Monday, March 7, 2011

Bullpen Phenomenon

I am back home and the weather is chilly, and breezy with some sun. Spring officially begins in a few weeks. While in NC, I saw pansies, buds on trees, and flowers blooming. Nice....really really nice....

Today the team has a work out in Virginia. If Buddy is told that he is going to play tomorrow or Wednesday, I will point the car south and hop onto I95 again. Actually, I had planned to stay in the south for the entire week, but changed my mind on Saturday when Sunday's game was canceled. It's interesting, I have never been a spontaneous person. All my moves are planned and somewhat calculated, but here I am the day before a game that is 6 hours away and I might go...On further thought, I would do anything for these kids including driving through DC traffic.

On Saturday, BD and I had a conversation about bullpen pitchers. A team never knows how a game is going to go. That is, will the starting pitcher throw a no-hitter and stay in the game for 9 innings? Will the starting pitcher be 'lit up' in the early innings and therefore be removed from the game in the first few innings? Will the team in the latter innings need a right or left handed pitcher? Will the bullpen relief pitcher be sent in with the bases loaded and no outs? Will the relief pitcher be sent in with an existing count and be expected to throw three 90-mile/hour fast balls? Lots of questions....lots of answers. So, it is time to reflect on the bullpen phenomenon....

The bullpen pitcher is an integral part of any game. In the major leagues, certain 'closers' have a reputation for finishing the game as a win for the starting pitcher. Batters often do not want to face the 'closer' on the opposing team, because the pitcher is equipped with a devastating curve ball and a fast ball thrown up to 100 mph (that's fast). On Buddy's team, there are 9 (I think) bullpen pitchers. Each pitcher has their own unique personality and abilities. In Buddy's case, he has a nasty fast ball and (when it is working) a curve ball that is un-hittable. However, he is a kid who requires intense mental preparation and warm up before entering a game. He has to be prepared in a moment's notice to enter a game and save it for the team. This is a huge responsibility and a guy has to be in a constant state of preparedness. Take Saturday's double header, for example, he completes pre-game preparations that take a few hours, then he sits, stands, leans in the bullpen while the game proceeds. At any point, his number will be called. What if he is sitting for 7-8 hours during a double header...he has to be ready for that length of time. No wonder the kid was so 'furious' on Saturday night. He was ready to go for 8 opportunity to expend this pent up energy....just sitting, standing, leaning and no throwing...tough situation for any competitor to be in...

So, this is one of the many reasons why I choose to attend as many games as possible. He needs a post game outlet to discharge his anxieties and frustrations. His family is very safe. We act as a sounding board and safe haven. I acknowledge his frustrations and continue to verbalize that he is a freshman and has to earn the coach's confidence. It's part of the hard...focus the energy on improvement....I never say..."yeah...rough deal....awful've been robbed....they don't appreciate you..." He appreciates the support and for me not giving in to some of his rants. When we are at an away game, he always comes to our room and joins us for is normal, safe, and comfortable for him. As one of my favorite poets (and yes, he is a poet) Paul Simon would sing..."after changes, we are more or less the same...." These kids may be in college and look like men....but they are still our sons...the babies that we nurtured....that will never change, no matter how old they get.

The rest of the guys hang out with their families too. One would think that the older they get, the less they need their families, but I don't really believe it. I don't hover. If he wants to be with his friends or team, he is excused from any family activities. It's part of life. But like the bullpen pitcher, we are in a constant state of preparedness ready to assist him at any time and embrace
Paul Simon's words as eloquent...."...after changes, we are more or less the same....more or less the same...."

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