Then he'll have time, and all these words will be padded and polished, and they'll emerge and add up to the chapters of a baseball life. There are so many plot points already, even at the age of 30: days on end bathed in some sort of ethereal light, like the April that just passed. Plunges into dark rooms where he can't seem to find a way out, like this month of May.
He'll keep writing while he keeps playing while he keeps living. Because as long as he's living, the story keeps going.
Prologue: The girl without a face
Autobiographies usually begin with birth, but why not blow that off and defy literary convention before even arriving at page 1? This seems appropriate. Colabello-esque, even.
These days, when he's approached at Target Field by fans caught up in the narrative of his rise from seven years in independent-league baseball to the Minnesota Twins, or when he's texted by old acquaintances who tell him that he's on their fantasy teams, Chris gets a lot of the same suggestions for what to do next week or next month or 10 years from now when this ride finally kicks him off.
He should sell his story to Hollywood -- it's better than "Invincible," better than "The Rookie." He should hop on the motivational-speaking circuit, regaling wine-glass-clinking corporate predators for 20 or 30 grand a night.
He's thought about it. It's difficult not to when you hear it so much. That's part of the reason he's been writing.
So when he's asked where he would begin the book or the pep talk, standing there behind a podium in a downtown convention-center ballroom, he thinks about it for a moment and decides that he just can't start at the beginning. It wouldn't be right.
Sure, at some point he'll get to those nuggets, like when he was three and he told his father, Lou, and mother, Silvana, that he didn't want to be a pitcher like Dad because, "If I end up in the American League, then I won't be able to hit."
Or when he was 11 and his beloved grandfather died and Chris told Lou he would play in the big leagues for Grandpa.
Or when he was 14, getting ready for a tournament in Italy, and he almost choked to death on his own blood after jumping off the back of a runaway car and face-planting in grapevines. He can point to his upper lip and show you the evidence of that one.
But if Chris is going to lead with the essence of his existence, the opening scene in the book will transport you to one of the upper-class campus townhouses at Assumption College in Worcester, Mass., in 2005, where he meets his muse. He'll do his best to describe that cool Friday night in May, days from graduation, sitting on a sofa at a friend's party in his usual sweats, holding a bottle of water, thinking about getting back to his own apartment at a reasonable hour so he could be rested for his workout the next morning.
He is the star of the Assumption baseball team and an honorable mention All-America after being a star for Milford (Mass.) High School. He is a big right-handed hitter with power, a good first baseman who is getting better. He tore up the elite New England Collegiate Baseball League the summer between his junior and senior years. Even though he is a Division II player in the Northeast, Major League scouts had shown interest. The Draft is coming up in a few weeks and he has every reason to believe his name will be called. He doesn't care which round. He just wants the shot he's earned in a young life dedicated to the game.
A girl approaches him. She has a beer in her left hand and puts out her right. She says, "Hi," and introduces herself, but her name doesn't register.
Colabello says, "Hi, I'm Chris," to which she replies, a bit too quickly for comfort, "I know who you are."
Now he wonders where this is going. He shoots her a quizzical look for a moment changes it to a smile. He's been brought up to respect everyone.
"You're that guy who thinks he's going to play in the Major Leagues," she says.
"But you won't."
In the book, Chris will write that he has no recollection of her name or her face, that he couldn't pick her out of a police lineup.
And it doesn't matter one bit. He'll forever remember what came out of her mouth, and, after quick consideration and reconsideration of all the things he could have said said or done to respond, the two words that came out of his:
Chapter 1: Team Colabello
Lou Colabello is Chris' baseball hero. Silvana Colabello is Chris' life hero. Chris is their only child, so he's their hero.
So it makes sense for Chris to move the narrative back in time to April 1979, and over to Rimini, Italy, by the Adriatic Sea. A local lady named Silvana, born in Naples, raised in Milan and now living there, watching her 3-year-old twin nieces, Mabel and Micaela. They head over from the beach for a snack at a nearby café, Taverna degli Artisti. Silvana doesn't know a lick of English or a lick of baseball, but she figures out in short order that the six men crowded by the pinball machine are Americans playing for the local club, and, well, look at this, one of them is walking over to say hello.
The man says his name is Lou and touches Mabel's hair, saying he's admiring a thing of beauty. But he's also admiring Silvana, and that's how she tells it to this day, and soon enough they're married, switching back and forth from Milford, where Lou coaches baseball and basketball, to Rimini, where he's playing ball.
