Unable to sleep on our four hour bus ride from Barquisimeto, VZ to Azulia, VZ I resorted to setting my IPOD upon slow songs in hopes to relax and drift off to that dreamy, fantasy world where the grass is a little greener, the sun shines a little brighter and the air has the thick smell of hot dogs, stale beer and freshly raked dirt but alas that did nothing for me either. As I sit here listening to the Casey Donahew Band, watching the blackened landscape rush past me as we make our way down another endless highway to another small city only to get in at about sunrise to just get up a few short hours later and play a baseball game that very same day I’ve caught myself thinking about the last month and what I feel about it deep down.
With the bus an eery quiet except for a very bad version of Captain America playing on our DVD screens at mind numbing volumes, I decided to plug in my IPOD and just think about my last month so far. It’s hard to think that I have been at this winter ball thing just a month as I have had a lot of ups and down’s so far but I can truly say that this has been a giant learning experience for me. As I have stated in previous blogs during last season, the roller-coaster swings that my season took would make even the most solid stomach feel a little queasy as it made me several times. I feel like last year my season was a tale of two different Ryan’s with the first half not being so good, and turning it around the second half to make it a little respectable. With that being the case, I decided that I wanted to venture into the realm of winter ball for the first time to straighten some things out for the 2012 season.
With that being the case, I had no idea what to expect when I came down here. What was the completion like? Would I adapt? Would I be successful? Would I even like it? Now everyone has their opinion on what makes someone successful, and whether or not someone is doing well down here. Most people point to statistics as the blatant answer, but I feel there is so much more to the ink stat lines that are produced every night. I know that I am sitting at 0-4 right now, but I feel like I have (except for an exception) thrown the heck out of the ball and I could easily be 3-1 but this 0-4 is another learning experience for me, one of many things I have to learn and adapt too if I want to be successful in the big leagues. Its learning to bounce back and not pay attention to things you cannot control, very wise coaches have told me numerous times that the more time you spend about worrying about things you can’t control the more the things you can will go haywire and I have learned that lesson down here. I had a pretty bad outing tonight, no qualms about it and yes that happens to every pitcher and I can sit here and talk about why it happens, mechanics this, and pitch selection that but the fact is I was bad tonight that’s all, it happens. I believe that is only a failure of an outing if you didn’t learn anything from it, there is a lesson to be learned in everything we do; even baseball and tonight the lesson I learned is the value of attacking batters with what I believe is my best.
I fell behind a lot of batters tonight because I tried to trick batters with what I was throwing and when It came time to throw a strike to get even, it got hit or I wasn’t able to bounce back and I walked people and before I knew it I was down 3-0 with only recording 1 out. When I was given the hook with 2 outs in the 2nd inning, I was more mad at myself because just five days prior I held this EXACT SAME lineup to 1 hit in 6 innings of work, but this time I out thought myself. I thought “well man this is back to back outings against the same people….hmm, maybe I need to change up with I did previously.” This was a big slap in the face of reality for me, not only did it backfire, it back fired horribly and taught me a very valuable lesson. The lesson for me showed up right in my face, no matter how many times you face a team or a specific batter stick with your strengths and not what you think their weaknesses are.
Besides the outing tonight, I have also had a lot of very successful outings and I feel really good about the progress that is being made with myself down here. I know the things that the ‘nats want me to work on and I am diligently working on them to make myself a 100% better pitcher than I was last year, but not only that this league is making me familiar with other things as well. Things like pitching in front of big crowds, now I had big crowds when I played in AA in the Texas League where frisco can and did draw as much as 10,000 people on a weekend night but this crowd down here is different as I have covered and shown you before in video. The noise, chanting, drums, and chants are enough to throw anyone off their game so it truly makes you focus about what is going on. For someone who doesn’t have much experience with the noise like this, this is an invaluable lesson to me on what it is to deal with crowd hostility and backing and how to channel it out and focus on the task at hand.
I’m also getting taught invaluable lessons from big leaguers that I haven’t previously been exposed too. Being battery mates with Henry Blanco the outing previously was an experience that I won’t forget. He encouraged me to pick his brain in between innings, and for anyone who knows me in any shape knows that I love to talk so I took him up on that offer. Which by the end of the game I’m sure he was sorry he offered in the first place. I get to watch him, Alberto Gonzalez, Jose Castillo, Don Baylor amongst other go about their business and for someone like me who has never been to the big leagues it’s a lesson on how to handle the good things and the bad that get thrown your way and it has been very fun watching how each one goes about things.
When I originally contemplated coming down here, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I could go back to giving to pitching lessons just like every other MiLB player does in the off-season and spend some very valuable time with my friends and family but I decided to come down here and work on Ryan the ballplayer and man am I glad I did. I have been very fortunate as my significant other has been able to travel with me and is staying down here for the duration so I have her to lean on and be a sounding board whether she wants to be one or not (haha). But seriously, I feel like my first month here I have learned and absorbed things that would have been thrown at me in a trial by fire at the next level but I feel I know now a little about what to expect and go about things.
With another month to go in the season, I know I got a lot more to learn as you never stop learning in this game. Many smart coaches have repeated the same saying to me and it always holds true that “Once you think you have this game figured out, it will come back and bite you in the rear end and show you that you still have a lot to learn.” I firmly believe that to be true, as I got bit tonight when I thought I knew I had the Lara team figured out and what I had to do. With another lesson learned under my belt, I am eager to see what the last month of the season will throw at me before heading back stateside. I firmly believe that this is the best preparation I could be doing for the 2012 season and I look forward to working on things to become a piece of the Washington Nationals puzzle at some point in the 2012 season.
It’s now 330am and I have zero idea where we are even at, or how much further we have to go. Captain America has come to a stop and all that is left are the porch lights flying past the bus window and Zac Brown Band – Colder Weather on my IPod, I bid you reader’s adieu until next time. Off to contemplate some more on what I have to do to become a piece of that puzzle. Until next time