The break is here and it’s already almost gone; the All-Star break, which has different meanings for different people. If you’re a player, chances are you went home to Missouri or Kansas or Venezuela or the Dominican Republic (“Dominica” as our friend Jalal Leach likes to call it). Sure, some players got to go to St. Louis this year, New York last year and San Francisco the year before that. But those destinations are for the chosen few. To the majority, it’s a two-day vacation in July with a third day built in to travel to your team’s next destination, either home or away. It’s a chance to think about your 2009 baseball season. For the minority, it’s like the ghost of Christmas yet to come; a reminder that the future at home may not be as bright as your future on the ballfield.
For the non-All-Stars, what does a three-day break in the middle of the season mean? Depends on the guy, but if you’re in a slump, the timing couldn’t be better. If you’re on a hot streak, the timing couldn’t be worse. If your team is struggling, it’s good to get away. If you’re team is on fire, you pray to the baseball gods that your club doesn’t fall out of their favor.
You can treat the break exactly like that: A break. It can be a great time to decompress, sleep in your own bed for three nights straight, maybe let some of your bumps and bruises and muscle tightness fade away. It can be good for your mental state to get away and focus on your kids, or your wife, or your girlfriend. It can ruin your mental state if your home life is a shambles. If you & your wife are having a bad season, the break may finalize what you both know, that you need to break up. If you’re lucky, you get a couple of days to rekindle the spark that was there long ago. Maybe the spark can turn into a small flame and keep you two going with enough hope that what you have is salvageable, at least until the off season. Or maybe the spark dies when you need to leave Wednesday morning to fly to Los Angeles or Seattle or Toronto, far away from home. Again.
The worst is when the break brings the player home, home in this case being the same air as his kids, probably two of them and probably 3 and 5 years old, say a boy and a girl, and a wife who he shares his bed with. Other than that, he’s home but he’s not. He goes out. He might go on an overnight trip with a friend hunting or fishing or jet skiing or something totally different from what he’d be doing if he stayed put. And then he comes home after his little jaunt, probably around 3AM, and crawls next to his wife, who’s pretending to sleep, making up other excuses for him, making up new stories to tell her mother or her father or her sister or her best friend from her “home,” the home where she wished she could take her kids, away from The Life and its professional and highly-paid adolescents who wear tight pants and spit onto dugout floors until all you see is the mulch of shells and gum and tobacco, the concrete foundation nowhere to be found. She might sleep a bit and wake up hungover from fatigue, ready for another day or zero conversation before the break is over and her life can go back to normal, the way she – and the kids, let’s face it – likes it best. The break for these baseball families are the storm clouds of a future perfect storm.
For the player, the break can be like New Year’s. You make New Year’s resolutions every December 31st because the next day begins a new year, a fresh start. The Thursday of All-Star week is your fresh start. The break can give you an opportunity to breathe, think, and re-evaluate your season. Now’s the time to look back on the last three months and consider what you can realistically do for the next three. Now’s the time to pump yourself up, get your swagger back, re-think your attitude and decide once and for all how your season is going to end up. Are you going to let it continue to suck you into a sinkhole? Are you going to let yourself continue with your “typical average” year? Are you going to build on your first-half success and really show them in the 2nd half that you’re for real? July 16th is Day 1 of your new year. Can you take advantage?
For the long-time veterans who know the end is near, the break can be a trial for them. What’s it like to be home on a Monday and Tuesday night in the summer with nothing to do but be a dad and a husband? This can be a time for you to pretend. The inevitable end of your career is nearly upon you. The break can be a time to put yourself in the slippers of those who don’t play anymore, of the civilians who go home every night and eat dinner with their families and pick up their kids from camp or drop them off at a friend’s for a sleepover. It’s a Monday and Tuesday set aside for you to get a sample of what retirement will really be like for you.
And you know what? Your wife is thinking the same thing. But neither one of you want to touch upon the subject publicly because you’re not sure if you want to be done and she’s not sure what you really want. Or what she really wants. Not yet at least.
Your kids? They’re likely oblivious. Daddy’s home for a couple of days. Cool. And then he’s gone again. Give them half a day and they’ll adjust to your absence. You don’t know what they go through because you’re on a plane and then your home city apartment or road hotel. You’re surrounded by The Game again – your job – and you can think you get it but not really know how your kids feel because of the distractions of getting your head focused. The break is just about over and you need to give the next three months every ounce of energy you can spare. The kids are home with the wife and that’s where they’ll be when you return. They’re in good hands. You need to think that because you can’t think anything else.
The break is over. It’s time to play ball.
Jimmy Scott is probably the greatest pitcher you’ve never heard of. Visit Jimmy Scott’s High & Tight to read more from Jimmy and guests Desi Relaford, Eric Valent & Cassidy Dover. You’ll also hear a new interview every Monday morning with former MLB players, agents, wives and others; giving new outlooks on this great game we call Baseball. Go there now to hear Jimmy’s latest interviews with Rollie Fingers, Desi Relaford, Brent Mayne and MLB Umpire Hunter Wendelstedt. You can follow Jimmy on Twitter or Facebook.