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By Brita Meng Outzen
By MICHAEL McCARTHY, Contributing columnist
If you have children, grandchildren or siblings who have played sports, then you know the dreaded discussion about playing time. There never seems to be enough of it and it's always a tough subject to discuss. We become narcissistic and forget that the priority is the team, not one's self.
In the minor leagues, playing time is always a subject of interest, but completely different than when the players are 9 and playing Little League.
As a starting pitcher it is set that you will pitch every five days in what is called the "pitching rotation." There is a set routine that each starting pitcher will work through between starts, including weight lifting, shoulder treatment and bullpens.
For a relief pitcher, the schedule is much different. There is no rotation or multi-day routine. Instead the focus is on day-in and day-out routines, with an emphasis on preparation for entering the game at a moment's notice.
A week before the All-star break, all of the relievers were looking for more innings and we seemed to have an abundance of pitching. We were getting good starting pitching and good relief pitching, so innings were in high demand. Thursday was our first game back from the All-star break, which showed us just how quickly the tables can turn.
Our first series back will wrap up today with us having played six games in four days. One of the games went 15 innings, and that was sandwiched between two doubleheader days where we played 14 innings each. This series has seen more than five new players be called up and even one of our infielders pitched two shutout innings for the win on Friday night.
Assuming today's game is nine innings (knock on wood), we will have played 52 innings over four days, not to mention the 7-hour bus ride to get here Thursday morning.
While two weeks ago we were all looking for more innings, right now we are short on pitching and each of us is getting our fill of innings. This is when every pitcher needs to think of the team and be as efficient as possible. We have to fight for each other to beat not just the other team but the challenge that the game of baseball is presenting us.
It is amazing how, just when you assume the game is under control, it can turn around and surprise you in an instant. There is a wonderful saying in baseball: "There is no shot clock and no game clock. You can't take a knee or play prevent defense, all you can do is play the game as hard as you can on each play until the final out is made."
This is what makes baseball so amazing and captivating. No team is ever truly out of it. Teams have scored 10 runs in the top of the first inning before and they are just as capable to do it in the bottom of the ninth!
I can't help but think of how true this is about life. No matter how "high" or "low" someone may be there is always hope. There is always the belief that the player or team can conquer any challenge, so long as they believe in themselves.
It is never easy and comes with many opportunities to make excuses, point fingers and quit, but the player who can persevere will seize the reward of victory no matter the score.
Michael McCarthy is a former Cal State Bakersfield player who was drafted by the Boston Red Sox and is playing for the Class AA Portland (Maine) Sea Dogs. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org