Dear Baseball Gods Book – Audiobook Sample Chapter 12

What’s up! Dan Blewett here and I’ve got
another sample chapter of my book Dear Baseball Gods: A Memoir to share with you today. So this is chapter 12 and it’s actually written to the baseball
gods there’s only three written to them in the behind the whole book all the
others are written to actual people in a contextual way that shares a story from
my career that I felt like would impact them or had some relevance to their life
or I had a lesson that I wanted to share with them so chapter 12 has a lot of
different things going on number one in it I learned that my second elbow
surgery probably could have been avoided and so I talked about how I deal with
that situation and you know learning something like that
years later when you learn that because of someone else’s negligence you know
your life could have been completely different is tough to deal with so
that’s one of the themes in this chapter another one is my bounce back from my
worst season in Fargo I’m in Evansville IN this chapter and in it I talk about
my my meditation practice some of the ways I’ve been changing as a player some
of the new leadership qualities and sort of aggressive kind of competitive
qualities that I started to exhibit that season we know one of the big themes in
the book is how I grew up as an athlete from kind of a calm pensive kid but into
this aggressive more of a leaders I got older kind of player and I was I was
aware of this change over time and especially in this season this was my
third year I started to notice it more and more with altercations with
teammates from now on every now and again just the way I approached my
pregame prep the way I competed lots of things were changing so there’s a lot of
different themes in this chapter I think it’s a really interesting one to share
and it’s called dear baseball gods the rotten planks are a gift so I’ll let you
figure out what that means but jump in Chapter 12 I hope you enjoy it 12
dear baseball gods the rotten planks were a gift one of my favorite
thought experiments is the ship of theseus King Theseus was a naval war
hero in Greek mythology and had his ship preserved in memorial over time the
wooden boards of the ship rotted and were replaced with new ones the ship
lived on but was no longer comprised completely of the original planks it’s a
problem of identity and the question posed is this has boards are replaced
when does theseus’s ship become a new ship after the first board 10 boards if
51% of the original ship is still intact is it still the original MyCareer clock
ticked daily in my head reminding me that if I didn’t evolve and get better
today tomorrow I’d be 2 days behind the standard rose each year and it became
necessary to replace planks before they rotted by the time a pitcher realizes he
needs a change it’s often too late when I entered pro baseball in 2010 I
was one of only a handful of starters in my league who could throw every fastball
in the game above 90 as a reliever I averaged 92 a measure considered much
too slow by today’s standards I underwent a second Tommy John surgery
and beat the odds by restoring a hundred percent of my previous velocity yet
restoring a two-year-old version is still a version that’s two years
outdated we have to change and change now the herd of younger players thunders
on with or without us I received the gracilis tendon allograft
in my first Tommy John surgery an allograft is tissue donated from another
person my tendon came from a deceased man and they gave me the option of
writing his family an anonymous letter I declined I wanted to but I wasn’t sure
what I’d say or how I’d say it I just couldn’t find the words I regret not
petting that letter and thought about my elbow a lot after that surgery with four
years of philosophy under my belt theseus’s ship immediately jumped into
my mind was I the same person was I still me was this man living through my
elbow in January of 2018 I spoke at the American Sports Medicine Institute’s
36th annual injuries in baseball course the seminar is organized each year by
renowned surgeon dr. James Andrews and his Institute I received a rare
to speak from a non-medical perspective I jumped at the chance in front of a sea
of doctors trainers and physical therapists I spoke about what the
surgery meant to me how there was a gap in the rehab process and how important
the emotional side of the recovery was afterward a group of doctors and
physical therapists shook my hand and chatted with me.
