Sunday, January 22, 2006

Back on the Mound

Just haven't felt like writing lately. I know that's a lame excuse but the Doc kinda forced me to step off the mound and evaluate the situation. You see, holding back and avoiding my personal issues are really easy things for me to do. I'm actually quite good at it. Quite frankly, leaving my comfort zone to dig deeper is far worse than giving up a walk-off homer. I'm just not going to do it. I'll just avoid posting. That'll do the trick. But just a couple days ago, Doc set me straight after reading my Et tu Brute jab. He challenged me to keep writing and promised that if I would just open up, that I would see progress. Then he said something about quiting which pretty much closed the deal. Needless to say, I'm back on the mound for now. I'll give it a couple more innings to see what happens.

When I say "national cross-checker" what do you envision? I guess that really depends on who's reading this. Ten years ago it would undoubtedly be a former player who started at the local level, moved into a regional role after about five years, and progressed into the national role whenever he kissed the ring enough times or at least got lucky with several players who made it big.

Today, it could be anyone the scouting director wants. And I mean anyone. Not necessarily a former player but someone very loyal to the scouting director whom he can control and simply be an extention of himself. Let's face it, the scouting director can't be everywhere at the same time.

One of our national cross-checkers (we have several of them) has been on my turf for the last two weeks or so. We've been running hard from Jacksonville to Miami giving me the opportunity to have him see as many top area prospects that should go in the first 10 rounds. But unfortunately, the highlight of each day is not the play on the field but rather, "Where are we going to party after the last at bat?"

Good for him, very bad for me. I woke up this morning on South Beach with an empty fifth of vodka on my hotel nightstand. Or was it a handle? And don't think for a second that I stayed at one of those gems on Ocean, Collins, or Washington. No, I politely stumbled myself back to some dive on Euclid Avenue. Of course, he stayed at the Loews Hotel on Collins. Something wrong with that picture but nevertheless we must have hit at least four clubs last night: Shine, Mansion, The Clevelander, and Mango's.

He's mid-thirties, former player, a young Tom Selleck look-a-like. A real charmer. Not to mention that groups of ladies are all over him like pine tar stuck to George Brett's bat. I, on the other hand, have had my day in the sun. Been there, done that. Old hat. I could care less about being seen and developing long-term relationships . . . albeit for one night.

God only knows where he is tonight. But the night is still relatively young. I'm sure I'll get a call on my cell phone at some point after midnight. Just so he's up by tomorrow afternoon. We need to be in South Miami by 3:00 p.m. to watch two high school workouts and then afterwards meet with the families of two blue chip prospects.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Swing and a miss.

Man, he just knows right where to pitch me. No, I didn't call my son for Christmas. And Doc, don't even ask me about my daughter because I didn't call her either. Somewhere in my cell phone is their mother's number, but I haven't spoken with her in two years and I doubt she even lives in the same city much less the same state. My son is 24 and my daughter is 31. I'll spare you from doing the math-- I was 18 when my daughter was born. Unfortunately I'd have to hire someone to do a skip trace search to find them or do one of those internet searches where you pay like $19.99 to get all their info. Sad thing is, I spoke with Goldie the day after Christmas regarding some college workouts in his area and I somehow remembered to wish him a happy Hanukkah. Here's a guy that I just met no more than a month ago (not to mention that I really don't like him) and I can wish him a happy holiday but I can't even pick up the phone and call my own flesh and blood to do the same.

But what was I going to say? Sorry I was never there when you needed me, but Merry Christmas! Doc said that would at least be a start. That I would have to initiate. Pay the money to find them or connect with their mother to get their information. But do something because in his clinical opinion I've gotten worse since we last talked.

Doc then brought up the blog. Of course, it was his hallowed suggestion that I write it in the first place. To my surprise, he was rather critical of the content. He said I really needed to express myself more. Let it flow and show the batter all my pitches so to speak. His perception was that I've been holding back and avoiding my personal issues. And that I wouldn't get much out of the blog if I didn't start to dig deeper.

Perhaps he's right. I've been writing since the World Series and it seems I'm no better off than when I started. If anything, I'm more angry and frustrated. I'm sure "Stat boy" and "PC Geek" have something to do with that but Doc says I can't keep blaming them. That I'm attacking performance scouting as merely a way to avoid delving into the real issues of my life. A diversionary tactic of sorts. Okay, I get that. He may have a valid point there. But . . . and get this . . . he went on to say that I should maybe give performance scouting a chance or at least be open to the idea. Of course, not as a way to replace my scouting philosophy, but as a way to enhance it. That way I could just move on and turn my focus back to solving the real issues.

