Checking my phone every two minutes to see if I missed a call from my agent is not how I imagined my offseason. I’m over here checking Twitter for breaking news like for some reason my own signing would pop up on my feed, as if it would be a surprise to me. Name after name being signed on the little ticker of MLB Network. When will it be my turn? My wife asking me every day if I have spoken to my agent. Friends and family inquiring what team I’ll be signing with, or where I’ll be next season. As soon as I know, you guys will know. Sheesh.
If you think about it though, so many guys are going through the same thing I am. They are waking up going through their daily lives without truly knowing what team they will be with. Unemployment is a scary thing, and it is real. This game isn’t forever and can be taken away at any moment. That is why it is so important to play every game like it’s your last.
Of course, it is a long season, a long grind. However, I try to remember how many times I have heard people tell me, “You are so lucky to still be playing.” I don’t call it luck. I call it perseverance under extremely unfavorable circumstances. The odds to make it to the major leagues, let alone stay there, are stacked against every single player who touches a baseball or holds a bat. So when you ask me what it feels like to sit home in the offseason with so much uncertainty as to where I will end up, I will say “indescribable.”
Indescribable because the emotions and thoughts flowing through my brain are tough to put into words. Imagine giving everything you have into your profession. Now you are applying for a position among 30 different companies. You have built your resume with all types of accolades and achievements. You turn it in to your possible employers. You have done your interviews for the position. All the work on your end has already been done. You keep asking yourself, though, “Is my work good enough?”
It is good enough for me. I’ve put in the time and effort — I should say the extra time and extra effort. My dad told me when I first got drafted, “Xavier, you only get to do this one time. Don’t have any regrets.” I don’t have one regret. Why should I sit here and question my best? Instead, I will reflect back on all the amazing experiences baseball has given me. Every time I wanted to quit because things got hard, and I just stuck it out. Baseball will beat you up and it wants to see how much you can take. This is a game where we are supposed to fail more than we succeed.
So excuse me if I stand and admire a home run I hit in a crucial situation in the game. You know how many times I have struck out in the same situation? I don’t think some people truly understand. I am standing at the plate attempting to make contact with this super small, rock-hard baseball, and keep it away from nine guys sitting there anticipating the ball being hit in their direction. Not to mention, we have an abundance of guys throwing the ball 100 mph these days. I don’t know whether to swing or run away from that ball. So excuse me if I bat flip a three-run double in the gap, because the more I play, the tougher I realize it is to do that.
While I’m sitting at home, I won’t be discouraged or question myself, because I know how much I put into this game. I know how many times I had to tell friends, “Sorry I can’t hang out, I gotta get this work in the cage.” “Sorry, I gotta go hit the weight room.” “Sorry, I gotta watch some video.” “Sorry, I can’t eat that, I gotta get down to 215.” (I might have still eaten the fried chicken and waffles, but you guys get the point.)
All the sacrifices I put into striving for my goals are what I like to look back on. Those same sacrifices are what has made me into the person I am today. In a way, I taught myself discipline through my own motivations. And the cool thing is that every one of us athletes has different things that motivate us. However, no matter what those motivators are, they cause us to dig deep down within us.
Digging deep constructs us to make decisions that shape our future. There is this thing about walking through pain and trouble — it makes you different. All the struggles I have gone through remind me that nothing has been as hard as the work I have already done.
I won’t pretend like patience is an easy thing to possess. Patience is tough to own, especially in a sport where immediate results are at the top of the priority list. Players are judged on numbers and statistics. In a world where people talk so much about “trusting the process,” frankly, many of us don’t have time for that.
What I have learned is that patience comes from confidence. And confidence comes from trusting you have been applying yourself to the best of your ability. As a professional athlete, that is one thing I can control. I may not perform at my best ability every time, but I can apply what I have learned and put forth my very best effort.
So I guess I have one main message to all the free agents out there waiting for that next job with uncertainty. Continue to be confident and patient because it is what you have done your whole life. It is what you know and it is part of who you are. It is already ingrained in you after all the blood, sweat and tears.
Like my dad told me, “You only get one chance … have no regrets.”
— Xavier Scruggs, MLB first baseman
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