Lou will tell Silvana about how he almost made it, about the heartache that still hasn't dulled. He was one of the best left-handed pitchers in Massachusetts, helped lead UMass-Amherst to the College World Series in 1969, but he hurt his ankle, the team went to younger pitchers his last two years, and when you're not on the field, you're not seen. That was it.
The year after Chris was born, Lou was summoned back to America to play for Team Italy in the 1984 Olympics at Dodger Stadium. Everything was dandy in the bullpen and then the game began and he ran out to the mound in the glow of a scoreboard that announced his name and his hometown -- Milford, Mass., United States of America -- to the crowd.
First came the boos, next the "traitor" jabs. Then came a parade of future Major League stars to the plate, Shane Mack, Barry Larkin, Mark McGwire and Will Clark among them. He got McGwire out on a fly ball to center field. That was the highlight. He threw a curveball to Clark that Lou likes to say was on its way to Siberia before the back wall of the stadium interfered with its 475-foot flight path. He gave up nine runs. The Italians lost the game, 16-1.
Lou and Silvana welcomed Christopher Adrian Colabello in 1983 and welcomed a large and growing collection of Louisville Sluggers not long after.
So he goes through Little League, learning the game, and when he's back in Italy, he's still playing, convincing his buddy Mario Curini and the Vondi brothers, Federico and Matteo, to pick up the ball with the red laces that they throw and hit instead of the bigger, softer one they kick around all day. Chris notices that friends are more like family in Italy, and that's a good custom to bring back home.
It's there, in a split-level house at the end of a cul-de-sac, where 12-year-old Chris sees everything he wants to be on a baseball field. It's Cal Ripken Jr., with gray taking over every last bit of hair clinging to his balding head, tipping his cap to the Camden Yards crowd on Sept. 6, 1995, his record 2,131st consecutive game, as Chris watches on the 19-inch Zenith in the living room as the VHS tape records the scene. There can't be anything better than playing in every game, because there's nothing better than playing baseball.
He loves to watch Ken Griffey Jr. glide over the Kingdome turf and uncork his poetic left-handed swing that sends rockets into upper decks. He loves to read the backs of baseball cards, searching for that magic number: the .300 average.
He excels in high school and American Legion in a hardcore baseball town. He's been playing a level up for years, and now he's off to Assumption to play Division II ball. It's easy: Worcester is a half-hour from Milford, so his folks can watch every game. But it's also not so easy. He can't get on a summer ball team after sophomore year and ends up in a local league, playing on high school fields.
In June 2003, he's in Canton, Mass., 19 years old and doing just that. He's playing first base when there's a popup to shallow right field. Chris retreats to catch it, gets turned around, overruns it, dives back toward the foul line and doesn't see the second baseman, who has arrived on the scene and has slid, knees up. Chris dives and lands on top of his teammate, catching both knees right in the stomach.
He's always been taught to be tough, especially on that field, so it's imperative that he stands up right now and does it quickly. But he can't. He has to leave the game.
Everything seems OK through the next few innings, save an odd pain in his shoulder. He mentions it to a teammate's father who happens to be a surgeon at Mass General, and the next thing he knows he's tied down in the back of an ambulance, cold, dizzy, passing out by the X-ray machine, rushed in for a CAT scan, diagnosed with a ruptured spleen and internal bleeding, in a coma for 24 hours while Silvana sits motionless by his bed all day and all night, in the hospital for a week and given news worse than anything he could have imagined: he won't be able to swing a bat until December. That's six months.
When Chris comes home, he's greeted by the shipment of six Louisville Sluggers his dad had ordered for him. They're sitting on his bed, and the first thing he does when he sees them is pick them up and hold them in his arms. Silvana cries while she watches it. She looks at her son and sees the love in his eyes, like a new mother cradling a baby. She knows how hard this will be for her boy.
Chris steels as he heals. He and Lou have discussed redshirting junior year, and it's sensible to do so. He's missing valuable time as it is. But by the second week, he's told he can do slow jogs, so he does long runs. He jumps into fall ball at school on the last weekend and doubles in his first at-bat.
That night, he tells Lou he's not redshirting. He promises his father that there will not be one guy in the country who outworks Chris Colabello: "Division I, II, III, whatever. Doesn't matter. Let's go."
