27 Sep

There was a lot I did not tell you, could not tell you.  For example, I was hurt, the whole time, but couldn’t say anything because the coaches read the blog and they would have replaced me on the team.

too old

As you know if you’ve been following for a while, my right knee was a question mark going into the tournament.  I was told two weeks before camp that I had a meniscus tear.  What you do not know is that over the course of camp and the tournament I also strained my left achilles tendon, broke my middle finger on my right hand, my arm was a mess, and my left hand ached and creaked every time I moved it from catching so much.  Even as I sit here writing now, I am in pain.  Between the knee, the hands, the arm, and the achilles, every step hurt.  I have never experienced as much pain and as much pleasure as I did each day in Florida.  I would typically get to the training room early to be patched together before going out on the field for the day to be destroyed again all while trying to hide it from the coaching staff.  There were times early on in camp that I honestly did not think I could continue, but each day I was elevated by the environment and by my teammates and by the opportunity to be a part of the team.  I believe, if I recall correctly, the chronology, the injury report if you will, went something like this…

Sept 9th, we arrived.  I knew the knee was bad so was receiving treatment on it right away…

right knee

Then, on Tuesday Sept 11th, just the 2nd day of camp, I strained the achilles running bases….

left achilles

Then, on the 4th day of camp, taking ground balls during batting practice, I think I broke my right middle finger.  I say “I think” because, pissed-off that so much was going wrong, I mostly ignored it.  I do not even have a picture.  It is still crooked and swollen.

By the time Brad and the American players arrived on Sept 13th , I was falling apart.  8 months of training could not prepare my 32 year-old body for 6 hours on the field in the heat every day.

One night Brad called me into his room and asked me about my knee.  I told him it was fine.  At that point, the knee was the least of my problems.  My left heel and right hand hurt worse than my knee.  And the day before Barry took me into the Cardinals training room on the other side of the facility and put something called an iontophoresis patch on my leg, so my knee was feeling better, numb at least.  Brad said I was going to start at catcher the next day in a scrimmage game against a local community college.  I would catch 3 innings.  He would watch.  If I looked okay, I would be on the team as the 3rd string catcher.

Between the pain and the fact that I had not caught in a game (besides 4 innings earlier this summer) in 10 years, since college, I did not know if I could do it.  I didn’t even have a catchers glove.  I just knew that I could not limp on the field or I would not be on the team.

I caught the three innings and was removed from the game.  Steve Hertz, our coach at the time, came up to me and said, “You’re out of the game.  You need me to tell you why?”  I did not need him to tell me.  I knew it was because I made the team and Brad wanted to save me for the real task, the Qualifier.  For icing on the pain cake, I got a foul ball off my thigh in the last inning I caught.  This mark was still left almost a week later.


So at that point I left the original group of Israeli’s that reported to camp early, on the 9th, and joined the WBC team, the Americans, who arrived on the 13th.  I was on the team, but still didn’t know if I could physically do it.  And, to be honest, I wasn’t sure if I could keep-up  at practice – if I could run, and throw, and hit with the guys who had all just played a full season of pro baseball, or if I would be able to catch pitchers throwing the ball 97 miles per hour.

But, again, the environment elevated me.  I rode the wave from the training room to the field and back to the training room each day knowing what possibilities lay ahead.  It was a pseudo-religious cycle.  Ritual and routine.  Pain and pleasure.  Torture and triumph.

It got easier as camp went on.  My arm and my left hand kept getting worse.  But my achilles stayed the same.  And my knees held up.  I figured out a way to not have to run much at practice.  And I ate what could contend for a world-record amount of Advil.

Thank you to the training staff for getting me through the tournament.

pain and pleasure

I would do it again.

One Response to “PAIN AND PLEASURE”

  1. DFW September 28, 2012 at 1:08 pm #

    You’e a machine, King!

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