Coming Home

I was told a couple days ago that I will be going home sometime next week, I almost did a cartwheel. This, combined with the fact that the instructs and parallel league guys going home made me think of reentering civilian life after being a ballplayer. That might be an odd way of thinking about it, but I assure you - it's a harsh adjustment. I'm sure it has nothing on coming home for a tour of duty, or the culture shock of going to an African village on a Peace Corps operation - but it is a difference none the less.

If you have a ballplayer coming back into your life in the next couple days, or you had one back early in September, you may have noticed that while we are all happy to be back, and the length of the season left us all drained - we also seem a little distant and on edge. I will try to explain why this, in the best way I can, from my experiences.

Baseball is a very closed off world. In the minor leagues especially, where our lives our spent on busses, in small towns, at fast food restaurants and stingy little dive bars - we really don't have too much interrelation with the outside world. From April through September our family is our teammates, and that family has rules that really don't apply to sane people.

In a world where there are games every day and the most important things in life are doing well and winning - tempers will get high, and with that much testosterone in one room, fights are bound to happen. Maybe if you were raised in a family with 30 brother's you'll understand what this is like. Otherwise, it's kind of like the documentaries about lions on Discovery Channel. All the angst, and aggression, and uncertainty that comes with our jobs is either shared with one another for support or taken out on one another in anger.

Yet, even while there is animosity - there is also a feeling of love and camaraderie that boils down to an "us-against-them" mentality. No matter how much tension or dislike you may feel toward someone in the clubhouse, you're still going to clear benches at the drop of a hat in that person's defense. It's this type of unity that leads a good ball club, and it's a brotherhood of athletes that exists at any level in any sport. If you don't believe me, think about the people you know who played college football - and think about how often they talk about the times they had.

During season we live in a state of hyper vigilance, and while being home is nice because we're able to turn all of this off, the amount of free time is scary and a little bit unnerving. I think this is because somewhere in the back of our minds, were doing the math that if were not working at something, were no longer in the game. And that is every ballplayers worst nightmare. The rest is good, but we're in the game because we have that motor - and when it's turned off, we have a lot of excess energy that can turn into a quick temper or a distracted mind.

Another reason that it's hard to come is that clubhouse living just has no place in a civil world. Truly, were not bad people - but some of the topics of discussion that come up over the stretch of a long season would make frat boys uncomfortable. With that much time, and that many 18-24 year old minds - the conversation is likely to  go anywhere, no matter how dark or depraved the subject matter.

The best way I can describe it is this - coming home from a season in the minor leagues is like coming home from Never Never Land. While it's cool to see your family again, and be home, and see your girlfriend or all your old friends, there's always going to be that nagging feeling that people somewhere are having fun without you. That's why we might be begging to go home in August, but once we get home we feel uneasy. And then by the time Christmas hits the department stores (the day after Halloween) we're ready to get out there playing baseball again. We're just grown up kids, playing a little kids game, and the reason we're good is not because we like to - but because we have  to.