Lou looks in the eyes of his son, who earned a 3.76 GPA in his sophomore year and is on his way to graduating magna cum laude in economics and marketing.
"OK, then," the father says. "When it comes down to studying for an extra hour or going to work out or hit, I don't think I need to tell you what to do.
Chapter 2: A cold Draft blows through Milford
Every story has its low points. Chris has seen his share, but none more hurtful than this. So he'll keep it relatively short. He won't dwell on it for too long, because doing so is the errand of a person destined to fail. That's not Chris. And you'll learn that later in the book.
The house at the end of the cul-de-sac fills with the flavors of ripened tomatoes and roasting meats. Silvana is a kitchen fixture all morning on June 8, 2005, the second day of Major League Baseball's First-Year Player Draft. There's spaghetti and meatballs and lasagna and lots of it, all homemade, cooked for family and prepared for a huge moment.
The sandals shuffle in, with 30 guests milling about. There's confidence in the air around the desktop computer stuck on the radio station that will announce the names.
Three days earlier, Chris worked out at Fenway Park in front of Red Sox brass, including general manager Theo Epstein and an area scout, Ray Fagnant, who grew up across the state in Chicopee but has loved everything about Chris from the start. They watched Chris hit in the same group with high school studs Pedro Alvarez and Justin Smoak and hold his own. The word is that it might happen as early as the mid-20 rounds. It seems about right for a Northeast guy, a Division II player with a good showing in the NECBL, a quick bat, a big heart and a willingness to work.
Beginning in that 20th round, the words "Chris" or "Christopher" come blasting through the speakers 31 times, lifting the silent roomful. But a split-second later they're followed by unfamiliar names: Martinez, Martin, Kelley, Nash, Blaez, Jones, Fessler, Haupt, and too many more.
By the 41st round, the gathering party has vacated the house, and so has Chris Colabello.
He's sweating, palpitating, shaking his head before putting it in his hands. He's running to the driveway, leaping in his parents' Chevy Blazer, tearing out onto the asphalt and driving the streets of the town on the day of his scheduled coronation.
He doesn't know where he's going. He drives for two hours. He parks. He says, "What now?" He goes home.
He spends the next two days in his room. He throws pillows against the wall. He cries. He doesn't hear the phone when it rings.
Chapter 3: Getting rich
Independent ball? What's independent ball?
Chris will smile as he writes those words as one of his favorite passages of the book and of his life commences. He remembers thinking those words -- and maybe saying them? -- when he heard from his college coach, Jamie Pinzino, during his Draft-day bum-out. Pinzino asked him if he wanted to try out for the Worcester Tornadoes, an unaffiliated team playing in something called the Can-Am League, with the home park being the leased baseball stadium of College of the Holy Cross, called Hanover Insurance Park at Fitton Field. The team, in its first year of existence, will be managed by former Red Sox All-Star and Worcester-bred catcher, Rich Gedman, a no-nonsense guy who knows his baseball.
It sounds just peachy to a guy who doesn't have any other options, so Chris shows up a few days later for batting practice.
"We're doing a situational hitting drill," Gedman tells him after they meet, and Chris gets in the cage and swats the first two pitches over the left-field wall.
Gedman isn't thrilled and lets him hear it, and Chris realizes how serious this is. This is professional baseball, even if the pay is $750 a month for the 90 games on the Memorial Day-to-Labor Day schedule, and Gedman expects two things: the right attitude and maximum effort. Be a good teammate. Be accountable. Take criticism. Work and work some more.
But Chris isn't quite ready. The sting of the Draft snub won't go away, and he's mentioning it in the clubhouse when he's not busy taking that rage to the plate. His first 20 at-bats are awful.
One day, two weeks into the season, Chris is playing cards in the clubhouse. Former Draft picks from big league organizations are all over the room. Some are busted top prospects who have been beaten up by the game and are barely holding on. Some are fighting back from injuries and hoping to show enough to get Minor League deals somewhere.
And here's undrafted 21-year-old Chris Colabello, telling anyone who will listen about how he got cheated by baseball.
One of the players at the table, an infielder-outfielder named Zach Strong who had played in the Minor Leagues for the San Francisco Giants, listens in silence. At the end of Chris' 20-minute rant, he speaks up.
"Everybody here has a story, Chris," he says. "Yeah, you didn't get drafted, and most of the guys in here did, but there are a lot of guys with the same story. There's a reason why they're here. I know it stinks, but everybody's got a reason. You're not any different."
