Transition

People ask me if I’m going to miss being in the game and on the mound. You know what? I don’t think so!

Maybe there will be times when I miss being a professional baseball player, but I don’t think I’m going to miss the on-field stuff. I don’t think I’m going to miss the stress. I also don’t think I’ll miss the competition, because I feel like I already did everything I needed to do on the field. I don’t have anything left to prove. I doubt I’ll watch a game wishing I was out there.

Retirement is still fresh, obviously, so I’m still conscious of just how ready I was, mentally, to be done. Maybe in a year or two I’ll miss it a little bit. But I’ve talked to a few guys who said that they chose their retirement when they knew it was time to go, just the way I did. All of them said that they don’t miss the field. They don’t miss the stress of a game. They just miss the camaraderie of the game.

I think that I’m going to miss being in the clubhouse with the guys. I’ll miss laughing and talking, and I’ll miss trying to help guys out. Everybody’s different, and I was able to help guys in the game in a lot of different ways. I’ll miss that, although opportunities might still arise. I’ve also got a lot of friends in Spokane, so I’ve got camaraderie here.

I know I’ll miss certain guys in the game. But I’m a relational guy, so I’ll keep up with them. Just a text here and there will be good enough at times.

I think that instead of missing the on-field stuff and the clubhouse camaraderie, I’ll be learning to make the transition to a different routine. What does my life look like post-career? What am I going to do? What kind of job can I have? What will keep me busy, and bring me joy? It’s very important to me to feel like I’m making an impact.

So this transition phase is the most challenging, because I’m used to routine. For so many years, I knew exactly what I was supposed to be doing at any given point in the year, or even the day. I’d be working out for specific purposes. I’d know what day I should start throwing. I knew when it was time to get ready and pack for spring training, and before I knew it, I would be in my spring training routine. All that has changed! Now I’m exploring new options, and trying to create a routine where I feel comfortable and at ease, doing something that I enjoy. It’s important to start figuring that out.

Meanwhile, I’ll go on challenging myself, and finding new opportunities to be challenged. I’ll find new ways to compete. I’ll definitely have that in my hobbies of hunting and fishing.

There are so many possibilities! I just have to make sure I choose the right ones. I need to do the right thing for my family and for me so that we remain a team. That is a huge priority for me.

Another one of my priorities is to raise my boys to be servant leaders. I want to raise a whole generation of servant leaders! So one of my new challenges will be cultivating opportunities for public speaking. That is going to be fun! It’s going to be fun to learn how to do it well, and also to continuously improve. I’m also finishing my second book, and will publish that this year.

Servant leadership is a subject that is very dear to my heart. More on this next time. See you Thursday.

The Last Out

It felt good to walk off the field for the last time. It was emotional, but it felt good. I felt very blessed.

The first time I ever got to be a part of a World Series, it was with the Colorado Rockies. So it was pretty awesome to be able to end my career against them. They were a big part of my story. A huge part of my story, actually.

The Giants had a lot of competition with that team, so I faced a lot of those guys a lot of times. I felt like I had faced Carlos Gonzalez about eight gazillion times in the last few years. You know, he beat me a few times, and I beat him a few times, so overall it was a cool deal. On my last day, in my last game, I made my final out against Carlos.

He flied out to center. When the ball was caught, and he was walking off, Carlos stopped, and he yelled out my name. I looked over at him and he took his hat off. He tipped his hat to me. I think that was pretty awesome. My wife said that it’s one of the coolest things she’s ever seen.

I was having a hard time that morning. Just thinking about what that day meant was rough. It was giving me a hard time. I cried quite a bit coming into the ballpark. I didn’t know how I was going to get through the speech! But I did, and it’s because the Holy Spirit was definitely there. I think He was the one guiding me in my speech, and helping me choose my words. He guided me in how I was talking and how I was reflecting. And I think He was giving me calm. He was the one right there with me, letting me know it was okay. I think the Spirit of God was on it all.

It meant so much to me, just knowing that Jesus was standing there with me the entire time. He had His arm around me, just saying, “This is good.” That gave me a lot of peace. Jesus made it possible for me to be able to do what I did on my last day as a professional baseball player.

