At the end of the day, I think we all want to return to the feeling of being children.
After a long day of work — a task that we have normalized as the only aspect of this life worth living for — we all return to our homes and search for the thing that can make us release control, let our guards down, and learn from the greater universe.
Addiction is a necessary aspect of adult life. We villainize some addictions. If there’s a drug that isn’t administered and regulated by the medical community, it gets villainized. Alcohol gets villainized. Eating unhealthy food gets villainized. Excessive amounts of sex gets villainized. Excessive consumerism gets villainized. Caffeine… never really gets villainized, actually.
Although I have partaken in every one of the above addictions, caffeine is the most brutal. We don’t recognize it as an addiction, because it’s necessary for this fast-paced, Capitalist lifestyle. If you’re reading this, odds are you’ve intentionally consumed caffeine today. Maybe you know someone who brags about how much of a monster they would become if they didn’t get their daily fix, first thing in the morning. Maybe you’ve seen what happens when someone withdraws from caffeine. Of course, I’m saying all of this as someone who wakes up with more natural energy than 99% of the people who drink coffee.
And that’s after they’ve had their morning coffee, allowing them to still remain below my energy level.
Am I just energetic because I’ve rebelled against Capitalism and the American work model for years, he asks after disappearing from work for a week? Perhaps. I do have my own addictions, as we all do. Marijuana has been one of my publicized addictions over the last few years. You’ll hear that marijuana isn’t an addictive substance, but the truth is that anything that makes you feel the way you want to feel is an addictive substance. I’ve intentionally addicted myself to marijuana, which has allowed me to cut out the need for any other “addictive” substance. If I wake up and smoke an indica strain, I get the relaxed and confident feeling that I imagine most people have after their morning coffee. I still have more energy, even after consuming a couch-locked drug.
At the end of the day, there is no addictive substance that can truly overwhelm my body or brain. Except, maybe, the sport of baseball.
And they’ll watch the game and it’ll be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick they’ll have to brush them away from their faces.
Baseball can consume your life, even if you’ve never played. It’s like a drug. There are games every night, and sometimes every day. The game is pretty much year-round, with the heightened interest in the off-season over the last decade-plus, along with winter league action.
Back in 2009, I started this site to feed that addiction from both ends. This site allowed me to write about baseball and consume baseball all day, almost every day. I’ve been doing that for 15 seasons on this site, after getting my first taste of sportswriting the previous two years, and after getting hooked on this particular drug as a child. It also provided a space for people around the world to gather and discuss with other people their shared choice of a life addiction.
Back in the 90s, before the internet and MLB.tv, I feel like everyone had WGN and TBS. If you were like me, you’d return home from school as a child, turn on the TV, and watch the Cubs. Maybe the Braves had a day game. Growing up in central PA, I also had access to Pirates games. After moving to Virginia, I had access to watch my favorite team, the Orioles.
Baltimore is where most of my baseball memories came as a child. My memories of Pittsburgh were that it was easy to get good seats, it was easy for my brother and I to get autographs after the game, and you got to watch baseball — even if it wasn’t good baseball.
Back in 2004-05, I started getting tired of the “synthetic” feeling of the Baltimore Orioles. By this time in my life, I was drawn to the underdog. I was consumed by a book called Moneyball, and I was watching the Pirates to see if they could ever build a winner. The Orioles were spending to try to win, like a Yankees-lite team. They added Miguel Tejada as a free agent, and I remember cheering on top of my dorm room sofa. A year later, all I wanted to do was journey six hours each way to Pittsburgh every time Oliver Perez pitched.
Building a winner is complex. It’s not just about adding the best 26 players to the active roster. You need twice that amount of players during a normal season, and you need the right attitude, drive, and focus from the top of the organization to the bottom. I know this from years of studying the Pirates closely — starting with those trips to watch Perez, and resuming through the ups and downs of the franchise during the 15 years of this site’s existence.
Baseball isn’t just about winning. It’s a game of chess. Sometimes, in a chess game, you can lose but still make a move that has never been seen before and might never be seen again. There’s a back-and-forth flow. This is the source of baseball’s addictive powers. If you get lost in that flow, you might be able to forget that you had to do Capitalism that day, or that you have unresolved problems to deal with in your life. Those few hours of baseball per day can make you feel like a child again — coming home from the end of a long day to turn on the TV and watch other people display how to find the balance needed for success.
