T he feeling you get when you win a Major League Baseball playoff series is tough to describe.
It’s almost like you don’t know where you are, and for a while you can’t feel anything. It’s as though your body doesn’t know what to make of it. It’s like you’re moving even though you’re just standing still.
But then there’s a certain energy that takes over when you reach the clubhouse to celebrate. It becomes a frantic scene of hugs and congratulations all around. There’s a sense of relief that the hard work has paid off, and a chance to appreciate everyone who helped the team get to that point. The champagne perfectly magnifies the energy.
And that feeling lasts.
It’s not the type of thing that fades away in a few minutes.
So after my Indians teammates and I punched our ticket to the World Series last Wednesday, celebrated together in the visitor’s clubhouse in Toronto and flew back home to Cleveland, it was another two nights before my sleep routine returned to normal. The night we clinched, I was full of energy — I could barely keep my eyes shut. But even the next night, that Thursday, I was still so excited from winning the ALCS that it was hard to sleep. I kept wanting to wake up to make sure this whole thing wasn’t a dream — that this was real life.
I have to say, it was nice when Friday rolled around and I got a solid night of sleep.
That lasted exactly one night.
Over the weekend, it started getting a little hard to fall asleep again. This time, though, it was because of anticipation for what’s to come.
I’d lay down, and I’d want to fall asleep, but the excitement of playing in a World Series was impossible to ignore.
Now that this moment has finally arrived, I can’t wait to take it all in.
The journey I’ve experienced had to happen. The good and the bad have combined to prepare me for this exact moment.
I’ll always remember after I was traded from the Yankees, I landed at a quiet Cleveland airport pretty late at night. I knew I was in for something special when the driver who picked me up told me how excited the city was to have me, and about how talk radio in Cleveland had been buzzing all day about the deal. He was going a mile a minute.
The driver told me all about the way the city had embraced the club — they had recently reeled off a 14-game winning streak, and everything seemed to be clicking. His enthusiasm made me eager to get to Progressive Field the next day.
And that was just the car ride from the airport.
Once I got into town and joined my teammates, my excitement continued to build even further. Having Tito Francona and Mike Napoli around certainly helped some, because I knew them well from my time with the Red Sox. Ultimately, everyone went out of their way to welcome me and my family. With the bullpen group in particular, we spent a lot of time together and immediately I felt like I fit in.
From there, I just kind of integrated myself into Tito’s clubhouse, and I’ve loved every minute of it.
He sets the tone from the top down, and because of that our team is incredibly loose. That’s his style, and it’s so much fun to be a part of it. Tito plays cribbage with guys constantly. Josh Tomlin and Jason Bere, our bullpen coach, engage in epic R.B.I. Baseball battles on the original Nintendo. Trevor Bauer is running around shooting GoPro videos. We are all over the place … but no one is walking on eggshells. We get to the ballpark early because we like hanging out with each other, and I think it’s paid off on the field with our results. It’s part of why we’ve made it to this point.
Obviously we have bigger goals ahead, and I think everybody is set on doing all they can to keep our clubhouse the way it has been all year. Now is not the time for change.
The season hasn’t always gone as planned, though. The number of injuries we have experienced has been staggering — especially when it comes to our starting pitching. Losing both Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar for extended periods of time was rough. Injuries of that nature might have had a greater impact on other teams, but we persevered.
Then the drone attacked Trevor Bauer.
After it happened, some guys showed frustration, other guys laughed. But there was nothing malicious on Trevor’s part. It was unfortunate, sure. But it could’ve happened to anybody doing something away from the field — washing dishes, or putting together a bookshelf. If anything, Trevor was just being himself and doing something he enjoyed when he got hurt. Be yourself is preached in a lot of places, but it’s often not accepted in reality.
At the end of the day, we really like our chances when Trevor is on the mound, and he did everything he could to be out there during the ALCS. Unfortunately, he was unable to limit the bleeding from his stitches and couldn’t make it out of the first inning of Game 3. Accidents happen, and good teams find a way to overcome them. We had a similar game in September when Carlos Carrasco broke his hand in the first inning. We drew from that experience, and when Trevor had to be taken out, we again found a way to win.
So, sure, the drone incident was bad luck and it’s not ideal.…
But it’s going to make for a hell of a story at some point down the line if we win this thing.
Of course, to prevail over a tremendous Cubs team and win it all, we’re going to need our fans to keep it up. They have brought a tremendous energy, and it will be hard to top what they’ve done to this point, but I expect them to be even better for the World Series.
Each round, the stadium has gotten a little bit louder … and this is the last series of the year. Everything’s at stake. There’s no reason to hold anything back.
If what I’ve seen around town the past few days is any indication, Indians fans are preparing to bring the noise like never before. The streets are flooded with fans in Indians gear. We are recognized in local restaurants and thanked for our efforts. The excitement is palpable. It really is all for one right now in this city.
Believe me, that makes a huge difference to the players on the field. We see that. We feed off the energy our fans bring to Progressive Field. We see it with the support from the world champion Cleveland Cavaliers. We appreciate the love from LeBron, and Richard, and J.R., and the rest of their team.
LeBron is the man when it comes to hyping up our fans.
It’s been a blast to have that support from the Cavs, and, without question, LeBron is the man when it comes to hyping up our fans. I think the only way our stadium could be louder than when they show him on the jumbotron would be if we were to walk one off to win the World Series. That’s it.
He’s that important of a figure here.
We all want to bring a championship to Cleveland just like he did. That is the goal we are fighting toward.
If that were to happen, it would be the culmination of an incredible journey for me — and one that, in retrospect, seems like it may have been destined to happen.
In so many ways, I feel like there are analogies that can be drawn between this 2016 Indians team and my career as a major league pitcher.
A lot of baseball people picked this team as a potential contender at the beginning of the year. Everyone got on the bandwagon when the club started winning, and it was all pretty great. But the injuries began happening, and that bandwagon kind of fell apart.
The team never gave up or lost focus. We’ve grinded, and we’ve worked, and we’ve gotten better over time. And that’s what I hope people would say about me as a player.
I came into the league as a prospect and a high draft pick, but for a while things didn’t go as I had hoped. I struggled, I experienced a few injuries and gradually some people started hopping off my bandwagon. But I never stopped believing in myself. In some ways, I appreciate that I’ve had to work incredibly hard to get to where I am today. It makes this run of success that much sweeter.
At the end of the day, I don’t think what I went through is anything special. This game isn’t easy. There are a select few players — the guys who are the best of the best in the world — who are able to be successful in the major leagues quickly and on a consistent basis. But those are the outliers. For the rest of us, it is a grind. Finding a way to push through and keep moving forward is just a reality of being a major league baseball player.
I always felt like I had the ability to perform at this level, even when the results weren’t there. I also feel like the journey I’ve experienced along the way had to happen. The good and the bad have combined to prepare me for this exact moment; a chance to play in the World Series.
It is a dream scenario.
Through the ups and the downs, I wouldn’t change a single thing. I’m in the perfect place at the perfect time.
This is going to be really fun, Cleveland. Let’s bring another championship trophy home.
See you at the stadium!