Ahead in the Count

2nd Inning, 3-0, Bases Loaded, 0 Outs

posted by Matt Whiteside

The situation noted as the Title here,( should actually be the 9th inning, but it does not flow with chronological order I am attempting to follow), is basically the situation  you enter professional baseball in as a 25th round senior out of college, with a $1000 signing bonus.  A conversation that I had with Bumb Wills, my manager in Rookie Ball, in June of 1990 was and will forever be ingrained in my memeory.  I was having a very good first month to my professional career as a minor league Reliever.  Having started throughout my college career, and seeing the numbers the starters were putting up on our team, I saw no reason I should not be in a starting role.  I mentioned this to Bump, and he immediately asked what round I was drafted in, and how much money I signed for.  I told him, not knowing he was trying to make a point, and he in not so many words introduced me to the business side of the game.  With 6 pitchers drafted well ahead of me, and now in a significantly higher tax bracket than myself, they were going to be the starters due to the investment the organization had made in them.  He informed me that I would pitch out of the bullpen, and like it, until further notice.  There is nothing wrong with pitching in the bullpen, ( I did it for the next 17 years), but to get out of the Minor Leagues and into the Big Leagues you need to put up numbers, and starting is much easier to be noticed than being a middle reliever in the Minors.

Over the course of the next year and a half, a series of events happened that opened the doors to my career.  First, I had to perform well when given the opportunity.  Second, there were a series of injuries to guys in my draft class( a 9th round “closer”, and a Dominican who threw 95), that allowed me to pitch in the closing role and post numbers, that would be noticed by the organinzation. Third, I had another amazing person enter my life as my pitching coach.  Jackson Todd took me aside during the Minor League Spring Training of 1991, and said “we need to change some things quick in your mechanics so you can stay healthy, and pitch effectively over the course of a long season.”  I took to his methodical way of approaching teaching, and was a diligent practicer at, and away, from the field.  Going into the 1992 season, Jackson was being elevated to Double A and skipping the High A level.  He begged, pleaded, and probably lied to the Farm Director, Marty Scott, to take me with him.  Some how he prevailed, and we continued our quest as teacher and student until I was promoted to Triple A in late July, and then on to the Big Leagues on August 5th of 1992. 

Opportunities come in many ways, shapes and sizes.  Being relegated to the bullpen, in hind sight, was a blessing.   It afforded me the opportunity to pitch late in games that were meaningful, and compete in tough situations, while showing value to the organization. Encounters with people such as Jackson Todd happen every day to people, and kids in particular. I am not a believer in fate.  Opportunities in the game of baseball, and in the game of life, are presented often.  Some are disguised, while others are easy to detect. The saying “when the door of opportunity opens, Walk In” comes to mind.  What you do with, and how you manage these opportunities, will shape your future.  For young readers and old alike, I encourage you to not go through life with blinders on. Rather be open to change for the better, and be williing to work hard to make the most of the opportuninties that are presented to you.  NO matter how daunting the task, or small the ray of light is at the end of the tunnel.  To work hard to achieve a goal, and the feeling that comes with it, is  greater than any trophy for the accomplishment.

Til inning 3……………

November 20, 2008 - Posted by | Overview / Background, written by Matt Whiteside

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