Because that’s all we’re doing in this life: Trying to find our own balance to be the best we can be toward the challenges we choose to conquer. Perhaps as a guide on how to conquer life for the first time. Perhaps as a guide on how to do it all over again.
Baseball is the best guide, although that’s just my opinion, as someone who grew up addicted to the game as a guide for life.
But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again.
Children look to adults as guides. As children, we’re all taught that the people who are legally adults are the ones with knowledge. They should be respected. They should be listened to. And, they shouldn’t be doubted. Eventually, we all become adult age, yet we are still left seeking out how to become an adult.
Confidence is a hard thing to gain. We all start off in this world in a naturally unconfident state as children. We’re all born with no knowledge at all, and everyone around us telling us what life is. Many of us are guided into our adult lives by the projections and paths paved out by the limited people around us in our childhood. We show an early proclivity toward a subject, and every adult around pushes us toward that career path.
Choosing an adult life is something that I believe happens for most people in their 30s. Not everyone grows to be an adult. When I qualify an adult life in this way, I’m talking about making an unguided choice for yourself. Most people go through life being guided by society. That society starts with their parents, extends to their school and community, and eventually to their career and co-workers. After being guided for so long, we all reach that point where we know how to do things our way — even if some choose to still remain on a guided path.
Changing paths is difficult as an adult. The difficulty begins when you have to admit to yourself that the current path is not for you. This is difficult because you were likely put on this path by external powers. Eventually, you reach a point where you’re more powerful than the adults in your society who guided you, at least in terms of knowing what you need. For some, this point happens when they are still children. I can tell you that from the age of 12, not a single adult could tell me what was right for my life. That hasn’t changed today at the age of 40. That doesn’t mean I was confident at age 12. The confidence I have in myself at age 40 is both something I wish I had at age 35, and yet something that I know will be improved upon by age 45.
Confidence comes when you start acting in a way that is right for you, and in a way that works within the world. It’s about knowing who you are in life, knowing what you need in life going forward, knowing what you can accomplish in life, and knowing that no one can stop you. Still, it’s difficult to maintain confidence in a world where so many adults are essentially children, constantly asking “What are your qualifications for acting in this adult way?”
Confidence can be a dangerous thing when it comes from an ignorant place. We live in a world where everyone knows the tricks to sound and appear confident. My belief is that we’re drawn to sports because it displays confidence as an act, which is the only true confidence. You can’t truly be confident if you’re not acting confident. If you’re not confident in the game of baseball, you will fail, and more than the acceptable ~70% failure rate normally seen in the game.
Consuming a game of baseball allows us all to watch human beings in their 20s try to accomplish what most humans in their 30s struggle to achieve — real confidence in their abilities, along with the confidence that those abilities can take them where they need to go. We all enjoy the escape from Capitalism for a few hours when watching a game, but I think we all secretly like the guide on how to go from raw talent to a confident performer.
Come on, Rook. Show us that million-dollar arm, ’cause I got a good idea about that five-cent head of yours.
Drugs provide a shortcut to confidence.
During the last few years, I’ve smoked literal pounds of marijuana. I always knew what I wanted to do in life, and always could find ways to make that work. I’m a sports writer today, and have been for 17 years now, as proof of that statement. Yet, I’ve never really had true confidence. I’ve always found ways to doubt myself, and I’ve always only heard the voices in society that would echo those doubts.
Doubt is a killer in this life. It’s almost impossible to ignore when people are doubting you. There’s an invisible ratio which exists in society. We all crave acceptance, because we know that society can make or break us. No matter how good you are and no matter what it is that you’re good at, doubt has crept into your life, infecting your ability. What I’ve learned while running this site and getting a unique look inside the game is that no person is free of doubt, no matter the stage they stand upon.
