Baseball players are weeeeeeird.
If you’ve ever watched closely or have ever known a baseball player personally… you probably have picked up on their unique little routines and quirks. We all had them. Like the batter that adjusts both batting gloves, crosses his chest and shoots up a quick prayer to the baseball gods, taps the bat twice with his left hand (once with the palm and the other with his wrist), steps in the box with their left foot, digs in the dirt approximately 3 times with their right foot, gently sways the bat before coming set with a Jack Parkman shimmy.
Every single player has their own routine and way of doing things and I was no different. I had my own little unique routine on the mound… hell I even had a certain way I would hop across the base line. I would do it EVER SINGLE TIME. That’s just the nature of the game.
Another thing that makes baseball players weird is all of their crazy superstitions. For example… if the scoreboard reads all 2s… (2 outs with a count of 2 balls and 2 strikes)… everyone in the dugout must take their pointer and middle fingers from the right hand, place them on the bill of their cap and rub… and when the pitcher releases the ball everyone must quickly remove their hats and hold them out as if they were trying to catch something in their hat. The process is deemed “successful” if the pitcher throws a ball or the batter gets a base hit.
Why do we do this? No one knows… but everyone must comply.
May God have mercy on your soul if the batter gets out and someone turns around to find someone NOT doing the magical 2-2-2 hat rub. The culprit will receive ALL blame for the batter getting out and will receive verbal abuse and more than likely receive physical abuse as well. We don’t play around when it comes to superstitions. Like this one time where we didn’t have anything to stir the PowerAde powder into our cooler so we decided to use an old, dirty fungo (bat used for taking pre-game infield). We happened to win that game so of course we had to stir our PowerAde with the same nasty ass fungo until we broke our winning streak. Delicious. My own personal superstition was that I always had to have some form of currency in my back left pocket. Whether it was a penny or a $20 bill… I didn’t matter… I just needed some kind of money. There you have it… the secret to being a successful pitcher. Money.
If you have concluded that the root cause for Douche Shoulder stems from my baseball career… you are correct. But it wasn’t from wear and tear from pitching…
Look closely at these 2 pictures and tell me if you notice anything strange (other than my face)?
“Hmmmmm…. Why does he have ice on his left shoulder when he is a right handed pitcher?”
Well once upon a time… on the plains of the great state of Texas… a small Division 2 baseball team from Alabama was batting in the top of the 9th inning playing in the 2006 Regional Championship game….
BJ drilled a single up the middle and we all cheered as Fultz crossed home plate to give us a 9-8 lead over Incarnate Word. Like any normal close game… as we headed into the bottom of the 9th … I grabbed my glove and headed to the mound.
I really enjoyed being a closing pitcher. I loved going into those tight, uncomfortable situations and battling head to head with batters. Other than the comradery… it was practically the only thing I truly loved about the game. I liked the game enough but I was never one of those “baseball is life!!” type of guys.
Taking the mound with a one run lead in the bottom of the 9th in the Regional Championship game felt the same as throwing a practice bullpen or pitching in a scrimmage game. I always had the same mindset when I took the mound regardless of the situation. I had an uncanny ability to remain cool, calm and collected even in the most intense scenarios… which I believe was the key to my success.
Per my usual routine… I scrapped the top of the mound with my right cleat, took my stance, eyed the sign from my catcher and delivered a pitch.
Easy first out.
Though striking out batters was always the highlight of being a pitcher… strikeouts were never the main focus. The main goal was to throw smart and to throw as little as possible. Drawing light contact for an easy out early in the count remained king.
I felt good. Everything felt as smooth as butter when I had warmed up in the bullpen during the 8th inning. As weird as it sounds… I already knew the outcome of the game if we pulled ahead going into the bottom of the 9th.
