A number of things have contributed to my not posting for a while, so I apologize for that. It has been a bit of a crazy few weeks for me, or more accurately month. I went through what I think may be one of my worst slumps ever, I lost my seat on a bus trip, I had my family drive down for a series and as a team we just fell victim to our first home sweep of the season. Needless to say it hasn’t been a fun 25 days, it has absolutely been a grind. I’m going to address the slump in this post only because I’ve managed to dance around it and I feel that my writing wouldn’t properly reflect my life, and the life of a minor league player if I didn’t acknowledge the negatives like I do the positives.
Slumps have been around for as long as baseball has. They are inevitable, they are miserable, they screw with your head and they seem to never end. This month I endured what may have been my worst slump ever, and definitely my longest recorded slump, considering I never went 6 or 7 games without a hit in college. After having an awesome first month I felt great to start May. I was safely above .300, I was seeing the ball really well, and my confidence was following me to the plate even after my at bats when I did make an out. I was able to reflect on my at bats from a detached, analytic distance which allowed me to feed off of the good, and correct the bad. I walked up to the plate KNOWING there was nothing any pitcher could do to get me out, the only way he’d get me is if somebody on his team made some miraculous play.
A startling contrast between April and May’s stat lines, I fell off the face of the earth for the better part of May.
Then it happened. Line drives started to get caught, ground balls didn’t find holes, and fly balls didn’t get to the gaps. I still felt confident, aggressive and locked in at the plate, and I knew sooner or later one would drop.I got after it in the cage with Burkie just like we had all April, drilling myself on staying through the ball, staying back and being explosive. Another 0 for 4 went on my MiLB bio page. I focused on hitting the ball hard and not worrying about the results because I knew my process was good. Another night passed, 0 for 3. All of a sudden my .324 batting average that I had put up in April was gone, I had continued to have good at bats and I didn’t get anything for it. Six games passed and the only thing I consistently did in any at bat was turn right at first base and head back to the dugout. I began to wonder when I’d get lucky and have one fall, and that’s when it really went sideways. During the next three games I was able to break the 0 for 20 or whatever it was, but I lost everything. I swung wildly at everything; I rolled over 3-1 fastballs. My approach was gone, my patience was gone and my confidence? That was completely out the window, I had none left. I began to wonder whether or not I’d be in the lineup every day, instead of expecting to be in there.
During our last road series in Lake County I was given a day off, which given my fragile state of mind I thought was a really bad sign. I went to the cage feeling awful, and let all the guys who were playing hit while I just sat and stared blankly at my bat wondering what the hell had happened. The guys went about their daily banter, messing around between rounds, laughing at Rodney’s absurd comments and getting ready to play. I was totally tuned out of the world, trying to search my head for something to latch on to. I went into the cage with Burkie to figure something out, anything really. What he suggested was to try and bring my contact point back, to reset my eyes so that I’d be more on time with my swings. We worked on a series of drills to try and get me to stay back, and be able to stay through the ball. I worked for probably half an hour before going inside to change into my fleece to go watch the game.
The next day I was back in the lineup, and went about doing the same drills in the cage. I focused on them in batting practice and I made damn sure to tell myself to stay back in the game. The result was exactly what I needed, a hit and an RBI in my first at bat, another hit and RBI in my last at bat, with a solidly hit out in the middle. Suddenly I didn’t feel like I was lost, I had a point to start building on. Granted, that point was somewhere around .240 but I was on my way back. I grinded through the last game at Lake County picking up another hit and starting to feel more like me again.
When we came back to start our four game series with South Bend at home this week I felt refreshed. I had played well in Lake County, we had an off day and I had my new bats. I ran up to the cage and felt incredible, better than I had all year really. In our Wednesday afternoon game, which we ended up losing 4-2 I did something I hadn’t done since just after my 21st birthday last summer. I lead off the third inning with our team trailing 3-0. I normally don’t spend our defensive half inning thinking about hitting home runs, but for whatever reason I had a feeling I was going to get one. I walked up to the plate with my new intro song playing, and felt all too comfortable in the batter’s box. Then it happened. I launched a 1-0 fastball to right field, had a solid look at it and proceeded to take my trot around the bases having hit my first homer of the year. I kept the stupid little kid grin in as I rounded the bases, trying to look professional, but when I came back to the plate and Baltzy gave me a high five and said “okay Tiss” I lost it. I probably looked really goofy with the big smile on, but it felt awesome to finally get one. I had two good at bats after that, with nothing to show for them, but then I came through with a 9th inning RBI single to make my line for the day 2/4 with a HR and 2 RBI. Like I said, we lost, but I felt as though I had finally locked back in.
We went out and got swept in a double header the next night, and even though I only went 1 for 6 I smashed two more balls that on a night that didn’t have gale force winds blowing in from CF probably both get out. Knowing that I was swinging well again I was able to be positive about the process, and feel and the result that I can control. For all the times I’ve seen tweets from Steve Springer (@qualityatbats)2 saying “HitBallHardUWin” I was able to be positive about my night.
Yesterday, South Bend completed the sweep against us in a 7-3 win. We really were never in it, as the team continues to struggle having good at bats. It seems as though the issues I was experiencing over the first part of the month have somehow found their way into our lineup as everyone has stopped having really good at bats. Everybody is frustrated, losing sucks, and not being able to contribute is even worse. The majority of our recent losses have been incredibly frustrating, we’ve either been completely shut down, or we’ve managed to get ourselves out with silly mistakes on the bases (myself included) bat at bats, or balls just not finding safe landing spots.
Knowing what I do about baseball, I know that we’ll get back to our form from late April, when nobody wanted to face us and we were close to the top of the league in every offensive category. Mallex will be back on base 3 times a night, Marty’s fly balls will start finding the seats again and Baltz will be back to peppering the gaps with doubles. It’s inevitable, we will be every pitcher’s nightmare and hopefully that WON’T end for a while!