Thursday, April 28, 2011

A bullpen player's life: More than leaning against a fence

I have decided not to complain about the weather anymore. With these crazy storms and tornadoes ruining homes and lives, I have absolutely nothing to complain I am done with it....My thoughts and prayers are with the people who are struggling now and trying to rebuild their lives.

On to baseball, last night the team had a rain delay but managed to finish with a win. Today they will travel to Michigan for a weekend series. I don't know if they are flying or taking the bus. I guess that I will know soon enough when I receive my weekly "we are on the bus" text. No phone call...just a text. Modern science has really streamlined the communication process between parents and children. Gone are the days of the rolled eyes and we get to decipher the cryptic text message. I know a few short cuts...but not enough (LOL!).....

As I was thinking about today's post, team travel did not seem like an exciting topic, so I will look at the season to date and share what I have learned as a bullpen mother. The season has 3 weeks or more left to it. The "more" is if they make the play-offs. This is a real dream of the players since the College World Series is one of their goals (besides MLB).

Division I baseball is a year round endeavor. From the time that the kids are on campus, they are working out and training. During the fall, there is a series of scrimmages against each other and local teams. During the winter, the team is running. lifting, and refining their skills. Usually this is done indoors, yet they have been known to be outside in the stadium running up and down the stairs for endurance. They are also nutritionally monitored and have to gain weight in muscle. The coaches wanted Buddy to gain 35 pounds in muscle. This made me a bit nervous since I wanted him to do it the right way and eat nutritionally sound foods rather than ice cream, double cheeseburgers, and nachos. Yet, all of this takes a great deal of commitment and perseverance. They miss many family events. This year, Buddy was not home for Easter. He will also miss Mother's Day and be on the road. Fortunately, he was home for Christmas and Thanksgiving, but that's it. July 4th will be spent in another state too. (This is where I have to adjust to him really being gone...). As we get together to watch the games, I take a number of photos. I am still in the "parent" mode and have not turned it off yet. There are so many professional photographers taking pictures during games, yet none of these fancy pictures are better than my blurry photos of his ear or side of his face. I want to shout "stand still for the picture and smile..." but I don't think that the coaches will like I am stuck taking pictures of him moving around.

At the beginning of the season, it was Buddy's goal to play in 15-20 innings. He would consider this a good season. As of today, he has been in at least 17 innings with three weeks to go. He has accomplished this goal. The only one that he has not achieved yet is to start a game...hence his position in the bullpen is maintained. As I watch him in the bullpen...(yep, I get a bit bored watching the games)...he leans against the fence in the same spot...has the same routine when warming up....he rarely sits but watches the game (I think, intently). When his number is called, he is ready to go. First the stretches, then the jumping up and down....rotation of the arms...legs....throwing the ball lightly....more power...then full plays...he runs out to the mound....deep breath...ready for action....This is a bullpen player's life. He could pitch against one guy or many. He never knows.

As a bullpen mom, I have learned a great deal from these experiences. First, patience is important. When you think that he is going to be in a game....we go home without a sighting. Second, the sun rises and falls on baseball. A committed player thinks only of his or her sport (24/7) and maybe the next meal. I now know that a slider is not just a little cheeseburger, but a pitch used in certain situations in a game. Third, happiness depends upon the last game and performance. For example, if he strikes players out...he is happy...if he hits a batter...look out...very salty....
Fourth, the sport is more important than anything....A player would rather spend time with the guys going over strategies and plays rather than hanging out with a sorority. Last, a successful player has the ability to channel their attention and concentration to the point where they can 'block' out any distraction. Buddy honed this skill at I would ask him to do a few things around the house such as take out the trash or clean his room. He was able to successfully ignore my requests...this was practice for pitching in big games....if he can block out my voice, he can block out jeers and cat-calls.

And so it goes....each day, I learn something new. This blog is a great platform to share this incredibly important (or not so important) knowledge that I have gleaned....I will continue to type each day and let you know if I am correct in my analysis or way off base. With that said, I have to check my cell phone to decipher messages sent by my son....

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