In light of the news that David Wright will be retiring from baseball, I wanted to address something that is very painful for David and me to talk about, and yet the defining line in the sand: his retirement. I have opened up about David’s reason for retiring here and there throughout this blog – or at least I think I have – I honestly can’t remember. My mind may as well be putty with the zillion things I am working on at any given moment of the day. Many of you know that I am getting my Master of Arts in Creative Writing and on that side of things, I am spending a lot of time writing, or more accurately, avoiding writing the hard stuff. As a nonfiction student, my thesis, which may or may not ever see the light of day, is all about David and my life. Baseball is obviously a huge part of our lives and therefore I am writing about everything we have experienced in the past six-plus years – the good, the bad, and the ugly.
By far, the most unbearable part of David’s career was his struggle with injuries. The physical ailments affected his mental state, and we all know the impact psychology has on life, in general. Aside from a minor surgery deemed required while playing at The University of Virginia, David’s body had always been whole. When he started playing professionally at 21, there was no concern for his health. Things changed, however, in May of 2010: he broke his ankle. When he slid into second base, ill-intentioned to break up a double-play that cold evening in Portland, Maine, the trajectory of his life would be forever changed. Although we could have lived without the suffering and whirlwind that followed, it was this moment that sealed our fate.
A few years after the initial injury, David and I found our way to the Lord. That is a whole other story but suffice it to say, had it not be for his injury, we aren’t sure what role God would play in our lives today. From that point on, struggling through his brokenness of body, David admitted praying to the Lord and asking quite specifically:
“Lord, I want to play this game as long as my body will allow. Once I am no longer physically able, please help me to acknowledge it is time for me to retire.”
The rest of his playing career was an uphill battle as David suffered through many more injuries, but the solace within all of the chaos was the time we were able to spend together. We experienced four seasons united as husband and wife, one of which he spent primarily in the big leagues. Despite everything, it is comforting to know that all we endured prepared David for the day he would retire, when he knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that it was his time. His heart, his mind, and his body were all in agreement. Since his retirement, I have asked him if he misses playing and if he wishes he could step in the batter’s box one more time and experience the adrenaline that comes from hitting a baseball. His answer is always a variation of,
“Sometimes, but then I go back to the fact that my body feels broken. There would be no way I could physically go out and play the way I am feeling.”
Fair enough, I concur, it was time for him to move on. But moving on as a player didn’t mean he would give up his passion, on the contrary, he would assume a new role that would afford him the opportunity to mentor young players and develop his knowledge of the game. I like to believe this is what he was destined for. The time David spent playing was preparing him for this career. A career that he was still able to transition into at a reasonable point in his life: twenty-nine. Not too young, not too old, justtttt right. (Like our boys like to say.)
So the injuries and the struggles, they hurt like heck to talk about, they bring about terrible memories, and yet without those struggles, without those pivotal experiences, we wouldn’t be where we are today. Since he was a little boy he dreamed of playing into his forties, but we learned the hard way the rarity that is. Sometimes, okay often, I lose sight of what an accomplishment it is for him to have been drafted to play professionally, let alone play in the big leagues. These are all things we must celebrate, but instead, we kick ourselves when we are down. We focus on the things we didn’t accomplish, the mistakes we made, instead of celebrating our successes, no matter how small.
Life is about perspective. A quick adjustment in how you look at things has the ability to change not only your life but the world.
Lastly, David is by no means in the minority of players who struggle with pain on a daily basis. There are many many more guys that go out and play every day and push through their own pain. Most don’t complain because it is of no use to them. In fact, complaining can actually hurt their careers, so they bite their tongues and fight through the discomfort; this is just part of the game, par for the course.