In this season of assessment of trades– my middle reliever for your third-string catcher–and playoff shifting, my thoughts turn, as always, to Devin Mesoraco.
This was the All-Star catcher who reported to the Reds clubhouse and found himself batting in a Mets uniform by the end of the game. Such an incident reframes first day of work nerves.
I wonder what it’s like for players who are shunted from one team to the next. How does that… work, emotionally? Here in fandom, we say “Wait, what?” or “Good!” or “Meh” and move on with our lives (I must admit that I had to look up what happened to Mes—he’s retired and volunteering as a college coach. Out of batting order, out of mind.)
These people are, of course, well-paid for their broken leases and the strain of working through who to eat with in the cafeteria. But one clubhouse to the other, midgame? No. Give the man a chance for one last coney.
But receiving orders to move to an entirely different city, with new bosses, fans, schedules, food, workouts, and playing surfaces strikes me as one of the loneliest turns in the world. The guys you used to glare at are now your teammates. Maybe the first day is the worst, and then everything after that is just a matter of finding your new city’s closest Olive Garden.
We’re not jerked from one chapter of life to the next quite as violently. We tend to know these kinds of things are coming. We’re just not necessarily happy about it.
I crossed a certain milemarker of maturation this month: Although having graduated from college five minutes ago, my age group is now attending parents’ meetings at freshman orientation. One of the couples I met in college just dropped off their eldest son. They’re the first canaries down the golden years coal mine. Such events do not go unnoticed.
This hurt in a way seeing my friends’ rapidly growing progeny advance another grade level did not. First day of high school and college is a matter of a massive life shift. First day of fourth grade means you’re sussing out who scored the best Kohl’s Cash shoe grab. For there are first days, and there are first days.
The tale of a career and a life isn’t told in first days, though. The story truly unfolds in all the days that follow.
Having worked eighty million different jobs myself, I flinch from the reminder that the first day is always the worst. It most certainly is not. Everybody knows it’s your first day. The margins for royally screwing up will never be as wide as they are on Day One.
Such was my high school experience: On Day One we were massed in the school theater and handed a class schedule, then told to go home. Day Two was worse than Day One because that’s when the algebra textbook showed up, and also when I ended the evening crying on the living room floor. Day Five was when I was late for the religion class happening twelve feet down the hall because I suddenly couldn’t figure out my locker combination. On Day Twenty-Seven the new friend I thought I’d found suddenly stopped talking to me. No explanation. The panic attacks started on Day 122 and weren’t properly diagnosed until Day 34 of college four years later.
But when I look back on high school, those aren’t the days I primarily think about, because I was in a very good place with very good people. The bad days were blurred over by the grind of bio class, writing skits, little globs of frozen chocolate chip cookie dough lifted from the cafeteria freezer.
Decisions made on Day 58 might bounce all the way into Day 174. But Day 1? You don’t even get homework on Day 1. You just have to make it off the bus.
So unless you’re Devin Mesoraco, the first day isn’t necessarily the worst. Maybe it’s the second day. Maybe it’s the fiftieth. Having been married 14 years, I can tell you the first day wasn’t the worst day; we ate cheesecake and people gave us mixing bowls. This was of small comfort on Day 1827 when both my husband and I, crushed by student loan debt and every other kind of debt, found ourselves simultaneously unemployed.
I guess what keeps these guys going—what made my husband and I wake up on the morning of Day 1828, terrified but at least terrified in the same bed—is the idea that even if the worst day is still ahead, there’s every chance that the best day is, too. Like when I found out I’d made the school’s Mock Trial team. Like the day Mesoraco found out he was an All-Star. Like last week, when Josh sent an e-check to dismiss the last cent of the last student loan.
One of the many glories of baseball is that everyone, everywhere gets a simultaneous first day every single year. The even better news is that no matter how it goes, there are still 161 days to even it all out.