Thursday, April 18, 2013

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

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