I reviewed in my speech how I received an allograft with raised eyebrows the
first question they asked was who did your surgery I confirmed their
suspicions as my doctor was known for using alle grafts one of them told me I
almost certainly had a case to sue for malpractice the use of a cadaver graft
in a first Tommy John procedure was so uncommon that was almost certainly the
reason it had failed my leaking busted plank was replaced with another equally
rotten one I immediately dismissed the idea of a lawsuit in baseball all of us
see politics at work we all noticed when the son of a scout pro player or manager
gets drafted despite a 210 batting average or 86 mile-per-hour fastball and
a 550 er a I never envied those people and spend as little time as I could
being bitter about it I’ve always wanted to earn the money in my wallet and the
trophies on my wall I didn’t want to dig up old ghosts in court and wag my finger
about the pain and suffering my doctor caused me even if I was righteous in
doing so I don’t feel wronged and couldn’t make a straight face argument
that undue pain and suffering came my way because of that allograft I know my
career path might’ve been completely different but it wasn’t when a plank
needs to be replaced I pulled out my hammer and nail blaming the ocean would
only allow more water to flow into the hole it’s impossible to always come back
better after an injury sometimes a restoration is about as good as it gets
though I couldn’t trend physically upward every year mentally I could what
I found most valuable was the way I changed a new stronger man replaced the
old one in the mirror the surgeries didn’t hinder that they helped it that
year after leaving Fargo I saw hard work pay off I watch myself rise to the
challenge Fargo imposed upon me I realized that semies outburst had forced
me to replace an entire section of my boat because of it the sailing was
smoother in faster than ever mentally I never stayed
the same to stay the same meant being left behind in my return to Evansville I
grew up faster and taller than any year prior in 2012
Simmi called to release me from my contract in Fargo just a week before
spring training was slated to begin he had a backup option for me Andy from
Evansville really wants you to pitch for him they think you can be their number
one guy I know the American Association was tough on you so give it some thought
I can trade you there if you want and we won’t have to officially release you
it’s your call I asked to be released assuming the step down back into the
younger Frontier League would be bad for my career I’d hold out for another
American Association team to call a short time later the phone rang it was
not who I expected hello blue how are you kid I heard you’re back on the
market it was Brooks hey Brooks yeah I I guess
I am there’s a few things you didn’t know number one being that I’m no longer
with normal I took the pitching coach job in Evansville
Annie McAuley is a good man he’s the manager there he and I both want you to
come pitch for us I want you to be our ace you can do that job I know you can I
resisted but so did Brooks continuing to explain that Andy was a fair honest good
manager I should play for him he said I get plenty of chances to redeem myself
after a few hours of deliberation I decided being a second-year holdout
wasn’t good I hadn’t earned enough in the game to be holding out for anything
I had an opportunity to pitch and to be a number one at that
I doubt Andy’s number which both Semyon Brooks had sent me hey Dan glad to hear
from you my guess is that Brooks he filled you in on the situation what do
you say I think it’d be a great fit for you here the owner bill busing really
loves the team takes good care of the players here let’s do it fantastic
I’ll fax over the contract has a thousand bucks okay that’s the most I
made thus far sure thank you you got it look forward
to seeing you here soon in baseball your statistics no Nana
lingo as your numbers become your resume my er eh in Fargo the most important
number in a pitchers resume was an abysmal seven point six nine anything
about four point five has grounds to get released so I didn’t have the luxury of
being choosy really I was lucky to you no chance at all I thought back to that
day in the Chicago hotel I hadn’t called Brooks before leaving for Fargo
would he have called me the answer had to have been no Andy had been the league
managing for Evansville when I played for normal yet how was a year removed
and though Andy and Sammy were friends there wasn’t much good in my 2011 season
Brooks had to have been the driving force he really didn’t owe me anything
for that phone call but he kept his word nonetheless a month and a half later I
was sitting beneath the scoreboard in my sweat soaked pregame shirt and shorts
the Sun was beating down as I sat cross-legged beyond the centerfield wall
still new to my meditation practice I tried to find secluded places where I
could sit in silence away from judgmental eyes with the exception of
