John McGraw, a Major League Baseball Player and famous MLB manager from the “Deadball Era” at the turn of the century, is credited with many things. (he helped invent the hit-and-run, the sacrifice bunt, the double steal, and the squeeze play) But he was mostly known for his grit on the diamond. A grittiness he later taught to his players. And according to The Ultimate Baseball Book, he may be the first to call upon dirt as a medical treatment…
“We’d spit tobacco juice on a spike wound, rub dirt in it, and get out there and play.”
- One of the biggest over-all secrets of baseball is finding out what kind of a player you are…
- Like what kind of pitcher you are?
- Or what kind of hitter you are?
- This also includes, how well do you know your body?
- In baseball… injuries are part of the game.
- Even with so much being done to try and avoid injuries, sadly no one is immune.
- But all baseball players must learn which pains they can play through, and which pains they can’t.
- When to tough it out like ol’ John McGraw, or when to see the trainer.
Fortunately, in my professional career, I’ve never been superstitious AND I’ve never missed a game due to injury… (knock on wood) But growing up was a different story. Every injury, I’ve sustained, in my life… has been from baseball. However, these experiences have taught me the microscopic “good-side” to setbacks and injuries.
With each injury… (usually) comes a corresponding lesson.
1988: While a 5 year old me was at Little League practice, I stood too close to a teammate swinging a bat. (that black eye was epic)
Lesson: Don’t stand behind or around people holding and swinging bats. (don’t trust ’em)
1990: While catching, I took my mask off to catch a pop-up foul near the fence. But the ball hit the fence just above my glove and smashed me in the nose. (my face still doesn’t look right)
Lesson: You may do everything correct, but remember to always anticipate. (my anticipation level now is at: borderline paranoia)
1992: While running for a fly ball in my backyard baseball field, I ran into an orange tree. (the low-lying branch ripped my Florida Gators tank top, and my pride)
Lesson: No matter the situation, always be aware of your surroundings. Head on a swivel. (you never know when a tree will attack!)
1995: While picking up balls during batting practice, a teammate hurled one my direction. And even though I wasn’t looking, somehow it still hit me in the mouth. (it took an oral surgeon to unattach my braces from my giant lip)
Lesson: Sometimes… you just gotta wear it.
1999: After pitching an 11-innings in a semi-pro game, on a makeshift mound in a field/pasture in Mississippi, my favorite toenail fell off and has been traumatized ever since. (we freakin won the game though!)
Lesson: To win a game… sometimes it means losing a nail. (and throwing 148 pitches)
2001: After a game, I damaged my left shoulder swinging too much while taking batting practice for pro scouts, surgery was needed. (goodbye catching… hello pitching)
Lesson: The work ethic I learned rehabbing my left arm, has helped me keep my right arm healthy for 14 seasons of pro ball. (always take extremely good care of your throwing arm)
2002: During a pop-up communication drill, my face received an ironic elbow from an over zealous, non-listening teammate. (goodbye tooth… hello more scars)
Lesson: It’s better to sound crazy screaming “I GOT IT!” way too loud, then it is to mess up a play, or mess up your face… again.
2003: After I dinked a perfect double-play ball to the other team, I tried running down the baseline faster than my body had ever run! But before I could get to first base, my hamstring gave up.
Lesson: Sometimes you just gotta… do less. (this has come to be known as the Triple-A motto) do less
2009: Cory Aldridge smashed MY slider… off MY ankle. I still played, but I limped around for 2 months. Also in 2009, during my last start of the season, Reggie Abercrombie blasted MY slider off MY hand… and broke it.
Lesson: Sometimes… you need a better slider.
So back to 2003. I signed with the Milwaukee Brewers. I was 19 and my whole life had led to that moment. The Brewers had me a flight to their Arizona complex, so my dad drove me to the airport.
And this man… my trusted father, who played in the Major Leagues, who coached hundreds of professional baseball players, who taught me everything I know about the game, respected by so many in and around baseball, so full of knowledge and wisdom and glorious mustache…
…what kind of encouraging words or advice would this legend of a man give me, as I start my own journey in the baseball world? He put his hand on my shoulder, looked me in the eye, and said…
“Son, be nice to the clubbies… and stay out of the training room.”