Thursday, September 22, 2011

The End

Please feel free to check out all of my past columns on pursuing my dream of playing professional baseball for a summer.

To see what I'm doing now, check out my new website at for information on literary news, freelance articles, videos and podcasts.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Final Thoughts

It’s been an odd week.

Since I started this website back in November, my mind has been completely transfixed on baseball and pitching. No matter what I was doing, my thought process would invariably return to this journey and my attempt to play professional baseball.

And now it’s over. It’s both disappointing and liberating. Being forced to quit thinking about the game day in and day out for eight months cold turkey is not easy. Also, it feels good because I accomplished, both directly and indirectly, what I wanted to at the start of this quest.

It kind of sounds like I’m retiring from baseball — that’s not the case at all. I want to continue playing the game for as long as I can, but now I can play confident in the knowledge that I achieved the overarching goal I devised back in the fall.

Now that the IBL season is over, it’s time to take stock of my performance and the summer in general. One of the reasons why I trained so hard in the off-season was to counter the inevitable weight and strength loss that would occur due to not being able to train with the same fervour during the season.

Once again, just like last season, I flew too close to the sun at the start of the summer and tried to maintain too high of an intensity during my workouts and that led to a couple of nagging injuries. Luckily, I didn’t let hubris get the best of me and became a lot smarter in the designing of my workouts.

I sit here now at a bodyweight of 192lbs, only three pounds down from the start of the season. Conversely, last year at this time I weighed around 175lbs. My strength numbers are also pretty much where they were at the start of the season which I’m very enthused about. However, I am in terrible cardiovascular shape. I’m like PFC William Santiago in A Few Good Men: I can’t run from here to there without falling down.

Of course, the entire point of maintaining that strength base was so that I’d be fresh to pitch deep into August. Oops.

Statistically, I didn’t throw that well this year. The season started off great with the five shutout innings I tossed on opening day, but quickly unravelled on me due to an illness and a shocking loss of confidence.

As I mentioned before, pitching success depends on confidence. Without it, you will just be a shell of yourself on the mound. The middle part of the season was terrible for me from a performance standpoint — I didn’t know where I was throwing the ball. It’s every pitcher’s worst nightmare.

I managed to claw my way back to respectability at the end of the year with a string of strong performances.

There were two questions I wanted answered and one goal set forth for my future self at the beginning of this journey. Truthfully, they’re all interconnected.

How good of a pitcher am I? How high could I travel up the ladder of professional baseball? The goal was to do my best to answer these two questions so I wouldn’t regret never finding the answer once the prime of my athletic career was over.

Answer #1: a very good amateur pitcher, a decent semi-professional pitcher, a non-existent professional pitcher.

Answer #2: The Intercounty Baseball League is my professional ceiling.

Playing against greater competition this summer and watching a bevy of talented pitchers take the hill over the past few months has really opened my eyes to my own shortcomings. I mean I always knew I didn’t possess otherworldly stuff, but seeing very good pitching most games has reiterated that point.

I’ve always prided myself on preparing myself mentally and physically to pitch by working on my craft and spending hours in the gym. Well, at this level everyone cares that much and works that hard. It’s that much harder to differentiate yourself.  

Pitching in front of crowds can be unnerving. I got used to it by the end of the season, but still the crowds IBL teams have to deal with pale in comparison to higher levels of professional baseball. I can unequivocally say that I don’t have the mental strength to pitch in front of 30,000 screaming fans. I couldn’t hack it in affiliated baseball.

Most importantly, I have zero regrets. I’ve got the answers I was searching for. Plain and simple, I am not good enough to play a higher level of baseball. And I’m fine with that. I’d much rather be content in that knowledge than always have that nagging “What if?” at the base of my skull.

Thus, I have no problem deeming this journey a success. Thank you so much to those of you who followed along these past eight months. Now that the faint possibility of a professional baseball career has been extinguished, it’s time to focus on other career aspirations (which may not be hard to figure out after seeing the stories I’ve written and video blogs I’ve posted to this space).

While this is the final Pro Ball or Bust column, I will be unveiling a new website in the next six to eight weeks which will encompass my next big project (hint: it involves both baseball and writing, but doesn’t involve me playing).

Until then, feel free to follow me on my new Twitter account: @MikeGArsenault which will detail any and all career news plus links to articles and videos and perhaps some funny observations (and also a link to my new website). No boring stuff.

Thanks again for reading.

