Ahead in the Count

4th inning…Reality Check

posted by Matt Whiteside

 

Up to this point things have rolled along pretty smoothly. The 4th inning is usually an inning where you are required to go through the order a second time, and make some adjustments. And isn’t that what life is about?  As mentioned previously, I was called up in August of 1992, and spent significant time in the Big Leagues for the next 5 years.  That is not to say there were not challenging times. I was sent back to Triple A a few times for various reasons.  We went through a strike at the Major League level, and I made my share of bad pitches along the way.  But I had formed great friendships, lived and played in the city with whom I was drafted by, judged the Miss USA pageant, and basically had a charmed career by most standards. 

 

In Spring Training of 1998, I was released by the Texas Rangers on the next to last day of camp.  I was 31, newly engaged ( getting released for the first time right after this should have been a sign), healthy ( never had an arm injury), durable, and had performed fairly well for my former team.  I was also floored.  I had seen the business side of baseball up close many times, in many ways, over the last few years.  Being released for the first time by the team you were drafted by hurt in a different way.  I received plenty of phone calls from coaches, and people with in the organization, with words of encouragement and thanks.  While these softened the blow, they couldn’t remove the stinging feeling I felt. I realize there are far worse things than being released by a Major league organization, but when baseball is what you do, it is difficult. It was time for an adjustment.

 

 Not “knowing if I would ever play again”, I jumped at the first opportunity that presented itself.  The Philadelphia Phillies had a young guy in their plans, but did not want to hand the job to him.  They wanted him to want, and earn the position.  They needed a veteran pitcher to fill the void until he was ready, and I fit the need.  It was a short lived teachable moment by the Phillies, as they recalled the young guy as soon as there was an injury, and he began to get the call more and more frequently.  I eventually landed in the Phillies Triple A city of Scranton, and played the hand that was dealt to me that year.  I was in a new organization with no one who I felt knew me as a pitcher or person.  I tried to be a good teammate, and be a positive influence on others. In the offseason I reflected on how successful I was in those areas, to find a silver lining.  I didn’t like what I saw.  It was the longest year of my professional career by far. Not all the decisions, or choices we make in life are well thought out, but you have to live with them.  Some people say that tough times develop character.  I choose to think that it reveals character.  I vowed after that season to get my self straightened out on the field, and that what ever hand I was dealt in the future, I would make the most of it.

 

 

 

December 3, 2008 - Posted by | On the Field, written by Matt Whiteside

1 Comment »

  1. Whitey – another great post. This brings up an often overlooked fact that nearly everyone who plays sports long enough will be cut at some point. What is your advice to young athletes who get cut by a youth or high school team but still love the game and want to play? Did you use the release as motivation? Did you try to forget about it all together? How did you keep your confidence at a high enough level to continue competing in Triple A and the big leagues?

    Comment by Ted Sullivan | December 7, 2008


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