Why I Stuck to the Outfield

So since nothing happened with the Giancarlo Stanton trade, I’m going to deliver on my promise and tell a story from my sophomore year of high school in JV Baseball. So at my high school, we had a random long weekend and our catcher was going home to Colorado for break. The problem was we still had a game that weekend but his flight plans were pretty final. I was getting bored playing left field every day and wanted to switch things up, so I volunteered to take his place behind the dish. That was a bad decision on my part.

So before we get into this story, I need to mention the kind of physical state I was/am in. I have AWFUL knees. I inherited them from my mom. My dad, of course, has incredible knees. In fact, he once went for a 6-mile run before learning he had a torn ACL from an accident when he was practicing Brazilian Jujitsu. But I get blessed with my mom’s awful knees. My brother also has the same issues, as it is insanely uncomfortable for us to crouch or stand up from a crouched position. He went to a doctor to get them checked out once, and the doctor told him he had the knees of a 60 year-old (my dad got a similar check-up and was told he had the knees of an 18 year-old. He was in his mid-40’s at the time). So I’m assuming my knee situation is similar to my brother’s.

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Now as I’m sure you can guess, playing catcher can take a HEAVY toll on your knees. That’s why so many catchers often move to first base or DH later in their careers (i.e. Joe Mauer, Victor Martinez, Mike Napoli). Knee savers do help immensely, it almost feels like you’re sitting on a chair, but I didn’t have my own catchers gear, I had to use the bare minimum that the school had to offer. They did not have knee savers. I sucked it up, though, I hadn’t played catcher since fifth grade, when I was the primary catcher on my little league team and I was excited for an opportunity to return behind the dish. This was a bad move. Now, during warmups for practice, things were going pretty smoothly. I had a much stronger throwing arm than our normal catcher, but that was due in large part to the fact he had a bum throwing shoulder, but he was the best we had behind the dish. I sent a ball sailing over our short second baseman’s head on one throw and the coach said it was fine, the second baseman was late getting his glove up there because he wasn’t used to the ball getting there so soon. Now that I’m done tooting my own horn, it’s time to get to the good stuff: the problems I had.

So finally we did a simulated game. I’m behind the dish and throw down the one finger for our pitcher. He gives the heat and the kid at bat hit a foul ball that caught me in the arm, which of course is unpadded. I got a huge bruise and I felt my throwing arm go numb for a moment. But I was able to walk it off and got back down in the crouch. I threw down the number 1 again. The pitcher nodded and the ball was delivered low and down the middle. The batter foul tipped it, right into my athletic cup. The pointed part of my cup split between my nads and I was down for the count. I tried getting up to walk it off as my teammates laughed their asses off at what happened. I had to go down on one knee and eventually, once the pain started to subside, I had a little chuckle about it, too (you thought the painful part was going to have something to do with my knees, didn’t you? Lesson number 1, expect the unexpected).

The game itself was fine. I only let up one passed ball and didn’t have any issues with foul tips going where they shouldn’t. Thanks to my bad knees, though, I had a hard time throwing out potential base stealers despite having a solid arm. Trying to pop up from the crouch was a disaster and I could almost feel my knees cave in beneath me. It was a weird sight for me because I was the team’s leadoff hitter despite my season batting average of .121 (I had an OBP of .380, I drew a shit ton of walks, at one point walking 7 times in 8 plate appearances). You never see catchers bat leadoff so that kind of screwed with my OCD some. I think I ended up drawing another walk that game and had one of the few times I hit the ball the other way, I was pretty shitty about being a pull hitter. It wasn’t on purpose, just how it worked out for me. It was a flyout right to the right fielder, prompting my coach to say “well that’s going to screw up the spray chart.”

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That wasn’t the last time that I tried a new position and it backfired. Towards the very end of that same season, I was having a rough day. I remember it was May 10, 2012, which was my youngest brother’s birthday (that’s how I remember the exact date so easily). My roommate and best friend had gotten kicked out for poor grades and my own grades were not where I wanted them to be with finals approaching. I wanted to try out a new position to try and take my mind off things. I hopped in to play third base during practice. It wasn’t totally unchartered waters for me, I had been a third baseman for much of my little league career and knew all the responsibilities I would need to take on. I fielded a few ground balls and was feeling pretty good about my abilities at the hot corner. We then started an intra-squad scrimmage that was always the highlight of any practice. One of our players hit an easy ground ball in my direction. That is, it was an easy grounder until it hit the lip of the infield grass. The ball hit the lip, bounced up, and clocked me right in the mouth, ricocheting off my face into the third base coach’s box. That was one of the rare times I heard the head coach swear, as he shouted “oh shit!” as he rushed to my aid. I was bleeding out my mouth and my upper lip had doubled in size. That was the kind of day I was having. After that, I never again complained about being stuck in left field all the time. It was for the best.