Garret Bullock a Wake Forest grad and left-handed pitcher I didn’t know any
other players who meditated those who played with gare-bear would corroborate
that he was both a genius and an unabashed nerd what I loved about him
was how he completely owned his dorkiness he found ways to one-up
himself until the last day of the season dude are you reading a textbook on the
toilet he’d just cackle with laughter when I later needed an escort to and
from Cincinnati for surgery Garrett volunteered he drove me both ways and
played nurse for a day today he’s a doctor of physical therapy and is
completing a PhD in epidemiology and biased at sat the University of Oxford
there he says everyone is a super dork like me because I couldn’t own my
dorkiness like gare-bear could I went out of my way to find new hiding spots
the scoreboard was secluded but there was a reason I would never choose that
gravelly location again as the first few ants crawled on my arms and legs I
snapped my eyes open to brush them off of me I only had 20 more minutes before
I had to start getting ready so I was committed to
my spot will you die will the ants kill you
no I replied to the voice then sit still isn’t being comfortable discomfort kind
of the point I closed my eyes and tried to relax as a few more tiny black ants
crawled in my arms legs back and chest I stayed still I kept my lid shut as I
traced out their path in my mind ordinarily I’d focus on my breath and
repeat words of confidence in my head reminding myself of who I was and who I
wanted to be I visualized my next start and how I’d
attack hitters watching each pitch stream towards the mitt with a visible
tail like that of a tracer round shot from a machine gun the ants were just a
new challenge a new distraction to block out they were tiny little hecklers and
would only steal my clarity if I let them twenty minutes later I opened my
eyes stood up and shook them all off like a wet dog I was hungry I needed a
peanut butter and jelly I had rolled into town with mixed feelings that
quickly faded I loved bossy filled and immediately bonded with my starting
pitcher brethren Evansville hadn’t been a winning team in a few years despite
enjoying a championship in 2006 in his 40s tall and tan from days in the hot
southern Indiana Sun Andy took the reins in 2010 the same year I first entered
the league he had been managing for a dozen years prior with notably long
stops in Schaumburg and Kansas City where in 2008 he won his first
championship in a 2016 article for the Evansville Courier and press he shared
his desire to wear an otters Jersey until the end I will be ending my career
here whether it’s retirement death or firing after countless winning seasons
and a 2016 championship he’s probably in the captain’s chair for a good while
longer he gives his players respect freedom and more chances than most to
turn around a slump good will emanated from his coaches office in bossy field
pitchers and pro baseball don’t interact with their manager nearly as often as
amateur players do during batting practice
the manager typically hangs out behind the backstop known as the turtle as
position players take their daily three or four rounds of BP the hitters
interact with him between rounds whereas pitchers are relegated to the outfield
shagging batted balls and generally being bored at all their times
pitchers are else we’re doing pitcher things that simply don’t concern the
manager once all infield activities are done for the day the manager will then
go into hiding as he confers with his coaching staff writes the line up and
plans out the my new show of the game throughout my career my manager was
somewhat of a work acquaintance to who might say hello but keep walking as we
passed in the hallways our relationship evolved beyond those typically sterile
interactions the turning point came in the season in June when after a few
go-rounds of the starting rotation I had been consistently leaving with a lead we
bust up north to Traverse City Michigan for a three-game road series by the time
my start rolled around on the third day we were in the throngs of a four-game
losing streak our squad got blown out in games 1 & 2 of the series and we need to
stop the bleeding when you’re the ace of the staff it’s your job to plug that
wound it was the 7th inning and we had just pushed across a run to take a two
to one lead the Traverse City Beach bombs had a curiously designed ballpark
most stadiums are all brick and mortar rising high above the playing surface
the shell of Warfel Park by contrast was clad in white siding gray pitched roofs
with square paneled windows that belonged in a bedroom the entire shell
resembled a long row of two-story Beach townhouses inside the park the Suites
were the same they look like beachfront homes on the tall stilts that protect
against storm surges white Adirondack chairs lined the concourse areas it was
a unique ballpark unlike any I had seen with one out I gave up a double that put
