- Baseball starts at 10. You should wake up fifteen minutes before that. This has been your routine for the past two and a half years. Having a game to watch is one of the only reliable ways you have had to convince yourself to get out of bed. It has always worked before this year. You haven’t watched a single game this year. There is no room left in your life to do things that make you happy. Your alarm goes off at 9:45, and you turn it off, and you roll back over. You lie in bed, your whole body in pain for some mysterious reason, not sleeping but not really awake. You think very hard about opening your eyes.
- Okay, idiot, it’s 1:30 now. The game you wanted to watch is over. Again. You have fully missed one class and are late for the next. You already ruined the weekend, skipping out on not one but two long-awaited events because you were too busy sobbing violently in your girlfriend’s bed. Don’t ruin the week, too. Wake up. Wake up. Get out of bed, get dressed. Go to class. You can watch the game when you get back. It’s not going to disappear from the internet just because you didn’t watch it live. That’s something to look forward to, right? You have to find something to look forward to. You can’t kill yourself. You don’t do that anymore. Find something to look forward to. Go to class, then come home and watch baseball. These are small and achievable goals, even for you. Right?
- Despite the fact that you stayed up until 3 last night finishing all your work for class, reading and editing and writing commentary, when your prof asks you to contribute to the discussion you say very quietly that you didn’t do the reading. Or maybe you weren’t speaking quietly. Your voice sounds like it’s coming from somewhere far away. You don’t remember anything you read or wrote or edited. You sit there for two hours like a corpse someone is unconvincingly trying to pass off as a living person until everyone starts leaving. It takes you a few seconds to realize that you’re supposed to be leaving, too.
- You catch a glimpse of yourself in a window as you walk to the bus stop. You look very pale and very thin, your shoulders and neck slouched like they’re unable to support the weight of your Jays cap. You’ve got random bruises all over your arms. You’ve lost ten pounds in the past three weeks or so. Guess you should probably eat something today. You take the bus to Granville Island and buy a slice of pizza and sit on the dock and watch a seagull swallow a starfish whole. You didn’t think it was going to be able to, but it does, all five spindly starfish legs disappearing into its beak. You take forever to eat the pizza. Every bite hurts. You have no idea what time it is. You don’t want to go home.
- You stay on the bus for at least ten stops after your home stop. Probably more. When you finally get off the bus, the sun is setting, and it’s getting kind of chilly. It’ll take you a long time to walk home from here. You walk along the beach. The sky and the ocean reflect each other, washes of bright, brilliant colors. You see another seagull swallowing another starfish. And another. And another. You have never seen so many seagulls eating so many starfish. This is probably the most beautiful place in the world. You feel nothing.
- By the time you get home the sun is gone. It’s too late to watch a game. You have too much work to do; you have wasted too much time. Maybe you can catch a game tomorrow. Maybe tomorrow will be different. You keep telling yourself that.
Why can’t I start out like I ended last year? I don’t understand. Last October, I had everything. Now I feel lost when I’m out there. All of a sudden, I’m struggling. Each batter is a puzzle with the wrong pieces. I don’t know what I’m doing and I’m getting beat up.
I don’t know what’s going on, but I don’t want to deal with it anymore. I want to quit but everyone tells me I look good. It’s something small, they assure me. We can fix it, they say. So every night, I sit in my room and every morning, I sit there again. “God,” I say, “I’m think I’m done. Should I quit? Show me what to do.”
That’s why I’m here at the ballpark at 7:30 in the morning. Phantoms of last season rise cheering from the empty seats. The outfield wall, the one that vibrated last fall with raucous joy, stands over me now in silent judgment and I shrink. I’m an old man on his deathbed, gasping his last.
Shaking it off, I go to the bullpen. I don’t know what it’s going to take, but I know I can’t take another beating. I’m going to fix this.
My plan is to do dry drills, but I pick up a baseball anyway. I turn it over in my hand and wonder if the problem starts there. I break my grip down to the one my dad showed me when I was six years old. I rebuild across years of training until I’m holding my changeup. Then I come set.
Am I feeling tight? Does something ache? Should it? I have to feel this. If I can’t feel my body, I can’t adjust. I’m a little tight in the shoulder so I work on it. Over and over I come set, not thinking, just setting and resetting until I’m comfortable. Next I work on my step, stepping over and over to feel where my foot hits the ground.
I spend hours breaking my mechanics down to the smallest detail. Then I grab a towel to drill and it feels good. My delivery is back. I’ve worked hard this morning and everything’s finally on time.
The next night, the Twins score six runs off me in two innings that last three hours. It felt like God was telling them where the pitches were headed. After the game, I call my agent. The team called me while I was on the line. After that, more calling.