At this stage in the story, Chris might decide it's a good time to get philosophical, and maybe even a bit weird, by breaking up what so far has been a play-by-play structure, for the most part. It might be cool to fiddle around with and veer toward the inner voice -- you know, let it rip a little bit, style-wise, because Chris has something to reveal about himself, and it's important to do so at this very moment.
It is this: There's nothing more pure in sports -- or maybe life -- than hitting a baseball on the screws. When you do that, the feeling that you get -- man, to hit a homer or a solid double and drive in a couple of runs, there's nothing like it. Nothing better.
Chris will say to his dying day that the reason for this is that when you're in that batter's box, you're an underdog. You're not supposed to win. As a hitter, you look at what the numbers represent. A .300 average means a 30-percent success rate. You look at any other job, any other sport, and a 30-percent success rate is going to get you fired really quick.
So you get in that box, and there's just such an element of competition, and you're battling against the baseball more than the guy on the mound or the guys in the field.
That's it. You hit against the ball. You don't hit against the pitcher. Different guys have different ways of releasing the ball, but the real competition is in the 60 feet and six inches a ball will travel from the mound to home plate. It's not when it comes out of the pitcher's hand. So it's your job to compete against the baseball, and you're not supposed to win.
Just like Chris Colabello isn't supposed to make it to the Major Leagues.
So here he is in Worcester, and before he even has a chance to settle in, he's being released from the team. A Latin American catcher couldn't get over the border to play in Quebec City, a replacement had to be called up, and Chris' roster spot needed to be used for 10 days. He waits it out, having been promised a quick reinstatement. He works out at the field, does everything he's supposed to do, but Gedman tells him the team is calling up another guy and he is the odd man out.
Chris sits on the clubhouse sofa and wonders if his pro career is over. He can't even fathom where he'll go next, what he might do. He was sure he'd be a big leaguer someday. He knew he was good enough. Someone just needed to notice. And now they're kicking him out before they can even see anything at all? Why is this happening over and over?
The team is home and the game ends and the clubhouse attendant could use a hand setting up the spread, so Chris pitches in.
He's eating his burger, just about ready to pack up his gear and leave, when Gedman eyes him and calls him over.
"I'll see you at BP tomorrow at 3 o'clock," Gedman says.
"Chris, you weren't even on this team for the last week and all you did was keep working. How can I tell you to leave? I'm getting rid of the other guy.
Chris hits .320 with eight homers and 31 RBIs in 172 at-bats. Silvana and Lou see every one of them. His second long ball is hit off 45-year-old former Red Sox pitcher Oil Can Boyd. The Tornadoes win the Can-Am League title. In the offseason, he substitute-teaches and lives with his folks. He's got enough money. He's never spent much, anyway. He's having a blast.
The next spring, he gets cut from the Italian team for the World Baseball Classic but is invited to Minor League Spring Training by the Detroit Tigers. He spends a month in Lakeland, Fla., around prospects such as Matt Joyce, Don Kelly and Ryan Raburn, and he hits well. He's cut on the last day of the spring. He hears the term "numbers game" for the first of many times.
A year turns to two turns to three turns to four. Chris hits at least .300 every year in the Can-Am League. He's a fan favorite. He's a public speaker around Worcester. He's signing autographs for hours after games. He gets his own bobblehead doll. His girlfriend, Ali, loves it.
But big league teams aren't calling. There are open tryouts for various clubs, but they don't go anywhere. They don't even seem serious. And Chris knows he'll never shine in those types of situations. He can't hit a ball over the scoreboard or light up the stopwatch from home to first. Give him a month to figure it out, and he will. That's how he'll show you something.
Four years turns to five turns to six turns to seven. Chris is the star of the Tornadoes, and he's helping break the bank for a franchise on a severe financial downturn by making $2,200 a month. He's still hitting .300 every year and still experiencing the realities of indy-ball existence.
The team won't pay for hotel rooms, so an eight-hour bus ride to Quebec City begins at 6 a.m. on the day of the game. A player's criminal record gets a thorough examination at the Canadian border, which adds another two hours to the sweltering trip. Not long after the Tornadoes get rolling for the last four hours of the excursion, the air conditioning in the bus breaks. The players strip down to their skivvies, drive straight to the field and make it to batting practice with minutes to spare.