Well that ends a painful chapter of my athletic career. Let me know what you thought in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and contribute to my Patreon.

My Second Concussion

This is the next installment of my personal sports stories. For the time I accidentally struck a kid out, click here. For the time I got my first concussion, click here. This week’s story is from my senior year of high school football and actually ended up signaling the end of my football career, mainly because of when the concussion occurred, not so much some life-altering decision I made. Because let’s face it, unless I lost a limb, an injury wouldn’t have kept me from playing football.

There’s a little bit of a prequel to this story, if you will. For my senior season, we were breaking in a new head coach. The last one had gotten a coaching job for a D3 college football team and the situation he’d be in was too good to pass up for his family. The new guy the high school replaced him with was installing a completely different offense and one that was about as throwback as humanly possible. We didn’t line up with any wide receivers. It was like a super wishbone, basically. Well that was a problem for me. I was full-time varsity football at this point, but i wasn’t fast at all, so that ruled out my playing running back for the team and I was kind of stuck at tight end, which we often ran two of at a time, sometimes three. I was 5’9 165 pounds, so I wasn’t exactly Rob Gronkowski on the line.

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However I did make one play against Worcester Academy that gave me hope that I could make it as an undersized tight end. Here is the play in question. I apologize for having to embed it as such, but Hudl doesn’t really offer the same video embedding abilities that Youtube does. But if you do click the link, you will see the smallest guy on the offensive line, one who has no business being on that line, dive at a future D1 player’s knees and taking him out to set up a 9-yard run. I kept doing that for the rest of the game, because let’s face it, there was no way in Hell I was going to block this guy one-on-one. He had at least 100 pounds on me and could probably bench press two of me. He wizened up to the fact that I was going to be diving at his legs every time and started burying my face in the dirt every play after that. But the fact that it worked once meant that it could work again, so any time I was in at tight end, I would dive at the defensive end’s knees.

Which brings me to my second concussion, for which this blog is about (takes me about 400 words to get to it, but whatever, I tell stories my way). We were playing Choate Rosemary Hall, alma mater of John F. Kennedy, with two games remaining in the regular season. We got blown out 59-0 as Choate’s head coach ran up the score on us at the end. But like my game at Taft a couple of years prior, I got knocked around quite a bit. This isn’t the play in question, but it damn well could have been. Watch number 75 in white in this video. I’m the kid he de-cleats at the end of the first play. The second play is me making an open-field tackle on the tight end, how did that get in there? I don’t have the play in question where my concussion occurred, but it basically looked exactly like the first video, where I dove at the kid’s knees. I was on the line playing tight end and we lined up in basically an identical formation and the defense had pretty much an identical front. Now if you watch that video and replace Worcester Academy with Choate, then you will notice I dive at #55’s legs and take him out. Well there was a slightly different line call for Choate. Instead of going straight up on me, they stunt inside, so it ended up being the outside linebacker, or #42’s role in the Worcester highlight, that came in on me. Well since I was diving at that angle, the outside backer’s knee ear-holed me and my head went ringing. Since it was such a clutter where I was, nobody saw that I got hit in the head by a kid’s knee and I didn’t lie on the ground, so nobody checked on me. I got up immediately but was subbed out for another tight end anyway. I played through the rest of the game and actually got a carry on a jet sweep late in the game, but a lineman came in unblocked and wrecked me for a two-yard loss. I got knocked around quite a bit in my football career.

I actually had no idea I had a concussion until the next day, which if you will remember from my last concussion story, was on a Sunday. I was getting my ass kicked in pre-calc and I was trying my damndest to do homework. This may have been because I was bad at pre-calc, but I could not process what I was reading. This was stuff we had been going over for a couple months now but it’s almost like the information I was reading never entered my brain. The next day, after talking with some friends at lunch about my concerns I may be concussed, one buddy noted that I had just forgotten something he literally had just said not even ten seconds prior. I checked myself in after that. Unfortunately, since I had checked myself in on Monday rather than Sunday, that would put me a day behind my concussion protocol routine, and therefore I would end up missing two games instead of the typical one by a single day. And as I mentioned before, we only had two games remaining in the regular season. So that concussion and my lack of realizing I had it ended up costing me my football career.

On a lighter note, I was kind of a rebel in the infirmary while I was being treated for the concussion. The rule for concussion recovery is you are supposed to lie in the hospital room all day, no sleeping, in pitch darkness and silence. Well, as you can probably guess, that was boring and I can only entertain myself with my thoughts for so long. I had snuck my phone in with me and streamed episodes of Arrested Development, keeping the volume low so as not to get caught by the nurses. I wasn’t very slick about it and I got caught watching the show on my phone and the nurses reprimanded me for it, but they didn’t take my phone. So naturally, I kept watching, but was a lot more careful this time not to get caught. Perhaps I have brain damage as a result, I don’t know, I can’t remember that far back.