I have never been a cocky person. I always did my best to remain humble in every aspect of the game because I knew the baseball gods were always watching and waiting for a chance to strike me down. On the mound, I very rarely showed any emotion. I would keep the same composure and the same blank facial expressions whether I just gave up a walk off home run to lose the game or struck out the side to win. This lack of emotion came as a result of bad mouthing an umpire in some random summer league game when I was like 8 years old…
The umpire was garbage and had missed a call. Like a punk… I smarted off to him and ended up not getting a single call the rest of the game. He was purposely not giving me calls to prove a point. Well… I continued bath mouthing this guy until the game was over. Without going into detail… let’s just say after the game the encounter with my dad instilled in me a new-found respect for umpires. From that day forward… I never once showed up another umpire (and if I ever thought I did cross one for any reason… I made it a point to apology with a handshake after the game). That little bitty life lesson from my childhood seriously became an everlasting theme of my life. I think Sawyer Brown said it best…
“I gotta thank Mama for the cookin’… Daddy for the whuppin’… the Devil for the trouble that I get into..”
So yea… thanks Dad. I truly appreciated the whuppins’ and life lessons as a kid… ;)
The second batter from Incarnate Word stepped up to the plate and within a few pitches he hung his head and returned to the dugout with a strike out next to his name.
From the fans in the stands to the players on the field… I could feel the excitement mounting. I glanced over into the dugout and caught eyes with Coach Goff. One of the first things I ever noticed about Coach Goff was his eyes. Goff has these piercing eyes that can convey an emotion without saying a single word. Now those emotions can range from “super happy and content” to “I’m going to rip your f’n head off”... I’ll let you come to the conclusion of which was shown more.
But in all seriousness… he’s got an intense fire and passion in his eyes that is truly one of a kind. But when I caught eyes with him in this moment… it was different. I kinda smirked and flashed a smile because it was one of the few times I had ever seen him appear even remotely nervous. I mean I get it… we were one out away from making school history and clenching a spot in the Division 2 World Series… but still found it kinda funny in that moment.
I reeled back in my focus and took the mound to deliver a pitch.
I popped Myrick’s catcher’s mitt.
I didn’t waste any time.
We were now one strike away from a Regional Championship.
At this point I was fairly confident that a swooping breaking ball would leave this batter watching the 3rd strike with his bat on his shoulder.
Myrick flashed 2 fingers and I started my windup. I released the ball and immediately started walking off the field. Boom. Perfect location. Perfect breaking ball. Perfect pitch. Game over.
The umpire’s loud words were followed by an enormous grown of disapproval from the crowd. My face remained blank as I whispered to myself…
“MMMMMMMMM…. damn man. Ya missed that call.”
Myrick asked for a time out and was smiling as he jogged out to the mound.
“Boy he missed that call didn’t he? He wanted me to let you know that he knows he missed that call. Get the next one close and he’ll make things right.”
Myrick didn’t even bother flashing the sign. We were going with the same exact pitch. I released the pitch and though it was a little bit higher in the strike zone than I intended… I knew he wouldn’t swing at it.
The dugout cleared and everyone started rushing the field.
We had discussed this in detail before I took the mound. Since I was a wee little guy… I was to hop over towards the first base side and once the dog pile started… I could hop on top. There have been way too many instances where players get hurt during a celebration and are forced to sit out the next series due to a dumb ass injury...
As you can see from the picture below… everything was going according to plan.
I hopped over towards the first base line and jumped into Myrick’s arms.
The next thing I knew I was slammed to the ground and was left staring at the rest of the team charging towards us. I remember thinking “oh shit… this is going to hurt real bad.”
I was right. It did hurt. Real bad. I could hardly breathe and was trying to stay calm as each player hopped on and added to the pile. There came a moment where I could feel something start to give way…
Only this time it wasn’t the glorious sound of the catcher’s mitt… it was my clavicle snapping...
We ended our celebration...
Shook hands with the other team and started in with the pictures...
By the time we got out of the stadium I knew my shoulder was jacked up. It’s pretty obvious from the picture below that you can tell that the adrenaline had worn off and the pain had set in…
Instead of running straight to Coach Goff to let him know what had happened… I kinda just bit my lip and dealt with the pain. The school had NEVER made it to a College World Series before and I sure as hell wasn’t going to pass up a chance to pitch. So…. I pitched with a broken clavicle.
