A little after the halfway point in the baseball season, baseball sends ninety percent of its players home. The other ten percent or so all travel to one MLB city as a showcase for the best the game has to offer. Those players are happy to be there, sure, but those who are left out, the journeymen and rookies, they are happy, too. In the middle of a stretch of six or seven months of work, it is their only chance to get consecutive days off. Announcers will joke around and say that the All-Star break ‘feels like a two week vacation’ for a player.
This makes sense to me. The daily grind of batting practice, fielding drills, bullpen sessions, time in the video room, and then three hours of intense concentration is bound to have its effects. Fatigue, lethargy, a loss of passion and desire. Leaving out the physical pounding of the everyday athlete, (American football offers a week or two of recovery after every ‘performance’), the mental monotony takes it’s toll. A vacation is a great way to break it up and come back refreshed.
Which is why, I, hard core Blue Jays fan, am writing this while on a Jayscation. I follow this team rigourously. I know the roster moves. I know who is having good at-bats. I know who is no longer trusted to come in from the bullpen. I’ve been following it this way since Spring Training of 2008. I have opinions and memories of David Purcey, Brad Mills, Scott Richmond, Robert Ray, Brett Cecil, Jo-Jo Reyes, Brian Tallet, Dana Eveland, and Aaron Laffey as rotation candidates. And about a week ago, I found something was happening while I watched games that I hadn’t really noticed before. I was getting frustrated with every out the hitters recorded. I was upset with every base hit the pitchers surrendered. On Twitter, I found myself disagreeing with other fans. All of them, pretty much. Some were too pessimistic. Others were too optimistic. Some talked too much. Others didn’t watch enough games.
Man was I annoyed. When Brett Lawrie‘s big comeback sparked the team for a whole three innings before he bowed out again, I was fed up.
Yes, this whole thing is about me. I think I could be following the Tigers or the A’s or the Braves right now, and I would still have been the same testy, intolerant, miserable type of fan. I decided that I needed to take a little break. A step back. I felt fatigued, and lethargy. I had lost my passion. I needed to do something before it was too late to remember to enjoy the games. To cherish the gift of being in the hunt for a playoff spot.
I resolved to take a week and not watch the Blue Jays on television or in some kind of app. I’m not going to try to ignore Twitter, not going to swear off learning the scores, nothing so extreme. I’m just not going to live and die with every moment. Since I started my Jayscation, they have won twice in walkoff fashion, including the longest game in Jays history. They also let Brad Mills back onto an MLB mound for some kind of sadomasochistic reason, and he did what he does more often than not.
I didn’t see any of it. And I’m okay with that. By the time I’ve completed my self-imposed exile, Adam Lind and Edwin Encarnacion will likely be back in the everyday lineup, and the Royals will likely have lost a game . And all of that is okay.
After a couple of days of not worrying about when the game was on, I realized something else. This is typically the time of year when the Blue Jays aren’t particularly watchable. In 2012, they were fielding a lineup with one everyday MLB player in it. In 2013 they were somewhere into they 12th or 13th starting pitcher, with no reinforcements in sight. By now the Jays are usually wedged in fourth or fifth place, and I’ve got no reason to worry about the outcome of any particular game. So, I take this vacation every year, and I don’t even think about it. This year is different. This year I am going to come back to a competitive baseball team. When I go back, I will have a more level head, and an appreciation of the good things I get out of baseball.
If you find yourself in a similar state of mind, living and dying with every pitch, stressing out over every bad throw or funny bounce, take a minute. I urge you to consider a brief respite. Those who live and die with their team, attend the games, buy the merchandise, cheer the loudest (even from their living room couches), they are All-Stars too. If there is more frustration than fun in the Long Season, take a little break. We’re going to need you at your best for September and October.