And so ends another tale from my athletic career. I’m going to try and keep these up as much as I can on a weekly basis, but again, concussions add up and I haven’t played organized sports in three or four years. Let me know what you thought of the story in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

 

Another Tale From My Athletic Career

I got some positive reviews the last time I did this, so I’m going to try and make it a weekly thing on Mondays, since that is typically the day I have been taking off. This one is going to come from my football career.

So my sophomore year of high school was up and down. I won the starting quarterback job for the JV football team. I played football at a private boarding school called Northfield Mount Hermon (NMH, for short). If you’ve noticed the tagline to my blog, it reads “the inner machinations of the mind of a special teamer on a winless high school football program.” In my four years of high school football, the varsity team had two winless seasons (my freshman and senior seasons). This season the varsity team won three games but we didn’t have that winning mentality yet in this scrimmage against Taft, a school in Connecticut.

We had a lot of injuries at linebacker going into this game, so since I was an in-the-box safety for the JV team, that made me one of the more qualified guys to sub in at middle linebacker. Here’s me from that season.

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That just screams “middle linebacker” doesn’t it? I was playing in the middle of the defense at 5’9 145 pounds. Also, NMH was doing color rush before color rush was cool. But anyways, there was a play in the second quarter of the scrimmage in particular that stands out to me. The Taft offense was around their own 40 yard-line. They threw a quick screen to one of their receivers and I had come in unblocked. I had him all lined up and ready to make the tackle. He cuts inside and I turn in to try and wrap up. Only when I turned in, there was another receiver, lowering his shoulder into my head to block me. The hit connected and I blacked out for a moment, literally seeing stars. I know that’s a cliched term, but I shit you not, I saw stars. My legs went up and I hit the ground hard. That block sprung the screen and he ended up scoring a touchdown on the play. As I’m lying on the ground, I heard the guy who blocked me say “did you see that hit I just made?!” Not, “yay! Touchdown!” but he was looking for congratulations for his hit. My head was hurting like Hell but that wasn’t my thought process as I got up and slowly trotted to the sideline. I just thought to myself “what a d-bag.” As I made it to the sideline, many coaches and teammates came up to me and asked if I was okay. I told them “yeah, but I might need to sit out a couple of plays so my head clears up.” Concussions weren’t the major issue they are now, though they were starting to become as such around this time. I probably had a concussion at this point, but I was never one to tell someone I had an injury unless I physically could not move without being in severe pain, so I got back in there a couple of series later. I even completed my first pass when it was the JV segment of the scrimmage while I was probably nursing a concussion.

It was also during that JV part of the scrimmage where I once again took a huge hit. I was playing outside linebacker for the JV defense and Taft ran the ball to the outside. I was tracking the runner and getting ready to make a play, when all of a sudden I was on my back and I couldn’t breathe. I had again received a blindside block from a receiver I didn’t see and the game had to stop as I felt like I had a plastic bag covering my mouth. A coach later said to me he thought I had broken my collarbone on this play from how motionless I lied on the ground. Turns out I just had the wind knocked out of me. Thank God, because I was worried I was dying after that hit for a moment. I was done for the game, though, as that was two injury scares in one day for me.

My high school’s conference style was different, as we didn’t play our games on Friday nights, but on Saturday afternoons, so I often missed a lot of college football during my high school career. So later that night I was back in my dorm making up for lost time by watching a college football game, it was USC vs Colorado, I believe. I know Matt Barkley was quarterbacking USC at the time. I do remember watching him drop a dime for a touchdown to Robert Woods in this game. One of my coaches stopped by and watched the game with me and he asked me how I was feeling after the hits I took. I casually mentioned that I had a headache but other than that I was good. His eyes got wide that I still had a headache and immediately drove me to the health center, where I was diagnosed with a concussion. I was admitted overnight and ended up missing the next two weeks with that concussion. I wouldn’t consider it to be too bad of one, I just had a bad headache for about a week. I didn’t have any sensitivity to light, any memory loss or any struggles with normal functions such as processing information. But nevertheless I was concussed and it was the first time I ever had to miss games due to injury in my athletic career. Closest I had come was a pulled muscle during my pop warner days where I had to miss a practice. It was hard to watch my team from the sidelines but I was able to come back fully healthy and helped my varsity team to three victories. JV as a quarterback, not so much. I was abysmal as a quarterback.