Of course. Sure. Whatever Doc. Did you notice my haphazard nodding? You know, the type of nodding you do when you've completely zoned out on someone after hearing something totally absurd. Although I love you to death Dr. Rakes, you are on the club's payroll and I can't help but think you might be at least somewhat biased towards management and their newfound love for performance scouting when we talk. Of all people. . .

Et tu, Brute?

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Slidin' Home (Part II)

"So do you play for yourself or for your daughter?" Dr. Rakes asked Dallas bluntly.

I thought it was an innocent question at first. But thinking it through further, it was a loaded question with really no right or wrong answer on the surface. The player's reaction and the way in which he answers determines whether the answer is right or wrong.

"Who does this guy think he is?" Dallas snapped as he glared at me. "As long as I throw strikes, what's it to you or him?"

In other words, he wasn't playing for himself and was very defensive about it.

On the car ride over I had told Doc about Dallas dropping his velocity to get the strikes he needed under pressure. Doc asked me if I thought Dallas had the talent to make those pitches without dropping the velocity. Of course he did. Without a doubt. "So why do you think he drops his velocity?" He asked me rhetorically. "Because he lacks confidence. Fear is in the driver's seat."

Dammit. I was afraid he was going down that road. To me, I've always called it something more visual: "The Giant." The sum of all negative thoughts. It's that huge. We all have it to some degree or another. It's just that some are better at controlling The Giant than others. "Surely he isn't afraid Doc. Maybe he's just trying to be more deliberate with his delivery to ensure a strike," I tried to explain.

"There you go again, Cutter. The denial thing. Seems to be a recurring issue with you."

Great. Now it was all back on me. Lord knows I didn't want to get into my issues around the holidays. But just as Doc was about to press me further, the reflectors on the "Parker" mailbox nearly blinded us as they came into view from behind the big oak tree. I swerved onto the dirt driveway only to prolong our inevitable conversation. His memory was like a trap...nothing escaped and he always circled back. This time would be no exception.

Anyhow, back to Dallas. Doc quickly went to work by dialing into the goals that Dallas had set for himself. As Doc expected, they were vague and ill-defined. What surprised me was that Dallas spoke in terms of "luck," "fate," and "just getting some breaks." He even thanked his "lucky stars," on several occasions.

Doc also pointed out afterwards that he used "I have to," or "I gotta," way too many times. I had to cringe when Doc said those phrases were just nice ways of saying, "I have no control over what I'm doing. " According to the Doc, Dallas was creating an environment of pressure, tension, and resentment. I found this conclusion interesting because the last time I saw Dallas pitch, it looked as if his anger motivated him and he pitched better as a result. I mentioned this to the Doc, but my credibility with the whole denial thing looked as if I was trying to make excuses for Dallas. The Doc wasn't buying it. "If he's motivated by anger, he's going to have a miserable career and an even worse life."

Doc suggested that Dallas sit down and evaluate what he could and could not control in both his life and on the field. Dallas pretty much admitted that his mind would drift at times on the mound and he would think about those things he could not control. As soon as he determined which actions he could honestly control on the field, then Doc wanted him to structure some reasonable goals directly related to those actions. That would put Dallas back into control instead of simply playing up to other people's expectations and trying to please everyone else. Dallas would be taking sole responsibility for whatever he did or didn't do to achieve the goals. He would be more focused and in a much better position to undertake his next task-- tame The Giant.

In the end, I couldn't really tell if Dallas was buying into the Doc's suggestions but I sure was. If I had only heard those suggestions when I was getting started, things would have been different. Much different. But Dallas did give the Doc his cell phone number as we were leaving, which I thought was hopeful considering how things started. As we made our way back down the dirt driveway and onto the dark country road, Doc asked how much time I wanted him to spend on Dallas as if to say, "This kid needs a lot of work. I don't want to be wasting my time on this kid unless he has the physical tools to be great." I assured him that it would be time well spent.

Doc just shook his head and smiled. "Did you call your son for Christmas?"

I knew he would somehow come back to me. I just knew it.