired after Manila, the rest of his career was a waste and a detriment to his health. I always thought Rice should have retired after his go around with oakland and the SB shot. I am not those guys who can say die I guess. Sometimes people stay fast. Look up the name Joe Bowman.

Boney said

you can get back at it... just hit the cages and play catch with TLD.

now that real life gets in the way, it's hard to maintain the abilities you once had as a youth.

That third pick breaks all the rules you've written though about hitting

1. Out in front
2. Dipping back shoulder
3. drop hands

You are right about my hands. I had two strikes and that, in concert with jumping at the ball for most of the afternoon, caused me to swing at something I probably shouldn't have. I hate taking walks.

Paine pointed out later in the day that I needed to move up in the box for probably the same reason.

mcbias said

Tough dilemma. I feel like giving up basketball now--my ups, never that great, are all but gone, and my only contributions tend to be passing. I could try to become a post-up player, but I don't feel it's worth it.

However, give it some time. Recently, now that my knees feel much better, I've returned to volleyball, and am playing better than ever. Until about 35 or so, it's not clear that a downward turn in performance means you won't ever return to your average. Good luck.

Bruce Paine said

For basketball I think a guy, given the current basketball climate, has one more option when athletecism fails him and that is hustle. I am one of the slowest guys around but nobody, and I mean nobody, beats me down the court without a fight. In basketball, more than softball, hustle can get a guy that doesnt have the goods back into the game because hustle will put you insituations that are far more favorable to your ability to contribute. Commit yourself to leading the fast break. Commit yourself to getting back first on D and picking up the ball. Commit yourself to boxing out and you can still be a factor even if you can't break a guy down off the dribble or get up for the J

Captain Morgan said

Stumbled back into here and lookie what I find....I hear you Jack....I haven't touch a baseball glove in over 2 years....I often wonder if I could roll out there and just pick it up where I left off....I truly doubt it though....that is why saddling up and riding off into the sunset is not a bad way to go...


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