Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Released - 5/21/13

Released - 5/21/13

Two weeks ago, I was released from the Blue Jays organization. It's just like getting fired. I lost my job. After coming back from the World Baseball Classic, I was pitching in Spring Training and doing just fine. My first two outings in AA were all right, but then I hit a rough patch. Although I was pitching better than my numbers showed, I was not pitching as if I was better than AA. The goal of anyone in the minor leagues is to play in such a way that you show you are more advanced than the league you are in. I have had many, many great months throughout my baseball career. Last month was not one of them. For now I am working out and throwing at Cressey Performance, which is a dedicated baseball training facility run by Eric Cressey. This is going to keep me in shape as well as improve my pitching. They have indoor throwing cages with a full video analysis setup. It's ideal, especially considering Cressey is a friend of mine. The training has been going great and I’m feeling strong. Sometimes it doesn't take very long to find a team that needs someone. Sometimes it takes awhile. So, we just have to be patient and see where we end up. As long as I am in the baseball world, I am going to work hard and do the things I know I need to do to prepare myself the best way that I can.

Do you ever wonder about your future? Wonder about how things are going to turn out, where your story is going to go? Of all career paths, I think that a professional athlete's life is one of the more unpredictable ones. If anyone's future is uncertain it is a professional athlete's. On ESPN these days, they spend more time talking about each player's performance than they do showing the performance itself. A player can go from superstar, leading the franchise, to the failure that isn’t helping the team in a game or two. But all lives are unpredictable. People all over the world lose their jobs, lose their loved ones, are uncertain if everything is going to turn out okay, are trying to figure out how they are going to get through the situation that they are facing right now. There is a saying, "A person is either in the middle of a storm, just passed through a storm, or is about to enter one." Some people try to say that if I follow Christ, if I love Him and are faithful, that He will make my life good and easy, but when I read the bible I come to a different conclusion. Many of the heroes of the faith had rough lives. Whether it was Joseph, or Elijah, or Job, or Paul, who said of His own life, "Five times I received from the Jews 39 lashes, Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep, I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food, I have been cold and naked." (1 Corinthians 11:25) What is promised is what my wife and I like to remind each other: "Your future is secure". Not that my life is going to be secure or comfortable here on the earth, but that my future with Him is secure.  Nothing, not the loss of a job, or poverty, or the betrayal of a friend, or the alienation of a child, or the loss of a loved one, or a serious illness, can change my future. It is secure with Christ. "Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me, Your rod and Your staff they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies, You anoint my head with oil, my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever." (Psalm 23:4-6)

Thursday, April 18, 2013

WBC 2013

Pitching in the WBC against Team Mexico


A little friendly international scuffle

versus Team USA

Superstars - 4/18/13

Superstars - 4/18/13

In early March, I was given the opportunity to pitch in the World Baseball Classic for Team Canada.  Of all of the Team Canada tournaments I have participated in, this is the big one.  I played on the same team as Canadian MLB all-stars against MLB all-stars from other countries.  Getting to play against Team USA was like facing an all-star team.  And we almost beat Team USA.  We were so close! I threw 2 innings against Team Mexico.  I gave up a walk as the only blemish to the 2 innings.  2 IP, 0 Runs, 0 Hits, 0 Strikeouts, 1 Walk.  The three games we played were some of the most intense that I have ever been apart of.  The regular season in the MLB is 162 games long, so that the best team over a long period is the one that gets to participate in the post season.  In the WBC, there were 3 games in the first round.  Blink and they were over.  Before my 2 innings in the WBC, I threw 6 pitches in a big league spring training game, giving up a hit and striking a batter out.  My next outing was the lead up to the WBC.  I pitched 1 2/3 against the Reds big league spring training squad and I struggled really badly.  My pitches were up, were flat, were slow, weren't sharp at all.  It's a good thing that adjustments can be made, because it was not the lead up to the WBC that I wanted.  Since the WBC I have been pitching alright, but not great. Not where I wanted to be. Although my last outing was getting much closer.  As I have told you before, I want to dominate, I do not just want to be competitive.  Being "competitive" in the minor leagues says that you will get crushed at the highest level.  Just like at any sport, if I want to be able to play, and stick at the highest level, I have to dominate, totally dominate, at the lower levels.  So, adjustments and work are the name of the game.  I am studying to try and recognize where I come up short, what I have to do to be my best.  To be better than I have been in the past. Change is the name of the game.  The one thing I noticed when I compared my video from the WBC to how I was pitching with the A's was that it looks like I was moving in slow motion when I was in the WBC.  Smooth and controlled is good, but it has to be a smooth and controlled explosion.  Velocity, movement, and location is the name of the game.  So, I've been working on being more powerful, more explosive.  As I head into the season in AA with the New Hampshire FisherCats, that is my goal, I want to be powerful and commanding on the mound.

