Red Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski is keeping a diary this season for ESPNBoston.com. In this installment, he talks about why he asked for a meeting with John Farrell, what David Ortiz was like before he became Big Papi, the keys to a long career, and his unique daily routine. (As told to Louise K. Cornetta)
We're a month into the season now. For me, the hardest part of adjusting to a new team is just trying to figure out personalities, where you stand and where you're supposed to fit in. Especially on a team like Boston, which won the World Series last year and still has a lot of the same guys. I've just been trying to figure out how to go about things and to learn from them. The players have been awesome and so have the fans and coaches. Everyone here has been great in helping me with this transition to a new team, but the hardest part is figuring out, especially in the clubhouse, where you fit in and what your role/job is supposed to be.
As a catcher, you also have to figure out pitchers and scouting reports. I'm lucky there because pitching coach Juan Nieves and I were together for a long time in Chicago. So we kind of speak the same language. Rossy [David Ross] has helped. Having him around as someone who already knows these guys has been huge. Facing guys is different than actually having them on your team, where you really have to learn them. Every day is an adjustment period, and every day is a learning experience.
I wasn't expecting the meeting that I asked for with John Farrell to get out, but since it has, what I'll say on it is it was a positive meeting. There were some things I wanted to talk to him about. People are making a big deal out of it when really it was just me getting a few things off my chest that I wanted to talk to him about, and we got them settled. There was no yelling and screaming. There was no negativity. It was just a positive conversation. Really, the entire conversation was all positive. Basically, I felt like I wasn't playing baseball the way I have my whole career and I just wanted to talk to him about a couple of things, and that was it. I felt we needed to have it, and we did and now we move on.
I know I hit that grand slam against Toronto a few days after the meeting, and maybe the meeting had something to do with that, but I don't know. We hadn't gotten a hit in that game up until that point, and that gave us the lead. Toronto isn't a place I have done really well in throughout my career at all. It was nice to do that and to see the looks on guys' faces and the excitement.
It's always fun to hit a grand slam. I hadn't hit one in a long time. I used to hit them all the time. It had been five years since my last one. The best part was my kids got to see it. They were watching on TV. So they got to jump up and down a little bit. It was cool to get calls and texts from them.
I have to say, the game of baseball is pretty much all mental. Yes, physically your body has to be healthy enough to get out there, but you can also talk yourself into it a lot of times when maybe you shouldn't go out there. What people don't understand when they watch on TV or in the stands and wonder how we missed a pitch or didn't make a play is even though we're professional athletes and paid to do this and are fortunate in what we do, there are times you are just in a daze out there because you start thinking about everything way too much -- hitting, fielding, whatever it is. It gets in your head. Next thing you know, a ball has gone past you or you strike out and you don't even know what happened.
It's all mental. The hardest part of this job is even when you're 0-for-15, you have to keep telling yourself you're a good player and you can still get a hit. The time that this game really wears on you is when you constantly have to remind yourself that you're good at what you do. Sometimes the results don't bear that out, but you have to believe in yourself and almost lie to yourself at times to say, "Hey, I can still do this."
I've been catching for a long time now. If you want to know the key to a long career, I'd say it's luck. I've been lucky with not having a lot of foul tips, and while I've had collisions at home plate, nothing has been serious. Obviously, I also put in the time. I work out, pretty much, every day. I do something every day to get my body going. Then it's like I mentioned -- sometimes you have to lie to yourself to say, "Hey, I can go out there and play." You can be completely exhausted, but you tell yourself you can play because your team needs you to get out there. You tell yourself you can do it. That's really a lot of the reason I've been playing this long.
When I was just coming up and playing in Minnesota, I basically just went out there and played. I was young and dumb and didn't really know what was going on. As you get older, you learn more about your body. You learn more about how things are done. You know what you need to do. You might take fewer swings in the cage for example, depending on how you feel and what your body is telling you. I think you just learn more about your body and how to be a professional as you get older. You're not just running out there every day full of energy. There are days you come in with no energy, but you have to find a way to get through it. You make adjustments on the fly. The more you play, the more you do it every day, you figure things out and know how to deal with those low-energy days.