So that’s the story of my first concussion, I wish I had the footage of those hits I took, but I don’t. But take my word for it, I got ROCKED on those hits. For my other football stories, I’ll try and get footage.

A Tale from my Baseball Career

So I literally have no idea what to write about for today’s blog, so I decided to try out a new segment where I recount some stories from my athletic career, some good, some bad. How well this blog does will determine whether or not I do more of these. I’ve always liked hearing peoples’ crazy stories from when they were athletes, no matter the level or sport, whether it be someone scoring a goal in soccer on the wrong field or when they got lit up by a future pro. So I hope you enjoy this one from my mediocre athletic career.

I was fourteen years old and playing in a Babe Ruth baseball game. If you follow my blog, you know I’m very passionate about baseball and I carried an even greater passion on the field when I actually played. I was in a lower level of Babe Ruth because, let’s face it, I wasn’t a great athlete, but I was good for that level. There have been several instances where I probably should have gotten ejected due to my on-field intensity. I’ve trucked the catcher in a league where that’s supposed to be an ejection, I’ve gotten in a war of words with an umpire over balls and strikes, and then this particular moment that I’m about to tell. Had the umpire known my intentions for this particular at bat in question, I most certainly would have been tossed and possibly even suspended, but since this was seven years ago, I’m sure the statute of limitations has passed for my suspension from Babe Ruth baseball, so I have no problem publishing it on the web.

My team from Sterling, Massachusetts was taking on a team from a nearby town called Fitchburg. Fitchburg was a much poorer town than Sterling was and tended to produce some nasty kids. I don’t remember how this game ended, or if we even won or not. I just remember that I was pitching and this one kid on the Fitchburg bench was taunting us pretty loudly and his teammates were hollering at what he was saying. I paid him no mind initially because earlier that season we had another kid get in our heads from taunting to the point where his antics literally cost us a run. This kid was probably the biggest dude in our league, he kind of looked like a 14 year-old version of Kane from WWE. I remember he was batting sixth for his team and came up to face me in the second inning. Well when he came up to bat, he tried to get another rise out of his teammates. He stood in the batter’s box, made the biggest grin as he bit down on his lower lip, widened his eyes like a mad man and started flailing the bat all over the place as his batting stance. His teammates were laughing their heads off from the dugout and, being the joyless shit that I was on a baseball diamond, I got furious. I didn’t show it on my face, but I was keeping down a lot of anger from this kid not taking the game as seriously as I did. Definitely an overreaction considering this wasn’t exactly the Major Leagues, or even AAU for that matter. But I made up my mind that I was going to throw at his head.

Now to get a sense of how physically imposing I was on the mound, here’s a picture of me from that season:

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Regular Roger Clemens on the hill, I know. I definitely struck fear in the heart of this kid that looked like he was pushing 200 pounds as a 14 year-old. And in truth, I didn’t even throw that hard, the hardest my fastball had ever been clocked at was 70 mph, which is slower than most Major Leaguers’ curveballs. But I felt like I owed it to myself to drill this kid in his stupid fucking face.

First pitch I hit the inside corner for a strike. I silently cursed myself for completely missing this behemoth of a kid and throwing a strike, though in my concussion-laden memory, that pitch looked like it was off the plate. I think the umpire may have expanded the zone for me to spite this kid at the dish. The next pitch, I missed again. And I missed so bad, I threw another strike! So now I was ahead of this kid 0-2 and I thought to myself: “shit! I’ve got him 0-2, I can’t drill him now!” As much as it pained me to do it, I decided to actually pitch to this kid. The next pitch missed on the outside part of the plate for a ball putting the count to 1-2. But now I saw that the kid wasn’t doing his stupid stance anymore, so I didn’t feel as bad about the next pitch. I gave him the high cheese and he bit and swung and missed on a pitch that was around neck-level and over the heart of the plate. He had struck out and nobody was laughing or cheering now and he kind of walked back looking dejected. So I go into an at bat intending to drill the batter, but my aim is so bad I accidentally strike him out. I like to think the baseball gods knew what I was trying to do and interfered, because let’s face it, throwing at a guy’s head is a dick move, which is where I was aiming. It’s one thing to drill him in the back, but I had every intention of head-hunting. But the baseball gods found a middle ground and I struck him out, which admittedly probably was more satisfying a victory for me than drilling him would’ve been. I learned something interesting about this dude when I told the story to a friend a couple weeks later. My friend knew the batter in question and apparently this kid had some violent tendencies. So perhaps I had dodged an ass-whooping by striking him out! Baseball gods came through for me again.

So that’s a tale from my athletic career. Do you want me to do this more often? Or did you not give a shit about my stupid unimportant days as a mediocre athlete? Let me know in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.