Just about everyone in the city of Houston, Tex. knows at least one member of the Baker family. Those who don't know the Bakers know of Lance Berkman, the All-Star outfielder and first baseman of the Houston Astros, who played his college days at Rice University, and is married to a Baker. Each year the Bakers' extended family and friends gather at their ranch to spend time together and enjoy the holiday season. At the time, I was happy to get out of Houston for a few days because of some bad news I had received a few days earlier that had hurt me and I was upset, to say the least. In addition, I was in the middle of rehabbing my shoulder after surgery and was unsure of what the 2007 season was going to bring.
When I arrived, I began saying hi to everyone, including my agent, Damon Thames, who I am very close to. I made my way to say hello to Mrs. Carla Baker, the mother of the Baker children I have come to know recently more and more. When I asked how she was doing, she responded in a way that I had never heard before and it is something I will never forget. She gave me a hug like I was one of her own and said, "I am blessed! How are you doing?"
I was in shock! I don't remember what I said or much else of the next few minutes. I had never heard anyone answer that question that we ask each other every day like that before. If I had known her better, I would have probably immediately started complaining about the news I had received a few days earlier and how bad life was because of that.
I told that story because today I am blessed! Saturday I threw for the last time in the Arizona Fall League this year. It was what has become a typical outing for me out here. My command was shaky at times. I walked a few guys. My slider was inconsistent. I gave up one hit and no runs. After Greg Golson caught the fly ball in left field that officially ended my season, I was forced to look back on what has been a long, long year with a lot of great things happening and a few bumps along the way.
In the past year, from July '06 through now, I was a unanimous First-Team All American and Conference USA Player of the Year, played in the College World Series, was drafted in the first round by the Phillies and played in the Arizona Fall League, which has become a big stepping stone for great Major League Baseball players.
Even with all those great things taking place, it is easy to get caught up in the fact that I had shoulder surgery on my throwing arm, causing my draft status this past spring to fall below where it had been in the past. I have lost relationships that I never wanted to lose and I have left the great city of Houston where I spent the first 21 years of my life. It is easy at times to look at my time out here and focus on the fact that I walked 12 guys in 15 innings, which is almost double the number of strikeouts I had. I could focus on my inconsistent offspeed pitches and other criticisms. But I'm not. I shouldn't. It has been a great year with a lot of great memories and a great opening to the next chapter in my life. God has given me a great gift and though there will be tough times ahead, I want to remember how blessed I really am. I get to chase a dream of mine every day and not everyone gets to say that.
With only four games left in the Fall League season, this will be my last journal of the year and I hope you all have enjoyed it thus far. With the Peoria Saguaros sitting at (10-18) and in last place in the West Division, there have not been as many wins as we had hoped for. And while this was tough at times for us, it is important to remember that this league was designed with the intent of developing young players. After playing 30-plus games here in Arizona, I have definitely seen why the league is as highly touted as it is. These young players are the stars of the future. There will be players who hit 30 home runs on a regular basis, players who challenge for Gold Gloves, batting titles, Silver Slugger awards, MVPs and Cy Young Awards.
We are going to enjoy these last few days before heading home, which has been on a lot of guys' minds lately. The offseason will be a time to relax and spend time with close ones. Before too long, guys will be back in the gym, hitting in the cages and throwing long toss in preparation for another year on the road and a chance to make their dreams come true.
I want to thank everyone who has taken time to read my weekly journal and for all the nice emails many of you have sent my way. I am happy to report that I have been asked to continue my journal writing and I will be back for the 2008 regular Minor League season. Thanks again and Happy Holidays!