Jesus was there with me that day, but He has been with me the whole time. He was there with me throughout my entire career. He was always there. We had to walk through some pretty rough passes, we really did, and I couldn’t have done it on my own. He had to walk me through them. So being able to understand that He held my hand the entire time, through my entire career, knowing exactly how it was going to end, is something that I found very comforting.

Jesus also knows exactly how things are going to go after my career, and I find that comforting as well. It’s time to move on. I’ll have something to say about that next time. See you Monday.

Meanwhile, Happy New Year! Be blessed!

Thanking My Wife

Baseball is not as glamorous as you’d think. The game comes with a lot of stress, not least of which is traveling. It can be really hard on families, especially when kids start to enter the picture.

It was hard on my family. We were able to afford help for my wife, so she wasn’t always by herself with our sons, but it was still hard. There were a lot of times when she couldn’t reach me, because we were in different time zones, or I was in a game. So she had to make a lot of decisions for the family without me. Then once I got home, it could be hard to figure out how I fit into the family and its routines.

And yet, throughout my time as a player, she encouraged me. She encouraged me a lot.

Some guys are able to have stress off the field and use that to drive them to focus on the field. I was the exact opposite. If I had a lot of stress off the field, I wasn’t as focused on the field. If I felt unrest off the field, or things were not clicking well in the family, I didn’t do very well on the field. So that was another role my wife took on. She kept peace in our home, and made sure I felt like everything was okay before I went to play a game. And she did it so well.

She made sacrifices to do all this, too. She made personal sacrifices to go with me and be with me. She put some of her own dreams on hold. One of those dreams was her horses. She had to put that dream on hold for nine years, and risked not being able to return to it. Fortunately, she is riding and competing again, and she’s really enjoying it. But she risked it.

These are the reasons for the tears that I shared when I thanked my wife at my retirement ceremony. I knew everything that she’d done for me and our family. She met every challenge, and navigated through every changing scenario. It’s really incredible to think about everything she was able and willing to do.

That’s why I said that it wasn’t just me retiring. We retired. Baseball was our job. We did it as a team, and there was no other way it could have worked. I might have been the one on the field. I might have been the face of our family in the game and in the community. But we did it — me, my wife, and our children — as a team.

This wasn’t something I took for granted. There were times that I did take it for granted, but I got a lot of grace and I learned and I grew. I realized just how big a role my wife played. And I am very thankful for what she did. Her effort and her sacrifice allowed my career to go as long and as far as it did.

In the end, I needed her permission to retire, because it was her retirement, too. And I received it. She was okay if I played longer, and she was okay if I decided to transition out of baseball. As always, she gave me her full support.

For these many reasons, I got really emotional when I said “thank you” to her. Everything she did meant so much to me. She means so much to me.

See you Thursday.

Daddy’s Coming Home

I got emotional about my retirement. I got emotional in the press conference when I announced my retirement, and I got emotional on the field. I cried. There was so much on Twitter about how heartfelt and emotional it was, and a lot of fans said they were crying along with me. Thank you.

The day of the press conference, when I announced my retirement to the media, they asked me what I was going to miss most about the field. That’s when I shed some tears. I knew what I was going to miss the most. It was my relationships with some of my friends on the team. One thing ballplayers know is that there will be friends on their team that will be closer than brothers. We’re lucky to know that, and I already knew it from experience. So I got teary-eyed talking about a couple of close friends like that, Buster Posey and Matt Cain. Those two guys specifically are friends that are so close to me. I’d take a bullet for either one of those guys.

Those friendships, those relationships, that’s what I’m going to miss the most. I’m very relational in how I do things, and so I’m really going to miss the relationships that I developed on the field. That was the best part. Will there be other times and other relationships that are just as powerful? Yes, of course. Relationships that strong are ongoing. I have some of them in my home town, too. But seeing those guys all the time? I’m going to miss that a lot. I’m going to miss all that stuff that I got to do in the clubhouse and on the flights. I’m going to miss lunches, breakfasts, dinners on the road, just being with the guys on the team. And Buster and Cain, specifically, I will really miss.

