March 1, 2012
Prospects Will Break Your Heart
Spring Training Diary, Day 1, Hour 1
Day 1: 7:00 AM
I woke up at 7am on the dot, eyes peeled open by the heavy-handed eruption of natural light that permeates the room I occupy in Surprise, Arizona. This is the beginning of my first week of Spring Training, a yearly adventure that shares the distinction of being the most exciting time of my baseball year and the most awkward time of my social experience. I sleep five hours a night and not a minute more. Sleeping dulls the mind. I need to stay sharp. I begin each day with a fifteen-minute focused stare at the ceiling, a surface so white and lifeless that shadows won’t leave their shape upon it. I imagine what shadows I would like to see appear in the sterile void: faces become re- presentational only to vanish before I can convince myself of their significance. On rare occasion, the shadows will speak, though today’s conjured shadow, former President of the United States George Washington, is silent. I’ve always had a weakness for Washington. His familiar face entices me to sit up and participate in my immediate surroundings. I’m still very much the man I am inside. You wouldn’t recognize me outside of these pages, Diary.
I have to stop this for a minute, Diary. This seems so impersonal. I want to give you a name. I don’t have many women in my life. Would you like to be one of them? Would you be willing to be a pathetic fallacy? I’ll assign you a name and an emotional responsibility. I trust you can handle this. My therapist is a woman and her name is Joan. My nurse practitioner is a woman and her name is Meredith. My wife is a woman and her name is Arden, but she doesn’t live in this country and won’t be participating in this document. You can be “Patricia.” I’ve yet to befriend a woman named Patricia. You can be my first. I feel good about this, Patricia. I am trusting you with my most intimate thoughts.
Day 1: 7:26 AM
Patricia, the bed I sleep in for five hours a night is made of a synthetic material that would lose a fight with cheap wicker. The frame is beyond aesthetic redemption, and I’m not confident that the less-than-wicker skeleton would support a man of greater density (and I have no doubts that a duo of human storage would concave the structure). I travel with my own pillow, a Silhouette Premium White Goose Down Medium Density Pillow, made from 100% cotton with a 330 two-ply thread count shell, all completely hypoallergenic. The Goose Down Medium Density Pillow is worth at least $200 more than this bed. I’d rather not get started on the sheets, manufactured by the hands of uncoordinated children doing resentfully sloppy labor in the harsh sweatshop environments of the third-world. I should have packed my Orbeli and Proache organic sheets, bedclothes with a comforting thread count and a price that suggests quality. I sleep in socks out of fear that my bare feet will judge me. I always offer a quick apology to my skin because of the sheets. It’s important to be accountable to your body parts.
Day 1: 7:31 AM
I shower three times a day and I waste as much water as I possibly can with each procedure. I feel no shame or remorse in making such an admission. My morning shower is a three-phase attack, scripted and acted out like a stage play, with the matinee show bearing a striking resemblance to the evening’s encore performance. The first act finds me filling the basin with water that is one step beyond tepid but not hot enough to be considered hot. Hot water can dull the mind.
As the basin fills with water I kneel in the rising liquid and pull the plunger, redirecting the water through the showerhead so that the force of the flow can strike me from above. This is when I find my calm. It’s a controlled embryonic experience, one that allows me cleanse away the residual thoughts from the preceding hours and focus my attention on the day’s schedule. The curtain opens for Act two when the drain function is executed and the water that contains my vestigial thoughts slip away through the pipes to become someone else’s problem. I rise to my feet and begin the process of cleaning, a procedure I will repeat multiple times until I feel confident in the results. The cleansing phase can take anywhere from seven to ten minutes, but I’ve clocked times under five minutes when my schedule dictates such haste, and times over twenty minutes when time is a luxury I have in abundance.
