Thursday, February 4, 2010

An apple a day...

When people learn that I'm a baseball reporter, and that I don't cover any other sports, I can always tell when the question is coming. Foreheads scrunch up. Mouths open slightly and stop, like words are trying to come out, but they're still fumbling their way down from the brain above. Hands begin to raise with the intention of scratching the head, helping shake those elusive words free.

And then...

"So..." enter obligatory pause, "...what do you, like, do in the offseason?"

There's really only one good way to explain.


I don't like doctors. OK, that might be a bit harsh. Correction: I have a difficult time trusting doctors. Turning points in the Game of Life have unfortunately played a major role in that issue. So, when health matters surface, my first reaction is to suck it up. Be a man. Walk it off. Use the force to make the problem disappear. And, by that, I mean ignore it.

This time, though, my back and neck were killing me. It had been going on for a few days now, and I was inching closer to admitting defeat. My wife, and mother in law, and anyone else who was growing tired of my complaining, each offered to make the call for me to set up an appointment.

Finally, the persistent pain won. Since I couldn't turn my head very far to the left or the right, I shuffled my feet slowly, circling to face my wife.

"OK, call the doctor."

My mistake was saying that outloud. I should've scribbled it on a piece of paper, folded it until it was smaller than a dime, and slid it over to my wife under my foot while saying, "Shhhh," and putting a finger to my lips with a wide-eyed, threatening don't-you-dare-draw-attention-to-this stare.

I didn't do that. No, I said it outloud, and the Baseball Gods heard me. And they immediately began plotting against me.

As I sat in the waiting room, they mounted their surprise attack. My phone began to vibrate. I ignored it. It buzzed again. And then again. The little red light on the top of my blackberry began flashing. E-mails. Texts. More e-mails. More texts. Flooding in. The old lady sitting across the room from me started staring. I began scrolling.

"Where are you?" one message read.

"Have you seen the report?" said another.

I quickly headed to the internet -- while the old lady's eyes burned a hole through me -- and discovered that Roy Halladay was being traded to the Phillies. Now? Right now? Really? True story? I leave the house for a few minutes, after roughly a week of fighting this pain, and this is happening at this precise moment?

It was hard not to laugh a little while my stress level soared. I rolled my eyes at the Baseball Gods. You struck again, you lousy jerks. The discomfort in my back and neck only worsened as I began to sort out what to do. I called an editor. I phoned our Phillies beat writer. I shot some texts to other Toronto scribes. I told them my plight and they probably rolled their eyes and laughed a little, too.

After the doctor cracked my back in more places than I realized could crack, I headed to Walgreens to fill the prescriptions he gave me for pain killers and muscle relaxers. Boy, did I need those now. As I wandered the aisles, waiting for my name to be called over the speakers, I phoned more people. I was gathering information, while flipping through discount DVDs, all at once. And my wife says I can't multi-task. Psshh.

This is our life. The moment we let our guard down, that's when new happens. In the offseason, no trip to the doctor is safe. A quick run to the grocery store can create chaos. That's when you'll get beat by your competitors. Your wife becomes a single mom for hours on end, your dog crosses his legs, stares at you and cries while you're held hostage at your computer.

You work the phones, calling players, agents, baseball execs, other writers. You scan news sites all day. There's never enough coffee and you crave the routine schedule of spring training and the regular season. So does your family. You live in constant fear that something is going to happen at any moment.

Usually, the Baseball Gods wait to strike until it's completely inconvenient. And then they laugh at you.


So, what do I do in the offseason?

I cover baseball.


  1. Great story! In fairness, I think we all dropped whatever we were doing when we heard Roy was getting shipped off. I know I locked myself in my room for hours trying to gather all the information that people like you thankfully brought to us.

    I think those moments when we learned Halladay was in Philadelphia working out that contract extension is going to be one of those "I remember where I was when I first heard..." moments.

  2. What do I do in the offseason? I dash the hopes and dreams of Jays fans everywhere by telling them about the Roy Halladay trade. At the doctor.

  3. I remember where I was when the news broke too! Everyone was scrambling trying to figure out which prospects were going where, and there must have been 20 names thrown around!

    And then when word got out the next day that we were flipping Taylor for Wallace, I remember seeing that Google searches for "Brett Wallace" had reached "volcanic" proportions in one hour.

    What do I do in the off-season? I live baseball.

  4. The baseball gods are cruel at times. The news of course broke the day before my organic chemistry exam which I badly needed to cram for. As it took the better part of 24 hours for all the info to come out I stood a much better chance of memorizing the news aggregate post on DJF than I did organic chemistry.

  5. I was just thinking about this yesterday.....once the season starts I actually let my guard down a bit and adopt more of a fan mentality. The off season is filled with promise, but once the season starts that quickly turns to reality. For the last little while that reality has been unkind to us. I love watching baseball but I think I enjoy following our team in the winter more.
    Keep up the good work! We all admire your insight. You have one of the best jobs in the world in my eyes.