Saturday, July 9, 2011
McHugh: The Concept of Home
By Collin McHugh
Double-A Binghamton pitcher Collin McHugh, an 18th-round pick in 2008 who hails from Atlanta, chronicles his life as a Mets minor leaguer on his personal blog, "A Day Older, A Day Wiser." He will periodically have those entries carried on ESPNNewYork.com as well.
Courtesy of Binghamton Mets
It was 10:45 and I had slept through two alarms already. Not that there was any real hurry. I mean, I was in a Holiday Inn Express in New Britain, Conn. I always tell myself that I'll get up for the free continental breakfast...I never do. I rolled out of bed in my (purposefully) pitch black room and decided I better try to get something to eat. Throwing on my fake Ray Ban Wayfarers and some athletic shorts I began the trudge down the hill to the restaurants. Passing McDonald's, Wendy's, KFC, I came to a favorite of mine, Dunkin Donuts. I walked in, alone. Sat down, alone. And ate my bagel and donut...alone. It got me thinking of my favorite coffee spots back home; back in Atlanta. Octane, the cool hipster hangout with coffee, beer, and local art. Java Vino, my meeting place with my guys on early Monday mornings. Even the local Starbucks by Ashley's mom's house. The one with the deck overlooking little Lake Lucerne. God, how it made me miss home! Thinking about it, though, home was a very transient thing for us at this point. In fact, all minor leaguers struggle with this concept to an extent. Allow me to explain.
Since I made the decision to play professional baseball I've had 13 different mailing addresses, not to mention the 6 different home ballparks that things get sent to as well. There's a list now. A list of every Bill/account we have to notify every time we move, so that we can continue living a semi-normal life. Right now, Ashley and I still have mail coming to at least 4 of those addresses. So which one do we call "Home"? Is it the one that we most recently lived in, have a deposit on, have bills in our name there? Is it the one we live in now, where we pay rent, have a lease, and a bed? Is it our parents' houses? When we aren't in our own apartments we are usually there. Couldn't that count? The point is, there is no such thing as a "home" for us right now. We are migrant, transient workers who call home wherever it is that we lay our heads.
Some guys get the privilege of living at home with their parents in the offseason. I say privilege because that residence isn't likely to change any time soon. They can buy stuff, keep it there, and not worry about paying for it to stay there. They can come back after the season and pick up exactly where they left off. It's not everybody, but it is a privileged few. Then there are those guys who live light. They carry a few bags full of clothes in their car and drive wherever they want to for the offseason. They usually end up staying with "buddies" in some city and workout/party there for a few months til it's time for the season once again. They have very few string attached anywhere and that's the way they like to keep it. Then there's me. I am married...very very happily I might add! So I don't have to think about one residence at a time. I have to think about 2. Where I lay my head at night is usually taken care of either in the form of a hotel or whatever place I can find a room in during the season. My wife, however, doesn't get that option. In order to preserve sanity and foster the remnants of a "normal" life, she has stayed at home during Spring Training the last couple years. She has been responsible for packing up/cleaning/moving out of our offseason apartments. Not just moving it, but putting it all in a storage unit that we pay for during the season. After I find a place for the season, she then comes to wherever I get assigned and lives there with me in our season home. This is still far from ideal, because we are away from friends, family, and local coffee shops. We're away from "home". But how about we throw a wrench in the situation and see what happens to this concept of home.
About a month and a half into the season we were going to head out on an 8 day road trip. Seeing this as an opportunity for Ashley to get home, see friends, and get some work done for her small business, we decided that she would go back to Atlanta and stay with her mom for the road trip. We got to the last day of the road trip and were excited about seeing each other again! Then the news came...I'm going to Double A. Great news, right? Sort of. On one hand we were excited that my career was moving forward and that we could see progress. On the other hand, it meant that Ashley was stuck in limbo between Atlanta, St. Lucie, and Binghamton. The fact that you never know how long you will be in one place didn't help either. I could've be there for one week, 2 weeks, or the rest of the year...you never know. So we decided that we would wait and see if I was staying or not before she packed up (again) and moved to a new home (again). One week turned into 2. Then 4. Then 6 weeks! Every time we thought "Ok, we can move now" something else popped up and the reality that it might not be a good choice pushed back our timeline. This past week she finally got up here. She had to fly because she's going back to Atlanta in a couple weeks and driving 1000-plus miles in two weeks just didn't seem like a good plan. So there we are, at a house in Binghamton, with no car, none of our friends from Atlanta, and no family. We felt pretty "homeless". But we have each other.
It's not always enough to simply be together. It doesn't change the fact that our stuff is in storage, or that we have a week at the end of the season to find another apartment in Atlanta. It doesn't change the fact that we've seen each other for a whopping 16% of the time since spring training. And it definitely doesn't guarantee that we won't have to move again before Sept. 7. But as of right now, it is the closest thing we have to "home." You begin to realize that this concept of home can be easily attained by putting down physical roots, buying a house, getting a 9-5 job, and playing ALTA tennis. But there is something deeper and more permanent that you can do to realize what home is. You can invest your life in another person, so that wherever you go and whatever you do "home" is never more than a phone call away.