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.

4 Responses

  1. Scott C

    I have always felt for Mesoraco, so much potential to be great but cut short by injuries. Of course, the other side of that coin was at least he made it and had his day in the sun. I agree, it must have been weird for him to get traded to the team the Reds were playing at the time. But the again, even though first days can be hard, they can also be exciting. The bad thing about first days is you don’t know what they day hold, the good thing is that you don’t know what they hold. For the most part I prefer first days over last days. Those can be hard as well. I hope we can all live by the simple platitude “Today is the first day of the rest of your life.” I hope it is a long time until the last day.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      I felt sad when I saw what his fate was, but he seems to enjoy coaching and the kids are thrilled to have his expertise. And his story isn’t over yet!

      Good attitude on your part. Our supply of fresh starts is kind of amazing, isn’t it?

  2. Mark Moore

    Mesoraco was a great talent and, if you recall, we chose him over Grandal (who promptly got suspended for roids). Yet only one is actively playing. Love that Mesoraco is back home helping young talent.

    These past few columns have been fantastic, MBE! And this one comes as I face a “last” that will lead to a “first”. My last day at my current employer is in just a week. My first day at whatever comes next is yet to be determined. And I’m completely okay with that.

    • Mary Beth Ellis

      So nice of you. And best wishes on your new adventure. Find the bathroom and the rest is extraneous, if not easy 🙂