My mind is clear during phase two. The final act will find me standing in complete isolation, free from the blanket of water that I turned off after the cleansing phase was completed. Patricia, you wouldn’t believe me if I told you, but I can stand in the isolation of act three for hours at a clip. When I have the time, I’ll stand in the calm of the post-shower until my legs cramp from exhaustion. While my skin slowly dries itself in the humid stillness, my mind starts sprinting away from the scheduled thinking and launches into thought that I will not be able to rescue once I leave the comforts of this isolation; during this phase, thoughts are extremely pointed and highly evolved, but they live and die in this phase, unable to find articulation in the outside world. When Act three finds a conclusion, these thoughts face the guillotine.
Day 1: 8:02 AM
After I’ve successfully negotiated the complexities of my shower routine, I quickly dress under the pressure of high scrutiny. Today I’m wearing a pair of J Brand jeans sized 34 x 34, which have been tailored to fit like pants sized 33 x 33. They are a distressed color of brown, with subtle gray and green tones living under the surface of the principal color; however, it should be noted that these tones are so subtle that they are lost on the average eye and require an intense focus to appreciate. The specific cut of the pant accentuates the shape of the leg without creating too narrow of a line, and the length was purposely left a bit long in order to fit over my black Ostrich Lucchese boots, which I won’t slip on until I’m ready to leave the room. I remove a charcoal and light gray Theory shirt from a plastic hanger, having prepared the shirt the previous evening with a hot iron and some positive thoughts. The sleeves will later be rolled up in the intense heat of the Arizona sun, but with the indoor temperature an almost chilly 68 degrees, I elect to wear the sleeves down while I wait to enter the world outside.
I’m almost ready to leave my room and enter into the common areas of the house, where I will find combinations of food, drink, and human contact. I’ll tell you about my roommate later; we get along fine. He doesn’t ask many questions about my routine. I’ve seen only two days worth of baseball so far, and unfortunately, there just isn’t much say. I really want to say that I’ve seen Japanese sensation Yu Darvish throw a fastball that was so impressive that it broke the will of man with its combination of velocity, movement, and machismo, but I’ve yet to see Darvish pitch. I’ll pass along your best wishes though, Patricia.
I also really want to tell him that I noticed Player A lost ten pounds and his abdominal muscles could launder clothes, or Player B put on such an impressive batting cage display that a new religion was created on the spot and the disciples of this newfound religion gathered around the batting cage and held candles and sang songs, and Player B whispered encouraging thoughts to his beloved and they cried and then he assaulted a baseball so violently that the coaching staff joined the congregation behind the cage to pay their respects to the majesty they had just witnessed. But I haven’t seen spontaneous religion at the cages so far in my journey. I feel guilty that my thoughts don’t include more notes on baseball. All I can offer is a shrug and a smile. It’s only the first week. I landed in Arizona on Tuesday.
My hands are cramping and I’m struggling to maintain proper dexterity and finger control. Hmm? Not shocking that you would jump to that conclusion, Patricia, but reading the February edition of Us Weekly four times a day for approximately five minutes a session is not the source of my hand impediment. You did make me laugh, which is an accomplishment because I struggle to laugh at the humorous offerings of others. It’s not that I don’t enjoy the act of laughing or the act of appreciating the humorous offerings of others; rather, my ability to appreciate the humorous offerings of others is hindered by a solipsistic focus on my own humorous offerings.
I don’t even have an Us Weekly in the Arizona house. I don’t read many magazines in general, except for World Soccer, a journal that boasts of its global football coverage since 1960, which I digest with enthusiasm when I happen upon it. I’ve had a subscription to the New Yorker since 2008, and I haven’t read a New Yorker since 2008. It’s the magazine for the insecure intellectual. Instead of digesting its contents and then disregarding the empty shell, back issues of the magazine cover my apartment with a single-coat erudite varnish. My hands are actually hurting, Patricia. I’m not making this up. I’ve been writing a lot lately. My thoughts have been pure. I’ll check in next week. I have so much to tell you.
Jason Parks is an author of Baseball Prospectus.
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