Despite our society’s obsession with money, power, and fame, none of those things can vanquish doubt. Every rich, famous, powerful person doubts themselves daily. How we deal with that doubt is the difference between what makes us great and what allows us to fail. There’s an invisible ratio in society. It exists as a different number for each of us. It’s all dependent on how much society has doubted you in the past. Some people have a negative ratio — simply based on how much the people in their own existence have doubted their abilities — and this negative ratio locks them into a mindset of doubt.
Drugs destroy doubt.
During the last few years, I’ve smoked weed excessively because it’s worked to eliminate my own doubt. Prior to this, I used other drugs or substances. We call alcohol “liquid courage” for a reason, because it’s known widely to remove doubt and allow people to express themselves in a bar surrounded by strangers — aka, “Little Society.” If you’re drinking all the time, we call that an addiction, and we fail to recognize that the real problem is a lack of sober confidence.
Drugs are prescribed by doctors for this reason. Prior to smoking weed, I was prescribed an unhealthy mixture of drugs from a doctor. Every morning, I woke up with one drug reducing depression, one drug increasing serotonin, and the hangover from the nightly pain killers that were prescribed for me to sleep. I was told this combo might be for the rest of my life. Eventually, I started trying marijuana, and switched to that exclusively because that led to me feeling more like myself than the combo prescribed by and paid for by my insurance. Marijuana also provided a shortcut to confidence by removing all doubt from my mind.
Do a little dab of weed, and you’ll find that every thought that goes through your head is the greatest idea ever. You don’t mind sharing those ideas with anyone, even if those people are people who have previously doubted you. After living in this experience enough, I had replicated the feeling of what it’s like to truly be confident in your abilities. It wasn’t always a healthy confidence, and my journey toward healthy confidence didn’t lead to all happy times. The only way out is through.
Don’t get me wrong: Marijuana is just my answer, and I never would have gotten to this point without the help of doctors — including the one who prescribed me my weed card — along with trained therapists. My current medical marijuana doctor was also the first medically trained professional in any field to tell me that the only thing that matters in life is how you want to feel, and I think that’s important. I personally strive to feel the way I do with marijuana, only without the need to consume marijuana. I’ve had several blind tests this year where I went sober into a situation where I previously lacked confidence. I found each time that I had a healthier level of confidence than in the past, and ultimately I was able to express myself how I wanted the majority of the time with zero assistance from any substance. At this point, I no longer need any substances for confidence. That’s personal development.
Development is a tricky word. In the game of baseball, it’s long been confused with developing skills and abilities. If you’ve increased your fastball velocity or changed your stance at the plate, you’re developing. One of those things will magically lead to success. My belief at this point is that the only thing to be developed is the mind. It’s confidence. It’s removing doubt. It’s raw expression. We love baseball at any level because it’s pure, split-second reaction. Within that reaction we see which players are fueled by confidence to express their abilities, and which are held back by doubt. We all can see it, even if we can’t always qualify it with words, and even if we could never quantify a thing such as confidence. My unique position around the game — paired with a pitch-perfect ear that can quickly distinguish between tones by any person from Bob Nutting to players at the amateur level — has allowed me to further see the relationships between Confidence/Doubt and future success. There’s a reason I’ve been on an island over the years believing in certain prospects who eventually made the majors. This is perhaps my greatest skill in life.
Discerning between healthy and unhealthy confidence is difficult. Believing in yourself and having a healthy amount doubt is ideal. You can reach the Majors by taking a “no doubt” approach, but I believe you only remain by having a healthy amount of doubt to filter your confidence and find how you can express yourself in the best way.
Don’t be the person swinging at every pitch, to put it simply.
Dynamite drop-in, Monte. That broadcast school has really paid off.
Equilibrium is the goal.
Everyone in this world possesses the capacity for a healthy equilibrium. We all have some level of confidence, we all have doubt, and we all have an idea of what we’re capable of achieving.
Eventually, we reach a point where the confidence and doubt balances out to a ratio we’re comfortable with, and we’re able to effortlessly apply our skills without thinking. That’s the Major League ability: Knowing what to do when you’ve got 0.2 seconds to react.
