I’ve Got Some Things to Say

                          Will Vragovic/Tampa Bay Rays

                          Here’s something about that World Series Game 6 — and about baseball in general — that lots of people probably overlook.

                          Sometimes the tiniest little thing can make a huge difference in a game. And sometimes, you know what … sometimes it’s a tiny little thing that no one even sees.

                          That was the case with me in the sixth inning of that Game 6. Let me break it down for you here.

                          First off, I don’t think I’m bragging or exaggerating or whatever in saying that I was dealing in that game. I mean, I was on. I just was. Anyone who watches baseball will tell you that. I was pitching the game of my life that night. 

                          And when you’re doing that, and you’re in the moment, and you’ve got it rollin’, all you’re thinking about is who’s up and what’s my game plan. You’re just 100% dialed in and focused on how to get guys out.

                          So, throughout that whole game, I’m super focused. I know what the Dodgers hitters are looking for, I know what pitches to throw each dude who comes up, and I know exactly where I’m going to locate those pitches. Everything’s clicking. I just basically have to keep doing what I’m doing.

                          Then ... I’m jogging to the hill to start the sixth, and, in the distance, I see Anderson out there in the bullpen warming up.

                          ?????????????????????????

                          I don’t think I’m bragging or exaggerating or whatever in saying that I was dealing in that game.

                          Blake Snell

                          It’s like, What the heck?

                          In my head I’m like, Man, I’m making history out here. I’ve never been this good against such a great team. Why is this man warming up right now?

                          And, of course, I’ve been around for a few years now, so I’ve seen this scenario play out for our team, including in the postseason. I know what’s up.

                          Damn, I’m really about to be taken out of this game. This is really happening.

                          In a split second, that’s all I’m thinking about. I can’t help it.

                          I’m no longer thinking about how I’m going to start off A.J. Pollock that inning, or what I know Mookie will be looking for when he comes up. None of that.

                          Now I’m thinking about how I’m about to get pulled from the biggest game of my life.

                          Kevin Jairaj/USA TODAY Sports

                          And look, man, believe me, I’d love to tell you this wasn’t the case. That it’s possible to see something like that and just totally, totally ignore it. And, I don’t know, maybe some guys can. But for me….

                          It just triggered my mind and put all sorts of uncertainty in my head.

                          It absolutely messed up my thought process.

                          If I don’t see that, and I go out there for that inning, I’m still totally locked in and focused on the guys coming up and the game plan. There is zero chance of my mind wavering.

                          Literally zero chance.

                          If I don’t see that, and I go out there for that inning, I’m still totally locked in and focused on the guys coming up and the game plan.

                          Blake Snell

                          Instead, here’s what’s going through my head: Dude, please don’t give up a hit right now. Just get these guys out. Whatever you do, don’t give up a hit! I went from being like, These dudes cannot touch me, to Please don’t get a hit off me because I’m going to get yanked after even like one weak hit up the middle.

                          Seeing our guy warming up like that ... I’m just being real: It wrecked my whole rhythm, everything I had built up over the entire game.

                          And, then, well … you know the rest. An hour or so later the Dodgers are world champions.

                          Season’s over. End of story. 

                          After something like that happens, of course, everyone wants to ask me about the manager. And why he made that call.

                          I get it. I really do.

                          But what I have to say about that is pretty simple, actually. It’s not something that’s going to create some controversy or result in a crazy feud. It’s actually pretty boring.

                          The fact is: I have the utmost respect for Kevin Cash. And it’s not like he was trying to lose. He did what he thought was best. My dad was my manager coming up, and I really appreciate how tough that job is. You won’t see me get mad at a manager.

                          He has to live with his decisions, just like I have to live with my performances. He wanted to win as much as anybody. Sometimes things just don’t work out.  

                          I can’t get mad at him for that. I’m not going to get too worked up about it.

                          Harry How/Getty Images

                          My dad though? Man....

                          That night, after I left the stadium and got back to my hotel, I FaceTimed him. My dad pops up on the screen, and he’s just … bawling.

                          I’m talking real tears, bro. Even over the computer I can see the actual tears.

                          I honestly didn’t even know what to do when I saw that. I was just totally shocked. I’d literally never seen that man cry. Not once. In my entire life. Even when his mom passed away, the saddest moment imaginable, I didn’t see him cry.

                          Even just thinking about it now, it’s almost hard for me to believe it happened.

                          But at the same time, though, I get it.

                          Me and my dad have been on this baseball journey for a long time now. As a little kid, I was on a team that was the best in the state, and I was the worst player, the smallest one out there. And I took my lumps. But my dad, he always believed. “Don’t worry about those other guys,” he’d tell me. “You’re going to be better than all of them if you just keep working."

                          So that man has seen me go from the runt, to the best player on my select team, to getting a baseball scholarship to U-Dub, to getting drafted, to making it to the bigs, to winning the Cy Young.

                          He’s been there for all of it. Right by my side.

                          And now we get to the World Series, something we’d always dreamed about, and I’m pitching lights out. Everything is coming together for us. He was totally ready to see me accomplish something special. Then, in a five-minute span … it all comes crashing down.

                          And that man, he was just super sad when he saw it happen. It was like the destruction of a masterpiece we’d been working on for decades.

                          So those tears? Man, those tears had some real history behind them.

                          Courtesy of Blake Snell

                          It was weird, though, because in that moment, as emotional as it was … I didn’t even really respond.

