Tapped the alarm clock, got out of bed, hopped in the shower. ...
I think it's the routine that gets you. All those years of routine, all those years of waking up on my start day and going through the same set of pregame habits. There's a real comfort in routine -- I think that's probably why we do it. But when it comes time for that last time … man, there's nothing "routine" about it.
This is my last alarm clock on a start day. This is my last shower on a start day. This is my last drive to the ballpark -- last time heading over that bridge, last time pulling into that parking lot -- on a start day.
This is my last start day.
It hit me, and it kept hitting me, throughout that morning.
I got out of my car, and walked into the ballpark. Me and that park … we've been through a lot together. But I told myself that I wasn't going to treat this start, this day, like anything out of the ordinary. I promised myself that I wasn't going to give in to the nostalgia.
Then I went and broke that promise pretty much instantly. I got to the clubhouse, and the TVs -- I mean, you can't make this stuff up: They were all playing this packaged loop of my "greatest moments." You know -- all of my career highlights, sequenced from start to finish, running on every TV in the room.
And of course the guys are loving it.
Some of the younger guys are coming up to me, during the older clips, like, "Matt, Matt -- why're you wearing number 43, what's the deal?" And so I told them a story involving me and this guy named Moises Alou -- a great, great player from before they were born. (Just kidding, Moises.) They're all letting me hear it when the TV flashes to my old leg-kick I used to do, or shows me going up against some hitter "from the '90s." And of course (of course) there's Gardy, giving me the hardest time of everyone, for how much harder I used to throw back in the day. And he's just loving it: Every second, it's, "Matt, wow, bringing the cheese, I'm into it." Or, "I didn't know you used to hand out three fastballs an at-bat." It's a lot of fun. But even in that moment, watching those clips, I don't think it quite hit me that this was the end.
It wasn't until Rags came up to me, I think, that it really started to sink in.
Dave, I'm lucky enough to say, has been my pitching coach for my entire career. And I owe so much of my success to him -- more than I could ever fit into a letter like this. Rags has just been a special, special presence in my life. And so when he came up to me, you know, at first I thought he was going to want to talk about the elephant in the room - that this would be our last ever meeting as pitcher and pitching coach -- and maybe get a little emotional. And I think, just sort of anticipating that, I started to get a little emotional myself.
But then, in perfect Rags fashion, he pivoted -- and just started going on about the Padres lineup for that day. You know -- like it was any other day, and any other start. And so the two of us … we're just sitting there, by my locker, talking shop, going through some approaches. But I think that entire time, it's almost, like -- we're speaking two languages at once. It's like we're saying one thing, but then meaning another. Like Rags is talking me through this player's or that player's tendencies … but what he's really saying is, you know, "I'm proud of you, kid." And I'm just taking in every word, and saying back what I'd usually say, and nodding … but what I'm really saying, I think, is, "Thank you, for everything. I don't know where I'd be without you." So it's like this moment that was totally ordinary -- but then also, just under the surface, incredibly special.
We finished talking, and Rags got up to leave.
And then at the last second, he turned around. Looked back at me, and cracked a smile.
"Hey. Enjoy it if you can."
Read the full story on The Players' Tribune.