The patch of agony

Picture this: you're giving a presentation in the boardroom in front of several co-workers. Things are going very smoothly; your opening joke about the Accounting Department got a nice laugh and everyone's paying attention. But then you pull up the next Power Point slide and it's the wrong one. All of a sudden you're blanking on last month's sales figures.

Your audience is starting to fidget; you're losing them. You try another joke but it falls flat. You can feel your face getting red and the sweat starting to form on your forehead. The next thing you know your supervisor stands up, takes the note cards from your hands, and tells you to have a seat. He hands the cards to Bob and Bob finishes the presentation.

Now, this probably doesn't happen too often in the real world (although if it did it might make board meetings more interesting), but for pitchers, it's something that occurs all the time.

They're out on the mound, trying to do their job and, if they're having an off day or maybe make a couple of bad pitches, they could be asked to relinquish the baseball. But unlike Bob who might get chewed out in the manager's office for faxing the wrong report to the Delaware office, a pitcher's dressing-down could take place in front of thousands of people.

So what's it like to be yanked from a game? A few Portland Beavers gave me some interesting answers.

What's it like when you see the manager come out to get you? What's the first thing that goes through your mind?

Dirk Hayhurst: Usually you know it's going to happen before it does. It's rarely ever, ‘Oh my gosh, what is he doing out here?' I do this thing where I look down, pretend that he's not really walking out towards me. It's a defeated feeling and it's not so much that he's coming out there because you have to suck it up and hand him the ball, but it's that walk back from the mound into the dugout you just feel like you're walking under water, it's so foreign. You spend all your time out there, I've been playing on that thing since I was a little kid, I run across that grass all the time, I pitch off that mound, I'm at home out there as I'm going to get. But as soon as I give that ball back and have to walk by myself the other direction while the other fielders stay out there I just want to get up and go so fast but you can't, you have to keep your head up, be tough. It might be the longest walk in baseball, the patch of agony between the mound and the dugout.

Paul Abraham: First of all you think you failed, failed your team. Obviously, I didn't do my job. If you're a reliever you have to have a caveman mentality, in one ear and out the other. The next day you have to be ready to go out there and do it again. That feeling is bad when you see that guy trotting out there. At first, there's hatred towards the coach, but then you realize the team needs somebody else in here right now to face this next guy because I don't have my best stuff today, so you get over it quick. But when you see him coming out of the dugout it's horrible, I hate it. As the competitor that I am, I get angry. At first I'm angry but then after a while I kind of assess the situation and come to terms with it but it's never good.

Adam Bass: For the most part, you have a pretty good idea of when things are starting to get out of control and when the manager might be more likely to make a move. You never want to see him coming out to get you because as a competitor you're always wanting to get out of your own jams. You got yourself into this jam, you want to get out of it. You don't want to turn it over to somebody else. It's frustrating because you're sitting [in the dugout] helpless watching your runners on base and you don't want them to score and if they do you can't necessarily blame the other guy for it, it's your own mess that you created. Obviously, nobody ever wants to get pulled out of a game, but it's necessary if things start snowballing.

Would you ever admit you need to be taken out?

Hayhurst: Sure, there are times you need to be taken out. I gave up back to back to almost back homeruns in Springfield and a third one was over the fence and our centerfielder…grabbed it and almost fell over the fence, that would have been three in a row. And when he came out to get me that time – it was Randy – and asked for the ball, I said, ‘Well, I guess I didn't have it today.' It's the truth, sometimes you go out there and you don't have it and you hope you battle through it.

Abraham: There are absolutely times where you think I wish he would have pulled me two hitters ago. When you're out there struggling and you can't throw a strike or you're getting banged off the walls. There's times when you're like I think it'd be great if Megrew or Hayhurst or somebody else came in here and get this guy out to get me out of this jam.

Bass: I would never admit that I couldn't get out of a situation. If you're ever on the mound and you believe that you can't get out of a situation then you don't have any business being [there]. If you're not 100 percent confident that you're capable of getting the job done regardless of what has happened leading up to that point you have to be confident that you're going to make the next pitch and you can execute the job and get out of the situation. Obviously, sometimes you need a third party to step in and say in this situation you're not going to make the pitch, we need to bring somebody in that's more capable, or you're stuff's just not there today or bring somebody in that's a better match-up for this hitter or whatever the situation might be. As a competitor very few times you'll find somebody who wants to come out or admit they need to.

Do you always think you can get that next hitter?

Hayhurst: It's not like you want to quit and you're never going to back down but sometimes you know you just don't have it and it's probably better off to hand it to someone else in this situation.

Abraham: I'd say about eighty percent of the time you want to stay in there to get that next guy. You always want to get that guy out yourself. You want to finish what you started.

Bass: Absolutely.

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