There's joy for Chris through it all, but there's also sorrow. One of his best friends, pitcher Greg Montalbano, dies from testicular cancer in 2009 at the age of 31 after years of battling through the disease while pitching for his team. Chris delivers a eulogy in front of 2,000 fans at Fitton Field.
Life must go on, and so must Chris. He hits .301 in 2010 and .348 with 20 homers in 2011, his best season as a Tornado.
He has played seven years of baseball in an independent league, and it's been five years since he even got a sniff from a Major League team, but as Gedman has told him over and over, as long as you're wearing a uniform, somebody's got the chance to notice you.
Well, it's about time someone did, isn't it?
Chapter 4: An email answered
Good books are epiphanies strung together by punctuation. There comes a time in a story when the main character has to shine in climactic moments by calling on the reserves of wisdom he's stocked while suffering through the rigors of life. He has to be smart at the right time. Chris knows this well enough to write it. Heck, he's done it.
He decides as soon as he hangs up the phone that he will take Gedman with him. If there's one absolute, mortal lock of a necessity on this day in January 2012, it's that Gedman needs to be there at the indoor baseball facility where they've both been spending winters as instructors. It's the Milford Sports Center, and it's the venue for Chris' first real tryout with a big-league team in almost six years.
It's crazy how things can come together. An aspiring agent, Brian Charles, was working on Chris' behalf in hopes that a mutually beneficial relationship would ensue. Brian emailed all 30 teams in search of a Minor League deal for a 29-year-old corner infielder who had hit .300 in seven straight seasons and was just named Independent League Player of the Year by Baseball America. He attached a glowing scouting report written by Gedman. Twenty-seven teams said no thanks. Two teams didn't reply at all.
The 30th team, the Minnesota Twins, needed a first baseman for their Double-A team in New Britain, Conn., and farm director Brad Steil reads every email. He looked up the numbers.
He called his northeast scout, John Wilson, and asked him to arrange something. It was on.
So Wilson, who lives in New Jersey, has some high school players to check out in other parts of New England. He takes a detour to Milford, and when he arrives, he's greeted by Gedman, a tough catcher he had admired while growing up a Mets fan and watching them against Gedman's Sox in the 1986 Series. They chat for 20 minutes while Chris swings. Wilson is taken by the size and athleticism. Wilson knows it's hard to hit .300 in any league seven years in a row, even slow-pitch.
"He's not going to embarrass you or your organization," Gedman tells him. "He won't embarrass himself. He'll give you an honest day's work every day. Who knows about the big leagues, but he'll make your Minor Leaguers better. After that, it's all gravy."
Two days later, the Twins pay the Worcester Tornadoes about $1,000 for the rights to sign Chris Colabello.
Brian calls Chris, who is with Ali in their Northborough apartment. Ali cries. Chris calls his parents, who cry. Chris wants to cry, but he can't. All he can do is exhale.
He starts Double-A in a 1-for-26 rut but breaks out of it big-time. One night he's staying late after a game, watching the Twins on TV in the New Britain clubhouse. Twins assistant general manager Rob Antony is in town and notices him sitting there, all alone. They talk for a half-hour. Chris thanks him for the opportunity three times.
Chris finishes up the season at .284/.358/.478 with 19 homers and 98 RBIs. It's the first pro season in which he hasn't hit .300. But it's the one he's most proud of.
Things are moving faster. The big leagues are getting closer. He knows he's getting there. He knows it.
He tries out for Italy's World Baseball Classic team and makes it this time. He joins a team with big leaguers Jason Grilli of the Pirates, Anthony Rizzo of the Cubs, Nick Punto of the Dodgers and Chris Denorfia of the Padres and they mount a ninth-inning comeback over heavily favored Mexico to win their first game, 6-5.
In their next game, at Chase Field in Phoenix, Chris goes 4-for-5 with a three-run homer and four RBIs as the Italians stun a Canada team that features Joey Votto and Justin Morneau. The game is called in the eighth inning because of the mercy rule. Team Italy is virtually assured of a trip to Miami for the tournament's second round.
Chris looks at his friends on the field after the game.
"Are you serious?" he says. "Did that just happen?"
Italy loses by one run in each of the second-round games, first to eventual Classic winner Dominican Republic and then to Puerto Rico. Chris goes deep one more time, hitting a three-run bomb to right-center off Dominican starter Edinson Volquez. Silvana and Lou are there to see it.