So looking at this team a month into the season, I'd say things have been good. Our record isn't where we want it to be. I think we'll be OK. We're doing a lot of good things where we are getting guys on base. We just haven't gotten that big hit, which was why Dustin Pedroia's grand slam was huge Friday night and Jonny Gomes' grand slam was huge on Saturday. I know it's been a little frustrating. But I told Jackie [Bradley Jr.] that if he keeps hitting those doubles, I'll be happy to continue scoring from first for him like I did in our first game against the A's this series.
Some of our pitchers haven't thrown the way they can, but then Buck [Clay Buchholz] had a big start and Dooby [Felix Doubront] threw good, and the other three guys have been pretty good. I think we're headed in the right direction. It's hard to judge a team until you're 50 to 60 games in. We're 30 games in right now and only a few games out of first place. We're still in it. It's not like we buried ourselves. We've played about as bad as we could have played and we're still right there.
I'm from Florida. I'm ready for some warm weather. I don't care how hot it is. I'll take it hot any day over cold. From what I've heard, it's been typical New England weather. It's been cold, damp, windy and everything you'd expect it to be. You have to get through those. Having played in Chicago a long time, you kind of knew you had to fight and get through April, then see where you're at come May and then re-evaluate. If you can survive when it's cold, then when it warms up, hopefully things can get better. Here, it will get better and the weather will get better. It will be nice to run out there on the field and actually have a sweat instead of 14 pounds of clothes on.
Baseball is meant to be played in warm weather. You're supposed to have sweat. You're supposed to have moisture on your fingers. You're supposed to feel loose. When it's cold you don't feel that. It's weird because you'll go out there and catch and run around and you're not sweating. There's just nothing there. Then you go sit in the dugout and there's a heater blowing on you to stay warm. You have three pairs of pants and four shirts on. You feel like the Stay Puft Marshmallow man running around out there. Baseball wasn't meant to be like that. Baseball is meant to be played hot and free while having fun. When it's cold, it's hard to do all those things.
I know David Ortiz likes warm weather better. When I think of the David Ortiz I played with when we were both with the Twins and now, the biggest difference is David is a star now. He always thought he was a star back then, but he hadn't hit that level yet. Now he really is a star. It's just amazing to see because I still look at him as David from when I knew him 15 years ago. Now to see him is just so funny to me because people bow down to him. It's great, and I love him for it, and he hasn't changed at all. He always thought he was that guy, and he wasn't, but he has become that guy now. It's so cool to see how he's become this megastar. I love it, and it's fun to watch how he interacts with people and deals with it all. It really is awesome.
As usual, I'll end this with something you may not know about me and that is how I go about my day during the season. People have called what I do craziness rather than a routine or superstition. I've actually toned it down a little bit over the years because I'm getting too old and maybe I'm senile because I've forgotten a lot of it. But back when I was younger, I had a crazy, insane way I'd go about the day. I do little things, like if a left-handed pitcher is starting for us, I would do everything left-handed that day, and vice-versa for a righty. I always do the same stuff in the batting cage, hitting and on the field. Nobody ever notices, but it's just a routine I always do.
Nothing is really outlandish, like I don't have to brush my teeth at the same time or eat at the same restaurant every day or something. I've only told a couple of people about my routine. One of them was Harmon Killebrew and the other Rick Reilly. It takes about two hours to explain everything. Killebrew and I were out at dinner, and it really took about two hours to go through it all. Reilly, I told when we went to the World Series in 2005 and he wanted to do an article about it. My wife doesn't even really know. I've told her bits and pieces but not the whole thing. You really wouldn't notice unless you knew what to look for. I guarantee nobody on this team knows anything about what I do every day.
I only do this during the season. It's so nice in the offseason when I don't have to worry about it. It starts from the time I wake up, and it's just what I do on a daily basis as a routine to get myself ready to play. For example, with Jon Lester pitching Saturday, I'd have my left foot hit the floor first when I get out of bed, because he's a lefty. I'll pick everything up with my left hand. Stuff like that.
As players, we don't say it's being superstitious; we call it developing a routine. Every day is so up and down whether you win or lose or get hits or no hits, whatever it is. If you don't have that routine, you drive yourself crazy. Whereas if you can just do everything the same, then you know what you're doing every day and don't have to worry about revamping after a loss or something. There's no deviation from day to day. You go about your day the same way, and then, boom, it's time for the game, you play the game and then start all over. It's a way to keep your day in order because otherwise it can go to shambles if you let it.