the tying run on second after a strikeout Brooks came out to talk to me
I could hear Eric massing ham our closer warming up mass is over there he
motioned toward our bullpen in the right-field corner he’s about ready I
can bring him in now unless I gave him a disapproving look out of the corner of
my eye Brooks was clearly trying to bait me
into saying something and doing so with no subtlety whatsoever he
prowled on a bit longer not being the least bit clever in disguising what he
was doing he wanted to hear me say I got this leave me and Brooks so I did I
looked him in the eye and calmly explained that the next hitter couldn’t
hit a curveball and that I had the best one in the league it would be most wise
to leave me in Brooks smiled and said that’s all I wanted to hear he departed
back down the mound toward the dugout walking his lopsided walk I made good on
my promise striking out the final hitter of the innings and the threat I returned
to the dugout after that inning to a few extra Pat’s on the butt and a big heck
of a job blue from Andy a perpetually even-keeled guy I felt good drawing some
excitement out of him I wanted to help him win games because managers need to
keep their jobs just like we players did he had given me a fresh start in
Evansville and so we were in it together mass came into the tight ball game in
the 8th for a two inning save though we tacked on a few runs in the night to
give him some breathing room we hit the road with a much-needed 5 to 1 victory
ending our losing streak it was one of the first times in my career when I
truly felt like a leader I thought back to my conversation with dr. Templeton
maybe I was finally growing toward the canopy of the forest as my experiences
in baseball deepen my roots maybe I could lead not just by example off the
field but in action when the lights are on in my upper class years in college I
know that I helped show the young players what hard work look like yeah my
performances were never good enough I simply couldn’t put it all together on
the field even as I heard the number one pitcher label of that meager staff
competing for my job was bringing out the best in me I was slowly learning how
to put a team oh my back and rise up on that night in Michigan I was the guy
hard work was paying off I thought if I kept it up maybe I’d soon get a chance
with an MLB team players police themselves at high levels and thus many
aspects of dugout life are subject to unwritten rules enforced by whoever
decides to enforce them one of my friends and the starting rotation was a
guy named Matt who got the short end of the
stick by our offense he was Owen six after six starts despite an ER a that
was in the mid fours a 4.5 er a is about average it’s not good but it’s also not
terrible it will get you released sometimes but pitchers also make it
whole seasons pitching to a four and a half this time because of his pathetic
win-loss record Matt was on the chopping block Brooks had told me in confidence
that Matt need to pitch well on his next start or the ownership was going to get
rid of him he couldn’t control his losing record but it would be the death
of him nonetheless as Matt made his next start at home he opposed a good starting
pitcher who threw harder than average with a very good curveball
this fellow mowed down our hitters for the first few innings on nothing but
high fastballs and knee high curveballs as I watched nervous that we need to
start hitting him I felt exceedingly frustrated that our
hitters weren’t adjusting our opponent was pitching with a very predictable
pattern curveballs for strikes and high fastballs above the strike zone a hitter
had to do one of two things to adjust sit on the curveball that he tossed over
the plate or ignore the high fastball either would force him to bring his
fastball down to the zone where hitters would have an advantage rather we
continue to swing and strike out on pitches that were out of the zone we
also continue to stare at curve balls right down the middle it was ugly and
Matt deserved better the hitters jobs weren’t on the line but Matz was he was
pitching for his life later in the game one of our hitters took a big aggressive
cut at a first pitch high fastball and drove it to the wall a knee-jerk
reaction to my frustration I blurted out great looks like at least one of our
hitters is trying this did not sit well with the two hitters hanging on the
dugout rail next to me both backed off the rail as they turned toward me brow
furrowed and anger as they asked in explicit terms what I was implying I
thought for a moment what I retracted and apologized I felt the scared college
kid in me tugging my shirt then I smacked his hand away no I meant it Matt
deserves better what I mean is that my teammate is out there on the mound
battling and you hitters keep striking out the exact same way someone
needs to make an adjustment this did not go over well they got in my face and I
wag my finger right back as the shouting match nearly exploded into a brawl at