But nothing meant more to me than being able to tell my children that I’m coming home. They missed me a lot. On the road, I’d call home every night, and they would say, “When are you coming home?” Or they’d ask, “When are you going to be done?” My oldest son was asking me when the road trip would end and the team would play at home. I just had so many times on the road where it was, “Are you home yet?” “How many days left till you get back?” “When are you coming home?”

That’s why, during my speech at my retirement ceremony, I told my children, “Daddy’s coming home.” That was the biggest thing, for them and for me. To say it then was to let them know that I always said that, but this time, it wasn’t temporary. This time, it was for good. This time, I was saying, “I’m going to be home a lot more now. Daddy’s coming home to stay.”

That meant so much. It meant a lot to my children, and it meant a lot to my family. Probably right then, only me and my family knew just how much it really meant. And I know that a couple of guys on the team knew too.

Whew. So yeah, I cried, talking about how much I would miss the guys I got to play with, and telling my children that I was coming home. It was such a great experience for me to be able to do that.

If you watched it, you know I shared my tears when I honored my wife, too. I’ll tell you about that next time. See you Thursday.

Prepare for Impact

I haven’t finished telling you just how grateful I am for the Giants community relations people. I started telling you last time, about the way they got to know my heart and match me with ideal opportunities. They allowed me to represent the Giants, and they also allowed me to represent my passion for teaching and modeling servant leadership.

Community relations personnel don’t have an easy job! Ballplayers have to dedicate themselves first and foremost to being the best and winning games. On top of that, some of us have families. And even after taking all of that into account, there’s just the fact that we’re not all the same. Ballplayers have different abilities and skills when it comes to showing our appreciation for the fans and participating in the community.

A lot of ballplayers don’t have the ability to do the kinds of things that I got to do. It’s not that they don’t have good hearts, because they do. It’s just that they don’t feel comfortable. So they focus in areas where they feel very comfortable, like signing autographs. That’s their way of being part of the community. In other areas they don’t feel as comfortable, and that’s okay. That’s just not them, while I feel comfortable in all areas. I can go where I’m needed, signing autographs, representing the organization, going on speaking engagements, and going into the community to just hang out and talk.

So as long as I had availability, it was relatively easy for the Giants to find things for me to do. I just told them, “I love the community and I love being with people, but my wife’s my first priority. We have three boys at home. These are our three young leaders and I have to serve them first.” The front office understood that and supported me. So they just worked with me! They discussed opportunities, letting me know what they had on deck. They asked me which ones I wanted to be a part of, and after I selected the ones I wanted, then they would work on times and dates. They always scheduled things so that I would have time with my family.

I was able to do stuff at the field too. If it was easier, we’d do community stuff there. I’d get with various groups and organizations on the field before the game, or after, if time was available. The Giants’ community relations people really did everything they could in order to make sure that I was involved in the community in the way that I wanted to be involved, and still be with my family.

It was an awesome relationship. To be able to go out and do all those things that I got to do, and to have the impact that I was able to have, was really exciting. God allowed those doors to be opened to me. I walked through them, and I was excited to walk through them, and I was just so honored to be part of the Giants. I think it was God’s goal the entire time. He just needed to shape me to where I could handle what the Giants could throw at me. That’s because He knew the kind of impact that I could have in that city, and the kind of impact that city was going to have on me. I needed to be ready for it, so that I wouldn’t let it pass before my eyes without even knowing what happened. In the first half of my career, God shaped me for those seven years in San Francisco. He prepared me for impact.

Hopefully He’ll allow me to make an even bigger impact now, in that city, and in different cities, around the country and in the world. You haven’t seen the last of me!

I still have a little more to share about my retirement ceremony. See you Monday.

Honored to Honor Others!

I mentioned last time that the Giants gave me an on-field retirement ceremony that for me, was overwhelming. When I started this game, I never thought I would have an opportunity like that. Especially in the middle of my career when I was struggling! I never thought that a day like that would come, or that I’d have an opportunity to do what I did. I never thought I’d get to retire the way I did, or to go out of the game the way that I got to go out. I mean, that ceremony was really, really awesome. Being able to end it like that, and to be invited to speak in the way that I was able to speak, put a stamp on my career that I never dreamed possible.

