By Andrew Margolick
People are all too familiar with the star players (and frankly, in today’s world of fantasy baseball, any major-league player). And, too a lesser extent, the high-profile washouts. Often overlooked is the player who had some success but not enough to remember or to be satisfied himself.
I was one of those players. Baseball provided me with every adjective in the book, from pure joy to total heartbreak. It was and, to an extent, still is my identity. Baseball allowed me to literally see the world, to pitch against people I now watch on television and to have a conversation piece for the rest of my life.
Baseball also ripped my heart out, gave me a later start in my adult life and caused a lifetime’s worth of surgeries, therapies and medications. As I’ve often said, there are few careers where you can be 25 years old and have literally no chance of ever making them work. That was the case with me.
My elbow (and my fastball) prevented me from achieving the goal I had set when I was four years old. The disconnect between mind and body can be unbelievably frustrating in any walk of life, but particularly so in sports. My career had been filled with abuse, injury and an idiotic belief that you step up when called to do so, no matter what you have to do to get it done (yes, this includes ungodly amounts of cortisone, pills and pain tolerance).
If you include my period as an agent, I was basically seven years behind my peers in the workforce when I joined the rat race. I had to deal with figuring out who I was, what I thought I might want to do with my life now that Plans A and B were gone, and had a wife to support. I believed that I had every right to be bitter and to be that guy at the end of the bar rehashing old stories.
I was once asked whether it was all worth it. Would I have gone down the same road if I knew that at 25 years old, my elbow would be an zipper-looking, arthritic weather vane, that I would barely eke out a living in the game and that I would have a late start in “life”? My answer, without fail, was and is: “I would do it again in an instant”.
Baseball provided me with literal and figurative scars; however, it also provided me with the tools to be successful in life, to thrive under pressure and to zero-in on the task at hand rather than worry about things on the periphery.
Baseball is a magical game, and the pain and mental anguish I endured were all worth it. The game will inevitably break 99.99 percent of people’s hearts, but if you stop and think about it, it offers up infinitely more than it takes.