When I got to our new front gate yesterday, it wasn't working. I hit a remote. The gate remained closed. Got out of the car and hit a code on the new keypad nearby. Nothing. Already in a lousy mood, my mood grew still darker by the second. The pretty lighting switched on, making our trees seem like multiple-armed giants towering over me, their shadows and brightness now mixing about. I called the house to ask Vanessa to open the gate from there. No answer. I was stuck on the wrong side of the fence, about 93 feet (or 31 yards) from my house. The only thing to do was to hop the fence.
Only I couldn't. With timing straight out of an episode of Murder She Wrote, or more recently, Monk, my right arm—my multi-million dollar pitching arm which had been rehabbing incredibly well over the last two months—was dead. Long live the arm.
Okay, it wasn't completely dead. But it had been fine when I visited with my doctor earlier that day. It had been fine when I visited with GM Alvin Kirby and field manager Rick Churches. It had been fine when I made my call to super agent Jack Perry, telling him Kirby & Churches (not a law firm) wanted me to either retire or sit out the season due to last year's injury. It wasn't fine after I flipped close my phone - with my right hand - and slipped the phone into my pocket - with my right hand, wrist and arm.
That's where I injured it again...
As I walked and talked with Jack, holding my cell phone up to my ear with my right hand, coincidentally connected to my right arm - the injured one - I did something to the elbow that I hadn't done since the initial injury. I don't know what that something was, but whatever I did, I couldn't bend the arm anymore. I went from sitting down with Kirby & Churches, arguing that I'd be throwing simulated games by the end of spring training to hoping Dr. McGee wouldn't have to amputate by the time I got to the parking lot.
I looked at my house through the artificial light and saw a light inside flick on. A timer did it. Nobody was home.
I thought about my emergency return to Dr. McGee after my re-injury and how he took x-rays and did an MRI and twisted and massaged and stretched out my arm. "Scar tissue," he said. "Probably some got loose. At worst, you have bone chips in there floating around." I asked what his definition of "at worst" meant. "Another surgery. You might make it back on a mound by August or September."
In a baseball season, there's huge difference between August and September, even bigger if you're thinking August 1st vs. September 30th.
I said many bad words on the drive home. This is exactly what I didn't want, and I assume what Kirby & Churches did want. I felt betrayed by them; betrayed by the business side of baseball, a side that had always been good to me (proof is the distance between my very large house and quiet suburban street).
I sat in the car with the radio on, hoping for a song to cheer me up. Nothing. It was all hip hop or angst-rock. Even Lite FM was playing depressing stuff, "Another Day In Paradise" by Phil Collins, about homelessness. I looked through the gate at my house and couldn't help but feel a kinship for the homeless, as ridiculous as that sounds. I was trapped outside, in pain, wondering if I had a future or not.
By eight o'clock, Vanessa had shown up with Alyssa and Grace. They'd been out at the mall and her phone had been off (her friend down the street, Connie, is relentless with the phone calls). She hit a code on the keypad (the code I typed in was apparently my locker combination from junior year in high school) and the gate opened up. I twisted the key in my ignition and heard nothing. My car wouldn't move. The battery was dead. Or worse. Jumping it didn't help.
I looked up at my house like a runner on first base with two outs, hoping to make it to second on the next pitch and not get left stranded by strikeout. A tow truck would come by soon to take my car (actually a Hummer) down to the shop. I sat on the front seat and waited while my girls went into the house. One more setback on a horrible day. Somewhere, I could hear Kirby & Churches laughing at me.