P.S. The title of this blog is I Dream of Long Bus Rides. It took me one road trip to Ottawa to realize that’s a crock of shit. They are terrible – just a horrific experience. A nightmare, really. That may go down as one of the dumbest things I’ve ever said.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Fat Lady Sings

The London Majors have been eliminated from playoff contention in a first round loss to the Ottawa Fat Cats in five games.

Based on our play in the regular season, I honestly believed this team was poised to make a run at an IBL Championship. Just writing that first sentence of this column felt odd. After having baseball consume my life unlike any summer before it’s weird to sit here and not have to go to the ballpark.

I’m not really sure what to do with myself.

Unfortunately, after equating the regular season to foreplay last week, I’d be remiss if I didn’t make an obligatory premature, uh, “finish” comment to assess our playoff performance. It was like we were fumbling with a bra for the first time, got so excited about the prospects of what lay ahead, and ruined the fun before we had a chance to enjoy the, ahem, fruits of our labour.

Was that both clear and needlessly complicated at the same time? Good.

Truthfully, I’m not really sure what happened in our series against the Fat Cats. Basically, we just got beat by a team that played better than us. It’s really quite that simple. We didn’t play bad – we just didn’t play as well as Ottawa.

They got timely hits when they needed them and we didn’t. We had a very difficult time hitting with runners in scoring position and couldn’t capitalize on opportunities to put their pitchers away when we had them on the ropes.

It was a tightly contested series and unfortunately for the Majors, the better team – in those five games – won and will move onto the second round.

There’s not much to report from a personal standpoint since last week’s column as I was unable to see any action on the field. It was disappointing not to be called upon to pitch in the playoffs as I felt I was at a point where I could contribute and help the team win.

That being said, it took me a long time after my start on Opening Day to rebound from my early season struggles and get to a point where I could throw strikes consistently and replicate my mechanics. My success in the last ten days of the season may have been a case of too little, too late.

Nevertheless, I have really enjoyed my time with the London Majors this year and I’ve learned a lot about myself as a pitcher.

Next week’s column will be a reflection and look back on this eight month journey to play professional baseball. I’m truly content with the outcome and I believe I’ve achieved what I set out to do back in November (with some diversions along the way).

Penultimate Life with the Majors” column

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

I Can Build on This

I mentioned in last week’s column that I was hopeful to get one last appearance under my belt before the playoffs started. I was fortunate enough to get two.

I threw two innings versus the Hamilton Thunderbirds on Friday night in our final home game of the regular season. In an ironic twist, I started against the Thunderbirds in our home opener back in May and here I was on the mound versus the same opponents two months later.

I was happy with my performance. My first inning was three up and three down and included a strikeout. The first batter I faced in my second inning of work got a hold of a get-me-over fastball with a 1-0 count and deposited my offering over the left field fence.

I bore down after the home run and finished the inning off without giving up another run. The most important stat for me was that I had zero walks, which means that the command and control of my arsenal was where I want it. I was throwing all of my pitches for strikes.

It was Rock the Park in London over the weekend which is a concert that brings a variety of big bands to Harris Park, which is just across the Thames River from the ballpark. It was a surreal experience while I was on the mound to pitch while listening to Meat Loaf rock out to Rock and Roll Dreams Come True.

We played Toronto on Sunday afternoon and if we won it would clinch us second place in the league and avoid a first round match up with the Ottawa Fat Cats (an arduous bus trip that we desperately wanted to avoid).

We came out unbelievably flat and were down 8-0 by the end of the first inning. We weren’t able to recover and fell to the Maple Leafs 17-2. I threw the last inning of the game as our bullpen was short (which has become a common theme over the last couple of weeks). Once again, I didn’t walk a batter and did not give up an earned run.

That’s three straight appearances — encompassing four innings – without giving up a walk. I’m extremely happy with those results. It’s taken a lot of hard work, but I’m confident I can be an effective option for the team during the postseason. I know what I need to do mechanical-wise to throw strikes and if I feel like my command is slipping, I can get myself back on track.

That’s the most important thing: being able to make adjustments mid-game, rather than be at a loss when the ball isn’t doing what I want it to do.

Playoffs start tonight versus Ottawa. Unfortunately, we will have to travel to the Nation’s Capital over the long weekend, but, the way we’re looking at it, if we have to drive that far, we may as well ensure that the series doesn’t need to come back to London next week.

The three months of foreplay is over. Now it’s time for the real thing.