One Last Shot - Season 4, Post 5: Seasons End
by Paul Semendinger
August 25, 2022
So, it's all just about over. (In a week or so, my weeknight team begins our playoff run.) It's been an interesting, great, and amazing year. There's been good, there's been bad. I've pitched great, I've pitched worse than poorly. I've had good games, great games, poor games, a really bad game, and everything in between.
Baseball mirrors life and in so many ways, life mirrors baseball. We have joy. We have sadness. And everything in between. Sometimes we're the hero, and sometimes not. Sometimes we're standing on the mound victorious, even though the good fortune came because others did great work. Other times we're the loser because others failed to support us. Often times we win or lose because of the work we did, on the field, before the games, and in the quiet moments of preparation when no one is watching.
It is life. It really is. It's baseball.
As I look back, critically and fairly, at my 2022 season, I have the following thoughts and recollections:
I hurt my right arm in early March. I don't know how, but well before the season started, my arm just didn't feel right. It was something in my elbow. I must have hurt it lifting something. Maybe I overdid it with weights, but I don't think that was it. I went to PT throughout the season (about once a month). I did exercises and stretches. And I got through it. I never bailed out of a game. I pitched whenever I was asked to, but my arm never felt 100% all year. For that season (and that reason alone), and although I'd never admit it (even to myself) there's a part of me that is glad the season is (just about) over and I can rest the arm. As the season has gone on, the pain has moved from the elbow to the shoulder. It hasn't been terrible pain, but it has been bothersome. After my last game, I won't throw again until January 1, 2023. I will then ramp us slower than I did this year. Best of all, it'll be nice to be able to not think about when or where I'll feel pain in my elbow or shoulder. I'm tired of trying to figure out how to do things (like brushing my teeth) left-handed.
Before this season, my arm never used to have much pain. I get it, I'm now 54-years-old. But here's the funny thing. Once I got warmed up, it never hurt too much to throw. And, I think I threw harder this year than ever before. Often times teammates said to me, "Hey, your fastball was pretty good..." And, though my curve ball doesn't curve as often as I want it to (or sometimes even ever) it also worked better than it ever had before.
I play on two teams, so there was always the possibility that I'd have to pitch on one day's rest. And that did happen on occasion, but due to changing schedules, rain, and whatever, that only happened a few times all year. I always liked the challenge, pain or not, of getting the ball and giving it everything I have. If I was asked to pitch, I pitched.
Because of the pain in my arm, I only lifted weights occasionally throughout the season and not without a few days rest from pitching and it also had to always be a few days before my next game. I had been lifting regularly for years and before the season felt stronger than I had in my whole life. I don't feel as strong today. I'll let the arm rest and then start lifting in a week or so. I look forward to getting stronger.
I'm also a runner. This year I am running every single day. It's a quest I'm on. Staying as fit as I can, I believe, helps my running. Once the season ends, my next big athletic endeavor will be running the 2022 New York City Marathon.
This year I really became more of a pitcher. I threw more innings (75) than I ever had before and I won eight games (against 4 losses) which exceeds the total amount of wins I accumulated from all of my previous seasons totaled.
This year, I also struck out more batters than ever before. I found that I can get strikeouts. I have figured out how to throw a two-strike pitch past a batter. In the past, there were games when I'd never get a strikeout. In fact, that was often the case. This year I had numerous games where I'd average more than a strikeout per inning.
My worst game of the year came in a game I started. It began with a single and then a walk (I almost never walk guys). The next guy, a lefty, hit a loud three-run homer, a no-doubt-about-it shot out and over the fence. I was pulled from that game after about three innings. We were losing that game, but the team battled back and took the lead. In the ninth inning, our coach, a great pitcher, got hurt. I was the only option out of the pen. I had to save the game I tried to lose early. I got an out. I gave up a bloop hit to tie the game. I got another out. Another guy reached to load the bases (I forget how). Then I hit the next batter. It was a walk-off hit-by-pitch. I blew both ends of the game. It was a horrible way to lose.
I regret that I never pitched a nine inning complete game. I always came out, with or without a lead. My longest start was seven innings. I never had nine in my arm. (I hope I have nine in me next year.)
My son Ethan played with me on the Ridgewood team. It was our fourth season together... and it was, and has always been, the best. It has been one of the thrills of my life to be able to play baseball, real baseball, with Ethan. He had an excellent season. In one of the season's final games, he hit a long triple. It was a blast and he flew around the bases. What a joy it was to watch him excel.
It was sad walking off the field together after our last game. Life circumstances (a job) might take him to a new location away from the area before next year If that happens, it will be great for him. He'll be amazing because... he is amazing. But, I'll be a bit sadder (a lot sadder) going to the games and sitting on the bench without him or looking out onto the field and not seeing him. He never got a chance to be the catcher this year, which also makes me sad. It would have been great to throw to him one final time. (I am hoping that he can make a guest appearance in a game next year.)
I love baseball, but, by far the best part of playing has been playing with my son. I will miss that more than words can say.
I love baseball and I'm thrilled to have had the chance to play real baseball these last four years. My goal, as it always is, is to get stronger and better and more skilled before next year. But before that comes, there are still the playoffs... and anything can happen!