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“You can die from someone else’s misery—emotional states are as infectious as diseases. You may feel you are helping the drowning man but you are only precipitating your own disaster. The unfortunate sometimes draw misfortune on themselves; they will also draw it on you. Associate with the happy and fortunate instead.” Robert Greene
Hello everyone, and thanks for reading another installment of 20 lessons I’ve learned over the course of my career in professional baseball. I know it’s been awhile, so let me get you up to speed on what’s happening in my world. The last time you heard from me, I was prepping for spring training, as well as wrapping up another awesome offseason where I trained my ass off, and was throwing the ball with some solid consistency leading into my second pre-season with the Minnesota Twins, eighth spring training overall.
My first few outings went extremely well. I was on the AA roster to begin, which was a nice relief considering I had a successful and healthy 2013. Two weeks before camp broke, however, I was pitching on the road against the Orioles, and tore one of my hamstring muscles in my right leg. I landed funny after a pitch, and felt a stabbing pain jolt through the back of my leg. Obviously infuriated, I wanted to keep pitching through it, but got pulled out of the game.
Flash forward a month and a half later, and many tedious hours of rehab, I am now feeling as good as ever. My leg is not only feeling healthy again, but my arm is as live as it has been in a long time. I was given an opportunity in disguise to really rebuild my strength, and I have taken advantage of this time off by getting my arm to where I want it to be from a strength and speed standpoint.
Right now I’m only a few days away from pitching in games again, so there’s obviously a lot of excitement coming from my side of things.
The time off has allowed me do some reflecting as well as observe some of the younger players down here in the rookie levels. It’s given me a unique lens to view where I started from, and where I am now as a player and person. Here are a couple things that popped into my head in recent weeks as lessons I’ve learned.
Lesson 12 – Avoid the players and people who are always down on their luck or constantly over analyzing.
After just finishing the book, 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene, I found one chapter to be unbelievably relevant in the baseball and sports world. It was Chapter ten entitled Infection : Avoid the unhappy and the unlucky. The law really applies to anyone, but in baseball, a game of high failure rates, the guys who have a consistently negative approach and attitude are really exposed. If you look at all the superstars in the game, almost all of them are big kids at heart. They always seem to be playing the game loose as if in the local park with some friends, the same way they did when they were in the 8th grade. I always gravitated towards these teammates. Instinctively, I knew it was the right thing to do to be around these people, as success was expected and commonplace, not a surprise.
There was one instance where I had just broke with a full season team for the season. All the guys on my team were new for the most part, so I would be getting to know them over the next several months…probably better than most people in their life. But at the time, I didn’t know but only a couple of guys from the season before.
It was a perfect lesson looking back on how it played out, however as the story goes, there ended up being two houses where groups of us stayed for the summer. Like anywhere else, people of the same clique, interests and attitudes tended to gravitate toward each other. In one house, there were the real serious guys. They tended to overdo it at the field, get to bed on time every night, eat perfectly, and discuss the game at length at the house after games. Now don’t get me wrong, I loved these guys. I loved how much they cared, and with my personality, I would probably be more comfortable in a situation like that. The problem is, baseball is a unique endeavor. It’s really not always about taking yourself or the game too seriously. These guys ended up really struggling that season as a result of overworking and over thinking. They were in a constant state of tension, which as we all know is a one way ticket to hitting .200 or sporting a 5.00 e.r.a. The game eats players alive who live in this state of anxiety and stress.
In the house I lived in, there were a group of pretty eccentric guys. I can remember it very vividly as an unbelievably fun time that year. I was still able to keep my healthy habits of eating and getting plenty of rest, but my success that season came from the environment that was created off the field. No matter the turnout of the game, all of us left the results at the field. We shook it off, and never talked about the outcome or what happened that day. We would come home, raise some hell, have a blast, and get up the next day with a renewed sense of purpose. All of the guys I lived with had great seasons. We created and infectiously positive and fun environment without us even knowing it, and consequentially success on the field was the byproduct.
Lesson 13 – Turning off the nervous system is how great players recover so well.
This lesson is also related to the previous one, as tension only increases the stress hormone cortisol, which basically puts your body in a sort of stand-by mode, never allowing it to fully rejuvenate. I am still by no means excellent at turning the on switch to off, but I know now how important it really is to do just that as soon as possible.
“Big events require big recovery.” Anthony Mychal
Recovery is the name of the game when it comes to long-term health in baseball. Nothing about the sport is healthy for the body, so nowadays anytime that I can hack into ways to feel good more often in-season, I try and give a go. Here are a few things that have helped me out.
12 tips to tune the nervous system by Anthony Mychal – A few of the tips in here I applied to my post-game recovery plan.
Headspace app – Fellow Show Me Strength writer, Andrew Ferreira introduced me to this meditation practice, which I now use religiously after stressful days of practice.
Relax like a pro : 5 steps to hacking your sleep by Tim Ferris – Ice baths and adjusting my diet prior to bed has done wonders for my sleep quality. If you can’t sleep, you can’t be awesome. Simple as that.
I hope you learned some things by reading today. If you know someone who might enjoy these installments, pass it along.