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.