It’s easy to lose sight of the fact that professional baseball players are wired the same way we are and have to go through similar struggles to achieve their ultimate goals in life. In fact, in many cases, their road is much more strenuous, because only 750 jobs exist at the highest level and there are thousands of other players just like them competing for the same opportunities.
Each and every one of them has a unique story that makes their journey different. Sure, we get to know the heavily hyped and well established players and their stories inside and out. That allows us to connect with them and live through their success. Unfortunately, the fringe players tend to get lost in the shuffle, and often times become names and numbers on a transaction log that only rent space in our minds for a fleeting moment.
A player who currently falls into that category would be 26-year-old right-hander Collin McHugh. Just like everyone else looking to crack the big leagues, his story is his and his only. The twists are different than everyone else‘s. The challenges are different than everyone else‘s. And perhaps most importantly, his own expectations are different than everyone else‘s.
Thanks to McHugh, we gained a little perspective of his struggles through his personal blog ‘A Day Older, A Day Wiser.” In his most recent post, McHugh takes us through the ups and downs of a tumultuous 2013 season that saw him enter spring training hopeful of earning a spot in the New York Mets starting rotation, only to be left out and forced to change addresses 11 times in eight months.
It’s a very honest and straight forward account that chronicles the affects his pursuit of a big league career have on his wife and their social life. He also delves into how easy it can be to let personal expectations get away from you only for reality to slap you in the face.
Here are a couple excerpts:
It's fair to say that this past year was a lesson in understanding and managing expectations. I moved 11 times in just over 8 months. Lived in various hotel rooms for 2.5 months straight, from my birthday in mid-June to late August when I was offered a spare room in a recently deceased...I mean, released...teammate's apartment. I played for 2 different organizations and 6 affiliated teams. I lived in all 4 US time zones and spent a month in that weird half time zone in Venezuela that's 30 minutes earlier than EST. Get it together, South America.
My dreams and expectations evolved almost daily. Beginning the year in my first Big League camp with the New York Mets, I expected to get a fair shot (whatever that means) to break camp as the 5th starter in their rotation. Two weeks into camp I was sent back down to the minor league side of Spring Training having been told that there was never a real chance that I was going to head north with the team on April 1st. My expectation and destination changed in that moment from the bright lights of NYC to the bright neon desert oasis of Las Vegas.
McHugh was eventually called up to the big leagues to fill a bullpen role and spot start while the Mets were short-handed. When his time was up, he was sent back down to Triple-A Las Vegas. 10 days later, he was designated for assignment (removed from the 40-man roster), and one day after that traded to the Colorado Rockies for outfielder Eric Young Jr.
I was told that I would be starting in a couple days against Milwaukee at home in Denver. Finally!! My chance had come to prove myself. To prove that their investment was a good one. To prove to myself that I was capable, worthy. 5 innings and 6 runs later, my expectations were once again dashed against the rocks of failure.
I spent about 36 hours in Denver during that brief stint. I was sent down the next morning after having packed for a 10 day road trip the team was about to take. The trip went through New York and finished in my home town of Atlanta. My wife was supposed to meet me in both NYC and ATL, but instead I was sent with my bags packed and suit freshly ironed to Colorado Springs.
I was embarrassed. Embarrassed that I had allowed myself to expect so much. Embarrassed that I had failed again and that my reputation was forever stained. Embarrassed that I couldn't hang on for another 3 days so that I could see my wife. Life, it seemed, was telling me at every turn that being hopeful was a useless emotion. That the moment I allowed myself to hope, to expect, in something good, the opposite was sure to happen. So I went back to Colorado Springs, tail between my legs, determined to expect nothing from here on out.
It's a ruthless business, but it's almost impossible to understand how ruthless it can truly be from the outside looking in.
There’s a lot more to read in McHugh’s post, including what his expectations for himself will be going forward after being released by Colorado in the offseason and signing a minor league deal with the Houston Astros. It’s a highly recommended read that all of us can learn a little bit from.
BLS H/N: Hardball Talk
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