Monday, March 14, 2011

Play Ball

I have dedicated the last six months to preparing myself to play. Getting ready for the new season. Lifting, running, throwing, doing everything I thought I would need to do to equip myself for 160+ games of baseball (including Spring Training). But preparing yourself to play and actually playing the game are two totally different things. Six months is the longest time I have gone without hearing the phrase "play ball" in my life. From the time I was eight when travel ball came into the picture I haven't gone more than a month without playing the game. It's easy to forget what it feels like to compete when you have such a long layoff. But, when you get thrown back into it, it doesn't take long to remember. So the last two days, when we strapped it on for the first time in Spring Training, I got the taste of competition that no weight room or track or bullpen mound will give you. And it tasted good.

Yesterday I was fortunate enough to be selected to participate in the St. Petersburg International Baseball Classic. A group of players from camp including mostly AA and AAA players represented the Phillies and we played against the national team from the Netherlands. Even thought I didn't get to pitch I thought it was a great honor to be selected to go in my first Spring Training. It was a great opportunity to get to meet some of the older guys in the organization and continue to familiarize myself with my surroundings. I feel the quicker you get to know everyone the more comfortable you will be and the more you can focus on your performance. The coolest thing for me of the day might actually be perceived as a negative for someone who isn't in my shoes. So, as we were standing in the dugout before the game, a fan who had clearly bought a ticket hoping to see some of the Phillies stars looked down at us and said "I don't know any of these guys, who are they." Pretty rude, you might think. But not to me, I thought that was awesome that I was even in the position to play in a game where people would be expecting to see big league stars. It only made me realize how close I really am. While that guy might not have been so happy, it certainly made me feel proud to be there. Oh, the score. We smashed 'em, 8-3, and it really wasn't even that close. Score one for Uncle Sam. 

The jersey we wear for Spring Training games

After the good experience of yesterday I came into today more than ready to throw in a game. I was scheduled to throw the ninth inning in the group 2 game (which is considered to be the AA group but it really isn't that concrete) against the Blue Jays at home. Now, there are a few things you need to know about Spring Training games. They're really more like practice than they are like real games. At any one time there could be four games going at once with foul balls from adjacent fields flying over your head. Pitchers throw a set number of innings, and if their pitch count is reached during the inning they roll it over to the next team. And as soon as a pitcher is done throwing, he does his conditioning, showers, and goes home. There are coaches walking from field to field at all times and most position players only play half the game. Needless to say the atmosphere is less than electric. So, before I went out to pitch there was nothing to rattle my nerves. But when you step between the white lines it feels like any other game. Especially when its the first time you've faced hitters in six months. Today certainly wasn't my best outing. I didn't feel like I was in total control of my body. It's been a while since I have felt that kind of adrenaline rush and I didn't do a great job of controlling it. But all in all the results were good. 1 IP 0 H 0 R 1 BB. Three weakly struck balls and one walk and I was out of the inning. The key to any outing is to learn from it. So, next time I know I need to make a conscious effort to slow myself down. Hopefully it will be a little easier now, after getting my feet wet against live hitters again. 

The last two days have been eventful ones and I am tired. But it's only the start.....

Saw the Baseball Tonight bus walking home today.


  1. Good first outing dude! Very cool being in the 2nd group. Dad.

  2. Someday that fan will be able to tell his grandkids that he saw Eric Pettis pitch against the Netherlands in his very first spring training with the Phillies.

  3. I really enjoyed what you had to say. Keep going because you definitely bring a new voice to this subject. Not many people would say what youve said and still make it interesting. Well, at least Im interested. Cant wait to see more of this from you.

  4. Love the jersey! Thanks for turning it around!

  5. Appreciate you taking the time to tell us what it's like. I look forward to reading more and hope to meet you next week when I get to Clearwater. My 12 year old is rally pumped for 6 days of babeball!

  6. Seeing the Pettis on your jersey was awesome!! Loved it!