My nerves told me that Mat’s pitching tomorrow…
Not only did I marry a baseball player, I married a starting pitcher. Not only does he only play once every 5 days, there’s a lot of pressure on his performance. It would make sense for this to get in his head and make him nervous yet, somehow, he manages to remain pretty sane while I secretly freak out (typically from the minute I wake up on Puffin pitching days…and don’t you ever tell him that I called him “Puffin” in front of you guys). I’m often told by fellow baseball wives that my nerves will calm as time goes on but I’ll tell you what- I’m not buying that story for a nickel.
What on earth do I get nervous about, you ask? I think it goes something like this: I know how competitive Mat is. I know what he’s capable of. The dude is a beast, and I’m not just saying that because he’s MY beast. He’s just one of the most mentally tough, driven and hard-working guys I’ve ever met. Ultimately, I just want him to feel good about the work he does on the mound. I’m not nervous that he’s going to give up runs or anything technical, that just happens. I’m not even sure I can put a single word on my state of being. Excited. Anxious. Nervous. Proud. Worried. Basically, psycho. The truest label that comes to mind is likely “hot mess”.
If you ever see me on a day that he’s pitching, odds are I’ll look like I’m mad. I can assure you that’s typically just my “seriously focusing on the strike zone and his body language” face. Last season, San Diego’s Channel 4 caught me looking super friendly and one of my Twitter followers snapped a photo of it. I couldn’t make this up if I tried, but I’ll still let you guys see for yourselves…
Hahahaha. We all need to have a good laugh at that one. Not only will I look mad, if you try to talk to me while my husband is pitching, I probably won’t hear you unless you say something like, “Can I get you another drink?”. I will give myself a little credit here… I made huge progress last season in learning that it’s okay to take a drink while he’s pitching (my mother in law is going to miss laughing at me for this- love her to pieces). I’ve also learned that no matter how intently I focus on Mat’s pitching, or the ball coming out of his right hand, I can’t will the ball into the strike zone with my Jedi mind tricks- but don’t think that means I’m giving up trying.
This all sounds rather insane because it is. I can tell what Mat’s thinking and how he’s feeling pretty easily from the stands. Every now and then, I wish I could give him a pep talk between innings. If he’s struggling or not having a great outing, I just want to fix it, but the fact is I’m helpless and useless all at once and he can handle it all on his own. Guys- I have issues. It feels like I’m describing an overly-enthusiastic little league mother or something. I promise I’m working on it.
Let’s get back to Mat being way cooler than me. Like most baseball families, we have our own weird routines the night before he’s in the game. Some of those don’t need to be shared here (you’re welcome), but I will share the most consistent and ridiculous thing that must happen on game days. I must text Mat his horoscope and analyze in it in baseball terms. This is particularly odd because we’re not really daily horoscope people. It sounded like a good idea back in 2010 when I was trying to find a good way to say, “Just do what you do! Good luck out there. You’re going to be great! Just stay focused and blah blah” without being an awkward cheerleader. After that, I just kept doing it. Eventually, if I forgot or didn’t think it was important, I’d get a, “Babe! You didn’t send me my horoscope!!!” text message around the same time that I’d be trying to find my face and make sure my shoes matched before heading to his office (the ballpark). I don’t forget anymore.
The most important part about pitching days and the day before is that you always always always stick to the routine. If something feels off, you then blame it on accidentally putting your shoes on the bed because you think that’s bad luck. It’s never what’s actually happening in the game and always that little deviation or misstep. In addition, Crash Davis wasn’t lying when he said, “If you believe you’re playing well because you’re getting laid, or because you’re not getting laid, or because you wear women’s underwear, then you *are*! And you should know that” (Bull Durham might be my favorite baseball movie).
Besides that communication, we don’t really talk on pitching days once he’s left our living quarters (be it the hotel or where we’re living for the season). For example, if the house is burning down, I deal with that on my own and let him know about it when he’s off work. The way I see it, he should have nothing to worry about besides throwing strikes, so I insist that the weight of the world be on my shoulders. There’s much more to life than what you see and now I’m just ripping off Metallica (love that song).
You’ll get to see Mat do his little routines on the field and in the bullpen before he pitches. I’m not going to spoil all of them for you here but if you’re wondering whose initials he writes on the side of the mound, they’re his grandfather’s. Thanks for looking out for my Mat man while he’s on the mound, Grandpa Robert.
Now, tomorrow is Mat’s first outing of spring training. He’ll only throw 2 innings but it will be the first two innings he books with the Reds. I know spring training isn’t technically a big deal but I’m already sort of freaking out and thinking about how I’m going to need an extra large margarita for lunch tomorrow. This is a really good sign that I’ll be in rare form before he takes the mound for the first time as a Red at the Great American Ballpark. Goodie.
May this be an amazing baseball season for Reds nation and don’t forget to pray to the baseball Gods, because they’re most definitely real.
p.s. GO REDS!!!