the top of our steep concrete dugout steps and II ran over from his post
break it up your teammates we backed off into separate corners slumping onto our
stools as the rest of the team nervously wondered if the bell would ring again I
spin to the bucket and scout across the ring eventually we all took off our
boxing gloves and got back to the game the next day and he grabbed me while we
pitchers were out doing our pitcher things hey blue so listen what you said
wasn’t wrong but I can’t have the team tearing itself apart from the inside I
nodded the hitters need to do a better job of making adjustments he explained
as I apologized to him what I did wasn’t productive no one would have responded
well to how I said what I said it’s stuck in my mind though as either a
turning point or a sign that had already turned snapping at Pete in Lake County
and now newly brawling in the dugout I was just changing in college some of our
team rules and policies made me feel like a child
unable to explore my limits at times I felt like little more than a bonsai tree
being pruned into a handsome albeit limited shape I got most of the
opportunities I needed but looking back I see now why I didn’t come to
understand who I was as a pitcher until much later pro baseball didn’t just
provide freedom it was freedom I was out exploring the country playing
the game I loved while growing into myself I could get drunk all night if I
chose and as long as I showed up and played well no one would say a thing
though I didn’t choose that the knowledge that my decisions and
consequences were purely my own all of it allowed me to become who I really was
to grow tall or not as dr. Templeton had alluded despite another tally and mats
lost column he stuck around having battled back from injuries in a terrible
season prior in Fargo I felt a strong sense of ownership in that team I wanted
to repay Andy Brooks and the ownership for not only taking a chance on me after
a bad season but putting faith in me I hadn’t earned the number one role they
just believed I could rise to meet it I wanted to prove that I was
worthy maybe that had something to do with the shouting match in the dugout a
few weeks later I made will become my last star the season for Evansville I
walked off the mound yet again escorted by the umpire my coach the same walk I
had done years earlier in college I got the news of my elbow was again torn and
required Tommy John surgery I deflated completely a few weeks later I received
the good news that I was voted a member of our divisions all-star team it was
held in normal that season my adopted hometown and thus I had been
greatly anticipating that vote until the news of my elbow it felt like a dream to
start the all-star game in front of all the young kids I trained they get to see
their coach in action sadly all I could do was wave as I
readied boards and nails for my upcoming surgery when I returned from the game
the only thing I could do was wait for my surgery date and so I became more or
less a member of the coaching staff I spent more time with Brooks and Andy and
existed in a strange in-between where I was no longer an active player but
wasn’t a coach either it was tough carrying on the same as I did before
knowing that I wouldn’t step onto the field again for at least another 18
months I tried to be a good teammate and not bring anyone else down with me my
2012 season was over and 2013 was done before it even began I knew well what a
long tedious journey I had in front of me but I committed to it that day in
Rockford when I suited up I was having too much fun finding out how good I
could be and how tall I might grow I would not fade quietly into civilian
life like so many others had I was scheduled for surgery in Cincinnati by
the Reds team physician dr. Tim creme check has a revision patient I needed a
world-class doctor who could clean up the mess from a previously repaired
elbow ligament as the August 7th date approached Andy assured me that he’d
make calls for me when I was ready once you’re out getting back in is not easy
the game waits for no man Duff got me to semi semi gave me chances
I didn’t deserve when Fargo released me Brooks kept his word and handed me off
to Andy blue when you’re ready you call me I not it
but it wouldn’t be the same me that showed up on his caller ID in a year or
two I was rotting already time and age accelerating the process if I merely
revived my old self I’d never get back in I had learned better than a wafer
change the old me would not return those rotten
planks were a gift all right well I hope you enjoyed that chapter that’s
obviously smack dab in the middle of the book but if you enjoy it make sure you
check out the links here in YouTube you can easily pick up the book through the
links below it’s available on paperback from Amazon and ebook from all your
favorite online providers and the audiobook version should be done by the
middle of April so thank you again for listening and we’ll talk to you soon.

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