One of the things I noticed the most in the WBC was the number of fans in attendance.  Not only that, but the intensity with which they were seeking autographs.  I guess that is what happens when there are so many MLB All-Stars in one place.  I even took part in the autograph collecting by taking my jersey around and getting everyone on Team Canada to sign it as a momento to the tournament.  As a kid, my first memory of being star-struck was taking part in a University of Manitoba hockey camp.  I remember thinking the few players that were there were incredible, all-stars, set apart.  These guys lived in a different world than me.  One of my favorite things to watch on TV is when ESPN does a little segment on a Make-A-Wish kid meeting his favorite athlete.  Many times the kids are so star-struck that they don't know what to do, what to say.  They are all smiles as they try to wrap their minds around the fact that their superstar hero is talking to them, addressing them by name.  Now, if you were to offer one of these kids the choice between being given stuff by the atlhlete, genuine autographed stuff that no one else has, or the chance to spend the day with the athlete, what do you think the kid would choose?  Do you think that there is anything at all that the athlete could give them that would compare to being in the athlete's presence, to being talked to directly by this superstar athlete? I don't think there is anything in the world.  If someone gave me the choice between a Keith Magnuson (my great uncle and for those of you who don't know, he played defense for the Chicago Blackhawks from  1969-1979, was the captain of the team from 1976-1979, was later the head coach from 1980-1982, and in our family and in my heart there is no one that I've heard more about, no athlete I look up to more) a Keith Magnuson signed jersey, signed skates, signed Sports Illustrated with him on the cover, with the chance to get to spend another day with him, the stuff isn't even an option.  There is so much I'd like to ask him about, so much I'd like to hear him talk about, so much time I'd like to spend with him.  And yet, don't I totally do the reverse when it comes to God?  I find that I am so much more concerned with the things that God can give me than the fact that I can spend time with the Lord almighty.  We get caught up in asking Him for things, asking for His help with some problem we have, asking for Him to change something for us, when He, the ultimate superstar, the Almighty God, is talking to us directly, addressing us by name, spending time with us.  As I think about it, I guess it comes down to the question, do I regard the stuff He gives me as awesome or do I regard Him as awesome, set apart, so far above anything else? As Oswald Chambers has said, "If we wait, we shall see that God is pointing out that we have not been interested in Himself but only His blessings." "God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see.  To Him be honor and might forever. Amen." 1 Timothy 6:15-16

Friday, February 8, 2013

Spring Training 2013 - 2/8/13

Before Spring Training 2013 begins, here is a summary of what happened this offseason and where things are heading as the season approaches.  I was not picked up by a different team in the rule 5 draft.  I did not receive an invitation to big league spring training with the Blue Jays.  I did, however, receive an invitation to play in the World Baseball Classic with Team Canada.  This is an honor.  It is the highest level of international baseball that I could play.  All of the experiences with Team Canada were leading up to this.  The World Baseball Classic is the time when all of the big league all-stars get to compete for their country.  It is a once in a lifetime event for a baseball player (unless you are good enough to be invited to play for more than one).  Players like Joe Mauer, Ryan Braun, Mark Teixeira, Craig Kimbrel, just to name a few, will be playing for Team USA.  Team USA also includes one of my good friends, Tim Collins, who I was teammates with for several years.  Players like Adrian Beltre, Robinson Cano and Edwin Encarnacion will be playing for the Dominican Republic. I will be playing alongside Russell Martin, Justin Morneau, Brett Lawrie, John Axford, as well as many former Team Canada teammates that I am incredibly excited to play alongside again.  This is going to be a blast.  Team Canada will be playing in the first round in Pheonix, AZ against Mexico, Italy and USA.  I can’t wait.  If you are wondering what I am working for right now, that is it.  After playing in the WBC, I will return to Spring Training with the Blue Jays for minor league spring training.  From there, no one knows where I will end up.  AA is again in Manchester New Hampshire.  This year AAA is in Buffalo, NY.  And of course MLB is in Toronto.  If anyone has paid attention to what the Blue Jays have done this offseason, it is an exciting time to be a part of this organization.  I really want to contribute and be a part of what is going on up at the highest level.

I recently spoke at a middle school FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes).  I had spoken to them earlier in the offseason, so this time I just wanted to talk with them.  I love to ask people’s opinions and learn from them.  So, I asked these kids, “What should my goals be for this season? It’s a really important season as far as my career is concerned, so what should I be focusing on and making my goals?” One of the kids said, “Work hard.”  I agree with that kid.  “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.” (Colossians 3:23) Regardless of the good results that come from working hard, we work hard because we want to show others what Christ’s integrity and honesty and honor look like.  Working hard is an honorable thing that brings glory to our heavenly Father.  Another of the kids said, “To make some money.” I chuckled a bit and said, “Yes, it is important to make a living, to provide for yourself and your family and those in need.” (1 Thess 4:11, 2 Thess 3:10) I told them, “The most crucial aspect of setting goals for the season is to think about what sort of goals God would set for me.” And I asked them, “If God’s will was what I was trying to accomplish, what goals would he want me to set and pursue? When I search through scripture for what God wants from me, I find that first and foremost He wants me to ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.’ And the second thing is like it, ‘Love my neighbor as myself.’ (Matt 22:36-40) So, most importantly is to keep focus on what is important to me.  If baseball or success or winning or being famous or any of these things become more important or even as close to what God means to me, then I am outside of where I want to be.  If my worth or what I think of myself hinges on my success or my value in other people’s eyes, I have missed the mark.  If my success or lack thereof changes how I treat people, then I am outside of where I want to be.  I must always treat people with respect, dignity, and love, whether they are treating me well or treating me terribly. If I keep these things as my goals, I am going to have a successful season.  I am going to work hard and give my best for my employer, I am going to provide for myself and my family, I am going to Love God more than anything else in the Universe, and I am going to treat other people the way I would like to be treated regardless of how they treat me.  That sounds like the recipe for a successful season in my eyes and in God’s” Sometimes we can look like a complete failure in the world’s eyes, and yet a complete success in God’s. I want my worth and everyone’s worth to not be found according to what others think, but aligned with what God thinks.

“Teach me your decrees, O Lord;
I will keep them to the end.
Give me understanding and I will obey your instructions;
I will put them into practice with all my heart.
Make me walk along the path of your commands,
For that is where my happiness is found.
Give me an eagerness for your laws
Rather than a love for money!
Turn my eyes from worthless things,
And give me life through your word.
Reassure me of your promise,
 Made to those who fear you.”
Psalm 119:22-28 NLT