When the Classic ends, Chris feels like the 11 days were a full season. The emotion of every pitch, the camaraderie with his teammates, the connection to the game and the cause, the confidence he's gaining with every at-bat ... can anything top this?
Well, one thing can, but he's not there. Not just yet.
Chapter 5: The third-deck effect
There are many ways to write about the greatest moment of your life. The best way in this case, Chris will decide, is to just write it like it happened. There's no need to get flowery or clutter up the drama. Show, don't tell. Let the action speak for itself.
So he'll set it in the bus, creeping down a highway in the darkness. Lehigh Valley to Rochester, with the bus somewhere near Allentown, Pa. The earliest hours of May 22, 2013. Chris has been destroying Triple-A pitching: he's hitting .358 with 12 homers. Like always, he's not thinking about anything other than the next day's ballgame, since he learned long ago that it's pretty silly to think of anything else.
He's in the back playing cards when his skipper, Gene Glynn, approaches and states with smug nonchalance from the aisle: "Hey, you're going to the big leagues."
Applause erupts from every corner of the bus. Chris calls home. Silvana answers and is delirious within seconds. She hands the phone to Lou, who breaks down, too.
An hour later, a car crashes into the bus and Chris sweats the trip to the airport to meet the Twins in Atlanta. Because when you're Chris Colabello, nothing's easy.
Epilogue: The Chris Colabello Experience
How many chapters will the book end up being? How many pages? What are the comparable titles? How will you market it? Can we see a proposal?
Literary agents will need to know these things when the time is right. Chris will have to figure it out. He'll have to put together a detailed chapter outline. Then and only then will it be ready to show publishers.
For now, all he can do is catch up to the present, although it's hard to do that when so much is happening so fast.
He hasn't imagined 160 at-bats over 55 games in two separate stints with the Twins last season, but here they are, and he wishes he had more with them, but he isn't ashamed to admit that he was nervous early on, eager to prove himself in the beautiful parks with third decks in front of huge crowds. Maybe a bit too eager.
His first big league hit is against the Tigers and Doug Fister. His first homer is in Seattle against Mariners reliever Yoervis Medina and wins a game in the 13th inning. He goes deep six more times. But he bats .194 and the Twins sign hitters in the offseason. He's a longshot to make the team out of Spring Training in 2014.
The Korean Baseball Organization notices this, as it has with Twins pitcher Andrew Albers, another indy-ball alumnus. Albers jumps at the offer, getting a reported $800,000 from the Hanwha Eagles. Chris is offered about $1 million, but he turns it down so quickly that the prospective team isn't even named.
It makes for a sexy news-ticker item, this decision. Who in his right mind turns down that much scratch when the most he can make stateside -- and it's far from guaranteed -- is the big-league minimum of about $510,000?
If you've read this far, you know the answer to that one: A guy with only one dream. A big league dream.
You probably know other things, too. You probably know that he makes the team out of Spring Training, sets the American League on fire in April with a team-record 27 RBIs, breaking Hall of Famer Kirby Puckett's franchise record for the month, and hits a home run against the Tampa Bay Rays while his mother is being interviewed on live television.
On her birthday.
Maybe you're aware that the Twins are so caught up in his historic month that they cobble together a promotion in a week's time: Chris Colabello Cowbell Night.
But you also know that the Major League season is six months long and April is just the first one, and you know that the Chris Colabello Experience has never been an easy one.
So you look at this month of May, this struggle, this 0-for-too-long slump and this sudden seat on the Minnesota bench. You read the articles and blog posts already booking him ticket back to Rochester, already declaring that his entire foray in The Show is a Major League fluke.
Like with any book, you take the story and try to apply it to your own life. You absorb the lessons. You learn.
You look at Chris Colabello, still in the Twins clubhouse, standing under a sign in the center of the room that reads, "Live for today. Tomorrow isn't promised to anyone. -- Kirby Puckett."
You see Colabello walking up from the dugout onto the Target Field diamond. Each of the four steps has a word printed on it: Passion. Hustle. Heart. Fun.
You can't hear his inner thoughts during this slump, but in the book, he might write that he's trying to channel his big league muse as much as he can.
"You're OK," he'll think, or even say, echoing the words of Rich Gedman. "Keep playing the game. You're OK."
The rest of the story is unwritten. It is nowhere near finished.