Today was no ordinary day at the ballpark. I've known it would be special for some time now. Well, at least since it has been posted in the clubhouse that today we would be receiving our Lakewood Championship rings (a ring that I earned with 5 hard innings of work). Not only would we would be getting our rings but we were going to be honored on the field before the Major League game against the Yankees. What could be better than recieving recognition in front of a sold out crowd of spring training die hards, right? Well, it got a lot better. About 10 minutes before we were set to stretch and throw long toss Gorm, our head pitching coordinator, came up to me and told me that I would be in the bullpen for the big league game today...... I had to take a second. Me, in my first spring training, me who had only played half a season of professional baseball, me Eric Pettis would be toeing the line with all the big league stars. How cool is that!!
So I collected myself, got my big league long pants (one of the perks of playing in the big game is getting to wear your pants down) from the clubbie and readied myself for the ring ceremony. But by then my mind was completely off of the ring and on to what the rest of the day had in store for me. We walked on the field got our rings and were off in what seemed like seconds. I said goodbye to my other teammates and headed towards the bullpen. The best part of my day was about to begin.
Now, I knew full well that my chances to pitch were slim to none. After all, I was the third backup. So we would have had to play into the 16th inning or so inning for me to see some playing time. But, I think the fact that my participation wouldn't be needed took a lot of the pressure off. In fact, I felt no pressure. I was there to enjoy the ride. I sat by a few feet away from C.C. Sabathia and Joe Blanton as they threw their warm up pitches, shared a umbrella in the 'pen with J.C. Romero and Jose Contreras, and even signed a few autographs. The whole experience felt surreal. When you watch guys on TV for so long and then you actually see them in person it's as if they aren't even real. That's how the whole game felt. I was watching from the bullpen, but it felt no different than if I had bought bleacher seats in the outfield. Maybe it was because I was only a bit more than a glorified observer, but the situation didn't effect me at all. I'm sure my feelings would be much different if that bullpen phone rang calling for "Pettis", but today that didn't happen. Today, was my day to sit and observe and learn.
Just for proof, I'm the one raising my hand and looking like I'm half trying to get out of the way and half acting cool
I've said it many times before, a lot of how you perform has to do with how comfortable you are in the situation. If you're thrown into something new, something you have never experienced before often it's hard to succeed. And the more you're exposed to that situation the better chance that you have of being successful. Today was my chance to get acclimated to the big club. Next time I'm here I'll know who to ask for a jersey, what locker to take, when to come out to the pen. And all those things add up. So, next time when I'm here and "Pettis" does get called, I'll be ready.