Last week we went to the Diamondbacks-Rockies game, and I was surprised to see a familiar name. I was a Mariners fan in the early 2000’s, until management traded most of the players in the space of two years. It’s hard to continue to root for a team when you don’t recognize anyone ON that team.
Anyway, over the years it’s been a pleasant surprise when I’ve found an old Mariner on a different team. Especially when they’re doing well on that new team. So the other night, it was nice to look at the Diamondbacks roster and see Willie Bloomquist’s name (he was one of the few left – besides Ichiro – when I switched my allegiance to the Red Sox (at least I recognized them)). But it was weird seeing him in another uniform. (When I searched for these pictures, I found he also has played for Kansas City, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh.) He was one of my favorite players because he played any position they asked him to – you never knew where he’d pop up. But he did it with a smile, and did it well.
And it made me think about how most professional athletes don’t have a lot of say about where they play. One day they’re in Miami, the next day they wake up in Chicago. I wonder what it feels like for them to walk into their new locker room, greet new faces, and put on a new uniform. Do they do a double-take when they pass a mirror and see themselves in red instead of blue?
Granted, they’re paid a lot to play a game. But they still have to deal with the realities of change: moving their families, making friends, learning new routines, finding the supermarket and the post office. Obviously they still have the same skill set and the same personality, but everything else changes. How do they feel if they’re traded to an arch-rival, and their former teammates and best friends are now on the other side? I would think you’d feel a little schizophrenic: today I’m this person, tomorrow I’m that one.
But I guess change often makes people feel that way. Today I do things this way, tomorrow I’ll do things that way. Or today I live here, tomorrow I’ll live there. I’m usually a strong proponent of change but as I age, I begin to see how it can complicate things. Or at least cause a lot of work/unrest. I always looked at folks who stayed in the same job for 30 years and wondered how they did it; to me, that sounded boring. But maybe it’s the predictability that they appreciate; maybe they like knowing that each day will be similar to the last. Knowing where they belong.
Anyway, I wonder what Willie thinks when he sees that new uniform hanging in his locker. How he feels when he hears the score of the Mariners game – especially if they lose. I wonder if he feels like I do when I find myself in a new town, wondering how I got there – and where the nearest supermarket is.
Many things in life change, but there are some that remain constant. It’s those things that you hold onto when everything around you is in flux. You find an anchor to – well, to anchor you. Maybe he has a favorite glove or bat or lucky rabbit’s foot that grounds him, that connects him to where he was and who he is.
Change is inevitable. I just hope that in the midst of it you can find something to hang onto, to anchor you, until the new becomes old. Or at least familiar. Until you get used to that new uniform.
And find the supermarket.