Hey guys! I hope everyone is having a great week. A few days ago I did an interview for The Biz of Baseball, a website that covers a lot of different aspects of both Minor League and Major League baseball. They wanted to know what it was like to be a free agent for the first time in my baseball career. Below is the segment of the article that I wrote, but if you would like to read the entire thing check it out here www.bizofbaseball.com I hope you enjoy and let me know what you think!
I received a call from my agent while eating dinner at my favorite local Mexican restaurant. I had been non-tendered by the San Diego Padres, the team that drafted me four years earlier in the 1st round, and would now be a free agent. When he first told me, I really didn’t understand what the whole “non-tendered” business was about, but I’ve been around sports long enough to understand what “free agent” meant. I guess it’s just a nicer way to let you know you’ve been released. To keep things simple, I was taken off the 40-man roster, allowing any of the other twenty-nine teams in the league to pick me up. It meant for the first time in my career I could go anywhere I wanted. That didn’t seem like such a bad situation. It also meant for the first time in my career I didn’t belong to a team, or even have a job for that matter. That was something I wasn’t used to.
There are a lot of different feelings that come with being let go by the team that drafted you, the team that you made your Major League debut with, and the team that you were planning on building a long and successful career with. For a lot of guys, including myself, it’s the first time in your life you’re told by someone in some way, shape, or form, “sorry, but we are going to go in a different direction.” I had never been cut by a sports team from the time I was a little kid, and I washed dishes and bagged groceries well enough in high school and college to avoid the dreaded call into the bosses office. Although I’ve had hundreds of teammates and friends released, traded, or ultimately call it quits, I never pictured myself having to go somewhere other than San Diego to play ball. It took a few days for me to fully comprehend how different 2011 would be.
I had gotten into a routine over the past four seasons of professional baseball. February was Spring Training in Peoria, Arizona. I knew the apartments I would stay at. I knew the locker room I would dress in. I knew the guys who would be my roommates. I knew the players I would take the field with. I knew the food I would eat, the coaches that would lead us, the trainers that would heal us, even the fans that would cheer us. I started to realize that would all change this time around. New places and new faces for the first time in a long time. The guys I was used to spending more than half of my year with would be different. That’s the harsh reality of a baseball player. You spend everyday for more than eight months establishing relationships with people, many of whom turn out being some of your best friends, and then one day they are gone. The truth is, it may be the last time you see someone once they leave your team. I can’t count the number of guys I have met and become friends with over my career that I haven’t seen since they left baseball and went on with their normal lives. Unfortunately, it’s part of the game and you get used to it.
After taking a few days to think about how different things would be next year, I ultimately put all that behind me and started to become extremely excited and motivated for a new season to start. I wanted to return to the field and show the Padres that it wasn’t the right decision to let me go, and the Nationals that they made a great choice in signing me. Like anything, when someone tells you they don’t really need you anymore you want to prove them wrong. Now I’m not saying I can’t see where the Padres were coming from. I’ve hardly played baseball over the past two seasons. After two surgeries and enough cortisone shots to kill a small horse, I’ve been limited to about fifty ball games in two years time. When I was healthy enough to play, things didn’t go the way I wanted them to on the field. I was constantly in search of my swing, which seemed to always allude me. I struggled to find any success, any consistency, any anything. Injuries and lack of production are two things that can be overlooked for a short amount of time, but do it long enough and there will be consequences. Baseball is a “what have you done for me lately” business, and unfortunately for me, I hadn’t done much.
The good news is, although the last few years haven’t gone my way, those years are in the past. After all that time on the DL, I’m finally hitting again at one-hundred percent. After completely losing my swing for two years, I have been taught what happened, why it wasn’t working the way it once was, and most importantly, how to fix it. Everything is finally starting to come together for me at just the right time. This year will be a fresh start for me, and what better way to start off fresh than with a fresh new team. In the end, everything that has happened over the last few months is part of the game. It happens everyday to guys from all over the world. You have to learn from it, and no matter how it makes you feel, it’s your job to move on and do the best you can do. I’m still playing baseball and it will be with a great organization. I’m feeling good things for 2011.