I couldn’t really move my arm much past my elbow so anytime Myrick threw the ball back to me it had to be damn close to my glove. Despite the broken clavicle… I still pitched well! If you fast forward to 2:18 of the below youtube trailer for the UM World Series DVD… you will find some clean-shaven punk with his hat cocked to the side. You can tell while I’m jogging off the mound that I had already informed the team to please… for the love of God… not hit my left shoulder…
Though we didn’t end up winning the whole shebang…. We did walk away with a lot of great memories, a 3rd place finish and one of those big ass rings.
This was the beginning of Douche Shoulder. After the World Series was over I went and got it checked out. Since I waited so long and there was so much bruising… it was really hard to tell if there was anything torn but it was clear that there was a break. Since there’s not much you can do for a broken clavicle… I just opted for the “let it heal on its own” route. From that moment on my shoulder would occasionally dislocate and slip out of place but it almost always slipped right back into its correct slot. However… about 5 years ago… I was swimming and it dislocated pretty badly. It was extremely painful and it kinda freaked Kati out a bit to see it so mangled and out of place. Thankfully I popped it back in after a few minutes, did some at home rehab to regain some strength and it was back to the occasional slippage.
This past March I was out flagging a route for our Make a Wish Trailblaze Challenge group hike at Red Mountain Park. Since I was a big lazy and didn’t flag it the night before… I got up really early, threw the mountain bike into the Element and set out to flag the route before the group hike at 8am. I would ride until I needed to mark, hop off, throw down a flag and carry on to the next location. Everything was going smoothly until it wasn’t. After riding over a small bump my shoulder dislocated. Since this wasn’t really out of the ordinary I didn’t really panic or freak out. I just hopped off the bike and started to massage my shoulder. USUALLY it would just slide back into place. I still wasn’t too worried when it didn’t immediately go back into place… I just thought it was just being stubborn and needed a little extra guidance. After a few minutes of trying to find the slot… the pain started to creep in and I came to the conclusion that this dislocation was a tad bit different than the others. I calmly walked in circles going through my options while trying to force my shoulder back into place. I was roughly 5 or so miles from the trail head and had no intentions of walking all the way back without my bike and with my shoulder dislodged. At the 13 minute mark I decided to make one final attempt to pop it back into its slot.
I immediately fell to my knees and then laid on my back. It was in. The relief I felt in that moment was the same relief I felt when DrBeard popped a dislodged rib back into place that I somehow managed to get from the Grindstone 100. Instant relief.
Though my shoulder felt extremely weak… I gently rode back to my car, managed to sloppily get my bike into the back and set out on our 11 mile group hike. I figured it would be like any other dislocation... I’ll just suck it up, go hit up the FARM for some rehab and strengthen the muscles around it. No big deal.
After about 3 weeks of rehab and what not… I KNEW something was up with my shoulder. I could climb and lift weights just fine… but it was still extremely weak and it felt like it wanted to dislocate in the weirdest scenarios… like…. when I would reach over to my night stand to turn off my lamp before bed. Your shoulder should NEVER feel like it is going to dislocate while doing this. This is when I knew it was bad and needed more serious attention.
One afternoon I was doing squats and it could feel my shoulder start to dislocate. My buddy Scoot said I may have a torn labrum and should probably get it checked out for real. A quick phone call to my old college trainer got me into a MRI real fast.
Result? Torn labrum. Posterior AND anterior. Just like that… surgery was scheduled for May 30. They wanted to do it sooner but I had some stuff to take care of like…
A surprise mountain girls weekend w/ Ash and Jenna…
Climbing sketchy ridgelines and not dying…
The main Make a Wish Trailblaze Challenge…
And the Douche Shoulder Extravaganza w/ Dayquon… (aka worst trail day eva for ole Nighqwon)
All of which I still need to freaking write about….
But there ya have it… the beginnings of Douche Shoulder. Next up… “Douche Shoulder: Mask Off”