Friday, July 21, 2017

Short Story - Livewire

words: 899
Original Photo by Joey Kyber on Unsplash
“If I don’t cool it down, I’ll burn him up out there.” I turned showing the bag of ice on my shoulder. Garcia just nodded blankly and kept walking. I sat on the trainer’s table, trying to be a good teammate and avoid being aloof. Despite my attempts, I just felt further out of the loop. I was just there taking up space. I used to be important. I wanted to show them the hardware, the rings, but it didn’t matter. That was from another time, a different city.

I always said I wouldn’t play past my prime. That’s easy to say when you’re young and ready to take on the world. I was dumb enough to think I actually could.

When you’re faced with the decision of giving up on the only thing you know, it’s scary. I’ll admit it. I’m not used up, but I am running on fumes. The arm hurts more than it used to. I’m worthless the next day. I don’t recover quick enough to even fit in the rotation regularly.

I took the ice off my shoulder. I never left it on long, just a few minutes. I know I shouldn’t ice, but at this point what does it matter? I trudged to my locker. It was closer to the corner than I’d ever been. I used to have top pick, now the equipment manager just gives me whatever’s left over. I throw on a polo and jeans. I don’t have the desire or time to fancy myself up like the other guys. It doesn’t matter. No one is trying to get photos of me, and all they’re doing is blowing through cash. That’s another reason that stops me from retiring. I kind of need that paycheck. Maybe I could retire, but I’ve grown accustomed to the life. I glanced at the picture of my kids before I grabbed my bag en route to the bus. It hurts every time.

I try to sleep on the bus. What else am I going to do right? I’d like to yell at them to quiet down, but I don’t relish being the old man. That’s what they call me, I know they do. I get it, I remember the bus rides, good times. Unless you’re performing, you can’t tell anyone anything. Stats determine the order of importance.

It’s not like I feel old, other than a few aches. My twenties don’t feel like that long ago. You close your eyes and it’s all gone, everything. It wasn’t just time, I deserve part of the blame. You spend eight months on the road, that’s eight months of barely seeing your family. There’s plenty of temptation, but I never did cheat. Never. I put myself in a few situations I shouldn’t have though. I’ll admit that. The thing is, they forget about you, they learn to live life without you. In the offseason, I felt like a stranger in my own house. I was out of place, interrupting them. That’s why I built a gym at my house, it gave me something to do. I was stunned when they left. It was a shock when I ended up moving out of that house. Looking back, it was too much, too gaudy.

I was bitter for a long time, but I thought about it and I let them go. No use being upset and dwelling on it. I tried to stay in touch with kids, I love them, but you miss out on a lot, too much, on the road. I talk to them pretty often now, but it’s hard to undo. I’ve got a lot to make up for I saw it as providing, they saw it as neglect. I can’t argue.

So much of my identity is tied to the uniform, the game. Staying on the team, makes me feel like I’m part of something. It’s a family of sorts, but it isn’t a replacement. You won’t see those guys in the off season. They’ll move teams, you will too and you’ll try to stay in touch but that lasts about six months.

I’ll try to help the rookies best I can. Give them anything I know, make sure they don’t get outnumbered, but it’s few and far between that want to listen. They think they know it all. I thought the same thing. There’s been a few guys that really listened, that realized you have to plan for life after ball. If I knew what I was talking about, the team would be discussing options as a coach. I could be a good pitching coach, heck, I’d be a good minor league coach.

I get the jitters on my game days worse now than I ever did. Now I worry if each game will be my last. I’m lucky to have made it this long, but I’m on borrowed time. I had to adapt. When you lose a few miles per hour you change your approach or you get shelled. I don’t like losing, never have. I keep hoping I can pitch long enough to undo the past, the bad parts at least.When I’m on the mound I’m locked in, and I can just forget for a moment. I think about the past too much, the glory days. I’m not who I was. I don’t dominate, but I’m still pitching. That tells you something.
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