When I first signed my contract for the Angels, I was relieved. Relieved to know what sort of path lay ahead of me. There is always a level of discomfort when uncertainty lies ahead, but once I inked the contract, I knew that, at least for the foreseeable future, I would continue to wear spikes and baseball pants, rather than a suit and tie. I would be able to “live the dream,” as they say. I was excited to embark on a new adventure, meet new people, explore new places, and heck, maybe pitch my way to the big leagues soon!
I flew out of Greenville/Spartanburg Airport at 6:30 am EST. I felt big-time. The Angels had arranged my flight, and I just had to follow the itinerary. Quickly after boarding the first plane, I realized I wasn’t so big-time after all. If I was, I would have had a First Class seat next to the gorgeous brunette I was forced to pass by as I maneuvered to coach. After crying myself to sleep for the quick two and half hour flight (because I had to pass the brunette, not because I was leaving home), I stepped foot in Texas for the first time, in Dallas Fort Worth Airport. I swear when I got off the plane, I immediately smelled southwest food. It wasn’t like I expected Texas to smell like a Moe’s so there were no mind tricks going on. Maybe Moe’s just smells like Texas. One will never know.
I have always found flying solo to be quite enjoyable. Something about having the time to yourself with absolutely no one to bother you is relaxing (I do exclude text messages and twitter from this statement though). I grabbed a big breakfast before boarding my plane to Salt Lake City, Utah, and I spent some time people-watching. I’m talking about the people-watching that only airports can offer. Seriously, what other gathering spot has a better array of people? NOWHERE!!! Anyways, boarding my plane to SLC is when I definitely realized I had reached the lowest of the low! Not only had I not been placed in first class, but I was in a window seat! Not just any window seat, but a window seat three deep! Ok, maybe not the lowest of the low . I could have been stuck in the middle seat where my buddy, Bob, sat. I call him my buddy because he wouldn’t stop talking to me during the flight. I don’t mean that in a rude way at all, it’s just that he had a nasty Boston accent (offense, guys. offense). Bob broke the ice by asking me if I played a little ball. Now you may think, “Wow, this guy Bob sure was perceptive; however, I’m pretty sure it was the glove I was carrying that may have given it away.
I explained to him that I had just signed with the Angels, and blah, blah, blah. Because my mom taught me manners, I asked him where he was headed. He was going somewhere right outside of SLC to be a caddy for some friend of his in a golf tournament. Seeing as I MUST have an interest in golf now, we briefly talked about the mental side of the game. Being a pitcher, I need to get my golf game up. Finally, I got him to put on his headphones, and I was able to look out the window and noticed the landscape. It was strange. I remember looking out the window for at least 15 minutes and didn’t see a single sign of life (meaning human life, as in houses, cars, Wal-Marts). Fast forward to reaching the Utah valley and flying into SLC. We banked right over the Great Salt Lake, which didn’t look very great to me. It looked gross, and the water literally did not move. It was like a massive puddle. Getting off the plane and heading to pick up my luggage, I rode the escalator down towards where families and friends wait along with the creepy guys holding up names. Of course, my name was NOT on the list. Because I was so big-time, I was forced to wait on my luggage alone and then headed to the Express Shuttle to order my ride to Orem. I hopped into the minivan, ready for the last leg of my journey. Luckily, I was able to spread out since I was, again, alone in the van. As talkative as Bob was on the flight, Joe, the express shuttle driver, was the exact opposite. After the silent 45 minute ride to Orem, I was dropped off at the baseball field – home of the Orem Owlz and Utah Valley University – at 1PM MT.
Good thing the 9 hours of travel was somewhat relaxing because the rest of my first day as as “pro” was a cluster. I was thrown into the fire. I filled out paperwork for insurance, taxes, paychecks (didn’t mind filling that one out), medical junk, radio broadcasts, pitching information, and even more medical junk. Luckily, I write with my right hand or I wouldn’t have been able to throw that day. I had to shuffle through the leftover pants in hopes of finding the size that fit me best. It didn’t happen. Then, slowly, some of the guys started to come into the clubhouse, and I met person after person…too many to really remember anyone. Finally, the madness broke when I was able to go on the field and go through the stretching routine with the pitchers and catchers. Afterwards, I met the manager and proceeded to get a physical and a concussion test (I still wonder how many of the guys on the team actually passed the concussion test because it was not easy). As if my day wasn’t crazy enough, a bomb was dropped on me. I would be charting pitches in the stands for the night. And, the next night. And, then, I would be able to dress…but I had to chart from the dugout! After four years of avoiding pitching & hitting charts, I would be forced to do them 3 games out of 5! I sure hoped I was living a dream.