That ceremony was so special to me because it allowed me to honor the people that I wanted to honor. Actually, I wanted to honor so many more people than I could during the ceremony. We had a game to play, so I couldn’t stand out there talking for three hours! So there were a lot of people that I honored in private, behind closed doors. I just told them how much I appreciate them. I was able to speak to all of my teammates, even though I was only able to call out a few of them during the ceremony. I was able to speak to all of my coaches, even though I was only able to call out a few of those too.

And at the ceremony, I was able to publicly honor some of the really important people in my life. I was able to speak to my mom and my dad, my family, and my wife and my children. I was able to speak to the fans when they were right there in the stadium with me.

I got to say the things that I wanted to make sure I said before I walked away from the game. I got to say the things that I felt in my heart needed to be said.

It was so important to me! I’m so fulfilled! Even now, when I’m at home, or out in the woods, or doing whatever I’m doing, I don’t have any regrets. I never say to myself, “Man, I wish I had said this,” or, “I wish I had said that.” I don’t have that feeling. I know I said everything I needed to say, and the Giants made that possible for me. I was very honored by the organization. I was honored by how they put the ceremony together and for everything they did, including flying my family in for the occasion and taking really good care of them during the days leading up to the event.

It was just a great time. It was just really awesome. And it was an honor that I never thought I would have.

I don’t wish my that career would have gone any other way than it did. I’ll be honest: I don’t wish some parts of my career on anyone! But in the end, overall, I don’t wish my life had gone any other way. I never look to God and say, “Man, God, I wish you would have let some things go differently for me.” I never do that, because I really feel like what I learned, and what I was able to accomplish, all happened according to His awesome plan.

More on this next time. See you Monday.

Opportunity to Celebrate!

The San Francisco Giants celebrated my retirement from baseball with an on-field ceremony, and it was epic.

There are those rare, really special players that announce their retirement at the beginning of the season, and then all season long, teams give them farewell ceremonies when they come in for a series. We saw that with Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter. But normally when a reliever retires, he just retires. So what the Giants did for me was overwhelming.

I had several reasons to retire. My body was hurting a little bit more than usual. I was missing my kids — and I mean I was missing them a LOT. I also felt like I wasn’t pitching the way I wanted to pitch.

I could have probably played another year, and maybe even two years. It would have been with several teams, I think. I would have bounced around a little bit, and I might have been with teams I didn’t want to be with. I just didn’t feel like doing that.

I had a lot of conversations with people in the Giants front office, and I got some pretty good advice. Some of it came from a man I respect quite a bit. He said to me, “You know what? Out of all the times you could retire, this is the perfect time, because you’ll be able to retire with the team you want to retire with.” He asked me, “How many more adrenaline rushes do you need in your career?”

I said, “I don’t need any more. I’ve got three world championships.”

He said, “Right. It’s time. And it’s okay. No one is going to be surprised about it. And even better,  no one is ever going to look at your retirement and call it a huge disappointment. You have had a great career, and you’re with the team you want to retire with. What if you go with another team next year? Then suppose they release you halfway through the year? Maybe you’re not pitching how you want to pitch, or maybe the season doesn’t go their way. Then they cut ties with you so they can bring up a younger guy and give him some big-league experience. So then you sign a one-day contract back with us, just so you can retire as a Giant. That does not make a whole lot of sense. What makes sense is to retire now, when you’re already with us.”

You know what else he said? He said, “You need to allow us to celebrate you.”

I wasn’t sure about that. I told him, “I don’t know if I want to be celebrated. You know, it’s kind of a lot of hoopla, and I’m not a big hoopla guy.” But he told me, “No, it helps bring closure. Let us honor you. Let us celebrate you a little bit, and you’ll be able to pay a little bit of respect to the people you want to pay your respects to.”

That was important to me. And it was overwhelming. The Giants were the team that I wanted to retire with, and they wanted to honor me.

More on this next time. See you Thursday.