Even if your job doesn’t involve hitting a 100 MPH fastball, you’re going to be faced in life with split-second decisions. The outcome of those decisions could either provide cherished memories of performance, or reactions that will haunt you forever. How many times have you instinctively said “You too!” to a cashier at a restaurant telling you to enjoy your meal? There’s a reason we look to reactionary, society-simulating sports like baseball as a guide on how to have proper confidence in yourself. Watching someone strike out and then return to hit a home run in their next at-bat gives us the confidence example to return to that restaurant again.
Every level of the minor leagues is about building to that Major League confidence. Each level is about finding what works in your job, what works in your life, what works for your body, and so on. The challenge is that what works for your job might not be the thing that works for your life, and what works for your work/life balance might not always factor in your ideal physical health. The benefit that Major League players have is that most of them are in their 20s, before life really takes hold, and when your body is more resilient. The disadvantage is that they’re required to gain the healthy confident balance that most people don’t achieve until their 30s — and which some people die without discovering.
Essentially, this is a long, crafted explanation of not only how I see the game of baseball and the game of life these days, but also my reservations toward running a prospect site going forward. What I know is that the majority of developing players — and some in the majors — are ruled by doubt. The best in the game are ruled by confidence. Yet, confidence can wane, especially when there’s an entire industry dedicated toward projecting which of the 180 revolving players in the system will eventually claim one of the presently claimed 26 spots in the Major Leagues.
Earlier this year, the contributors of this site and I parted ways. They wanted player pages with static scouting reports on display, along with a page that numerically ranks every player in the system. This is the standard prospect approach. This would be profitable for me, as the man who owns the longest running and most visited site that covers the Pirates minor league system. My focus has been trying to create a new approach. One which feeds the daily addiction we all have for baseball, yet respects that the players in the minors — and the ones in the Major Leagues — are just human beings who may or may not have a healthy Confidence/Doubt ratio.
Equipped with over a dozen upcoming player stories from my reporting over the last month, you can expect more player stories from me to round out the year. They’ll all be written with this new approach, attempting to give my unique view of the game. The first articles will be released in an article drop tomorrow, and the entire series will be released in article drops this month. From there, I’m most likely going to pursue a job inside the game of baseball this offseason. That’s never been a dream of mine, nor something that I’ve seen as a real possibility.
Emboldened by my mad scientist testing over the last two years, I know this site can work with any approach I take. I could even grow it to having other writers again. My belief is that my knowledge would be better suited inside the game of baseball. I feel better about the idea of silently identifying for an MLB team which amateurs have a healthy Confidence/Doubt ratio, or quietly finding ways to improve that ratio for young professional players in an MLB development system. That’s compared to telling thousands of strangers a day on my self-built public stage which players I think have “what it takes” to eventually reach and remain in the Major Leagues.
Each option is viable for me. Don’t expect this site to go anywhere until I eventually go somewhere else. Just know that, at this stage in my life, with my current knowledge and information, and my current Confidence/Doubt ratio, I’d prefer being inside the game. Not because working for a Major League Baseball team is a dream (it is) or a childhood goal (it hasn’t been), but simply because I truly feel like that is where I belong in greater society at this stage in my life’s unique development toward being a real, live adult.
Everyone who has ever read this site, or contributed in any way, has helped to lead me to this point, and I appreciate all of you. I hope the remaining loyal readers will enjoy my remaining player features. From there, you might next see me with a stack of resumes at the MLB Winter Meetings in Nashville.
Excuse me, but what the hell’s going on out here?
Well, Nuke’s scared because his eyelids are jammed and his old man’s here. We need a live… is it a live rooster?
We need a live rooster to take the curse off Jose’s glove and nobody seems to know what to get Millie or Jimmy for their wedding present.
[to the players]
Is that about right?
[the players nod]
We’re dealing with a lot of shit.
Okay, well, uh… candlesticks always make a nice gift, and uh, maybe you could find out where she’s registered and maybe a place-setting or maybe a silverware pattern. Okay, let’s get two! Go get ’em.
Tim is the owner, producer, editor, and lead writer of PiratesProspects.com. He has been running Pirates Prospects since 2009, becoming the first new media reporter and outlet covering the Pirates at the MLB level in 2011 and 2012. His work can also be found in Baseball America, where he has been a contributor since 2014 and the Pirates' correspondent since 2019.