Friday, February 1, 2008

Drive Cont'd

Back in America now, I was living in Old Town, Alexandria, VA, working at Sport and Health Club making hardly anything. But I was able to work out for free, usually even during work hours just because if I was there in the middle of the day or the evenings, no one was around. The other great thing about the area, was the amount of parks, and, the large, usually empty parking garage directly next to the gym. Most of the time I would bike the mile or so to work, work my shift, workout, and bike home. Then I would grab a bucket of baseballs and my glove, and head out to one of three places: behind the pool at our apartment complex where there was a large fence (I was living with my girlfriend at the time, splitting time between there and my parents house where I would look over things while my Mom was in Belgium for her cancer), at a small regional baseball field that actually had a bullpen, or in the parking garage. The later tended to be the primary spot seeing how it was so damn cold, and usually rainy or snowing all the time.

My program would be to tape a "strike zone" to a wall. Go through a few drills and then proceed to throw 15 to 20 throws at distances that would increase by about 10 paces. I would throw from about 6 or 7 points, getting upwards to 200 feet from the strike zone, then I would come in to about 60 feet and throw specific pitches, trying to hit certain areas of the zone so I could find a consistent release points.

When I was at my parents house, the only place I could go was down to a softball field across the street. It was during these trips that I came up with the idea for a very large baseball facility somewhere in DC. You see, there are no facilities anywhere around DC. It is unbelievable. For an area that produces some very, very good baseball, and has some pretty streaky weather patterns, one would think a great indoor training facility would be a sure thing. But, there is always an obstacle; and I wasn't going to let the the stupid weather win.

So, in the dead of the winter, I would take my bucket of balls, my glove, some string (to weave a strike zone into the backstop) and a shovel down to the field. I would mark off my points and shovel away the snow and chip away the ice to secure my footing when I threw. And I would go through my program. Every time I did this, every time as I walked through the small path that leads through the woods to the field thinking to myself "what the hell are you doing Josh? Why go through all this trouble? Just throw tomorrow when the weather is better" I would think of two quotes that I still use today:

"What did you you to make yourself a better baseball player today"

"There is always someone else working harder than you"

The first one is pretty popular, so I just added the "baseball" part. This insured that every single day I wouldn't just do something to make me better, I would do something to make me a better Baseball Player. The second one I remember my father telling me when I was younger and it stuck. I have had friends who wanted nothing more than to be on a baseball field every waking second of their lives. And I wanted that. But instead of thinking about it, hoping and praying someone would let me, I got out and did something about it.

When spring rolled around I was feeling great, all my pitches were working for me, I found out how to throw two different sliders (which would help me with my unorthodox way of pitching. I video taped a bullpen once a week to check for inconsistencies and glitches and would consult with family and friends to get objective opinions on my form. I felt confident that with my abilities at that point in my life, and with my experience in college, and in pro ball in France, I would get a chance.

It came when my friend (the one who found me the job in France), who at this point I had been working with for 6 years, called me up and said I should come into his office for a meeting and a bullpen session with a Tampa Bay Devil Rays scout. I got pumped. A private tryout. I had thrown in front of a couple scouts one-on-one over the course of the past year, but this one was organized specifically for me, not just a chance get together and some familiar words ("You look great, great movement, very smooth, we would just have to see you against live hitting"). My friend told me I would need to "get it done" here, he pulled a lot of favors to get this scout to come in and look at me.

Two side notes here: 1) I pitch submarine/sidearm style (check out the picture). This means I throw in the low-80's (pretty slow in pro ball) and rely on movement and change of speeds to get hitters to make mistakes. I was hoping for a job as a set-up man to a closer, or a closer (the guy who finishes the game). 2) for those of you who don't know, a bullpen session, or just, bullpen, is when a pitcher throws from a mound without a hitter. Basically just a practice session specifically to work on throwing pitches to spots and working on mechanics (and showing off to scouts).

So I went up to the office, where there was a batting cage and a small area with an indoor mound. To make matters worse here, there was no catcher, so, I had to throw into a "catchers net" that had three small target holes, inside, outside and down the middle (thank god I had been throwing to just a target all winter, a catcher helps SO much, trust me. They make you look a TON better). The scout recognized my name, which made me smile knowing that all those trips to the many tryouts had actually paid off, he knew that I worked hard. And my bullpen began.

I threw about 30 pitches in all. About 15 total fastballs, 10 sliders and about 5 or so changeups. And when I approached the scout, he smiled, shook my hand and said "great job Josh". Then I was asked to leave. The next day I called both my friend and the scout to thank them for the opportunity to throw in front of them, and would love to hear feedback, whatever it may be.

A couple nerve raking days later my friend called and told me that the scout really like me and would be doing all he could to recommend me to the national cross checker scout (the decision maker) down in Pensacola FL. I would just have to sit tight and stay ready. Sounds like I'd be doing much of what I had been doing for a year now. So, I kept throwing, kept running, kept working out, kept hoping that I would get a call soon; I just wanted an answer, any answer.

To be Completed This Weekend...

Never Quit GET FIT

Josh Courage

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