                          I didn’t cry at all when I saw him crying. It was like I couldn’t feel anything at that point.

                          That whole night after the game, I didn’t know what to say or do. I just packed up my stuff and I was ready to go home. Then, the next day, I started thinking about maybe some things I’d say to the manager after everything cooled off.

                          I remember that I wanted to let a few months pass. Let some of the chatter die down.

                          But my whole plan was to get with Kevin down at spring training and ask him to give me a shot to go deeper in some games moving forward. To let me hopefully save the bullpen some, and prove to him that I could do it. I was going to tell him that I’d do anything to help us win, and that getting to pitch later into games was something I wanted to do for our team. I had everything I wanted to say all figured out in my mind.   

                          Then, a few weeks later, I got a text from the GM.

                          Everything changed for me in a flash.

                          I never got the chance to say that stuff to the manager.

                          When I got the text message on December 28 from the Rays GM, Erik Neander, saying he was going to give me a call in 10 minutes, I was watching basketball with my girlfriend at her parents’ place in Chicago.

                          Immediately I turned to her and … I basically called it.

                          “I’m getting dealt.”

                          “What? Where?”

                          “San Diego.”

                          I knew something was up because Erik never texted me before calling. And Tommy Pham had been hitting me up on text telling me how the Padres were interested in bringing me over. So I had a pretty good hunch. 

                           Ten minutes later, it was confirmed.

                          And then it was like … now what?

                          It’s out in the world five minutes after that, ESPN has it on the ticker, everyone’s talking about it. Talking about the new staff in San Diego, and what I’m going to mean to that team. And how stacked the Padres are, and on and on.

                          But me? Honestly? In that moment? I’m just like….

                          Damn, bro … this is pretty sad right now.

                          Mike Janes/Four Seam Images via AP Images

                          I couldn’t be happier to be a member of the Padres, obviously. This team is going to be so much fun to play on, and for fans to watch. And I truly believe that we have a legit shot to win it all this year.

                          I’m super excited.

                          But I want to be straight up here. I have to be honest. In that moment, and even for a few weeks after, there was a huge part of me that was just really, really sad.

                          This is going to sound corny, but my heart was tied super solidly to Tampa. I was there for 10 years. They believed in me, they drafted me, they built me up. That was my family. I knew all the coaches and everyone in the front office. I knew the security guards, the clubbies, the janitors. (Shout out to my guy, Bird, in clubhouse security at Tropicana Field … who will no longer have to worry about me hiding his phone or saying crazy stuff into the security radio when he wasn’t looking.)

                          These are people I saw every day for the last five years. I was good friends with my teammates, of course, but I was maybe even more close to the staff and the clubbies and security guards. I knew that, playing for the Rays, players would move in and out, but those staff members were the people I was going to see every day for years, and I knew I could count on that. We formed bonds.

                          I had real relationships with all those people. Then it’s just like … poof!

                          I may never see some of them again. 

                          No matter how awesome and fun and incredible the new team is that you’re going to … that stuff, the friendships and relationships, having that stuff disappear, it’s just….

                          It’s not easy.

                          It can hit you kind of hard when it all goes down.

                          Will Vragovic/Tampa Bay Rays

                          Here’s the good news, though — the sunny side.

                          Enough gorgeous, 85-degree fall days, and 10/10 burritos, and enough wins … and I’ll be all good.

                          Now that I’ve gotten to a place where I’ve moved forward from the trade and really examined what I’m stepping into here, I’m super, super excited. This team, I mean, it really is kind of crazy how good we can be. Even before they got me they were amazing. And now you add me and Yu to that?

                          That’s insane, bro. 

                          I just want to do everything I can to fit in and help us be the best team possible. And at this point, early on, I’m mainly just trying to get a sense of the vibe.

                          I’ve been talking as much as I can to my new teammates. Pham, obviously … that’s my guy from way back. Emilio Pagán. A bunch of guys. Manny!

                          Manny’s been great. After the trade, he reached out over Instagram, and then we just started texting after that. He kind of gave me the lay of the land, and we talked about doing some big things this year. (He also mentioned wanting to play me at Call of Duty. And I don’t know what to say about that, other than … I guess he doesn’t want to win.)

                          There are a bunch of young guys on this team who are looking to make their mark and put up some big numbers to start their careers. But you also have a good group of veteran players to learn from, too. Guys like Hosmer and Wil Myers and Nola and on and on. It seems like the perfect recipe for a ton of wins.

                          Will Vragovic/Tampa Bay Rays

                          And now I’m here to help get us those wins. Lots of them. That’s why they brought me over.

                          As for the fit? In my view, it couldn’t be more perfect. Because this team … they have fun. They play with swagger, and confidence. And I’m all about that.

                          I can already tell that this is going to be a team that fans will really enjoy watching. We’ve got a group of players who are going to play hard behind our pitchers, and straight up mash at the plate. And then you have pitchers who are going to pitch their butts off. We’re going to be locked in and have fun out there. And we’re going to get the fans involved in what we’re doing, which will be awesome.

                          And, I gotta say: It’s going to be really cool competing against the Dodgers so often.

                          We have some history, obviously. But I also just love playing against the best in the game. Whether it was the Yankees in the past, or the Dodgers now … it just makes me better. Facing the best means you have to step up your game, and I’m definitely ready to do that — and to hopefully pitch deeper into some games.

                          So I’m beyond ready to get this show on the road, and I can’t wait to show Padres fans what I’m all about.   

                          Let’s do this, San Diego!