As Red Sox reliever Daniel Bard said, "There are not many better feelings in the world than coming out of the bullpen in Fenway Park."
So how does the fireballer get prepared for such a shock to the system?
Believe it or not, it starts with breakfast.
"I prepare the same way every game," Bard said. "I think most relievers would tell you the same thing. If you don't have a good routine set before the game, I don't think you're going to last too long in the big leagues."
Having a healthy routine helps Bard ensure that he will be the same pitcher each time he takes the mound, regardless of the situation. In baseball, no two situations are ever alike, making that routine imperative. And when one faces the pressure-packed scenarios in which Bard often finds himself, protecting leads late in a game, having a schedule in place can make all the difference.
"Every guy in our 'pen has a pretty strict routine to follow before the game," he explained. "It's not even superstitious. You know your body's going to feel good [if you follow the routine]."
Following a routine is important even if you're not a big leaguer.
"Breakfast is a great example. Getting into the habit of starting your day with a balanced meal will help you feel energized and ready for anything," said Liz Moore, a registered dietician at the CardioVascular Institute at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. "Try to include a combination of carbohydrates and protein, choosing items high in fiber to keep you feeling satisfied. It can make a big difference."
Without ever knowing if the game will require his services or not, Bard eats, visits the trainer and even showers at the same time every day, or at least as it relates to the game time. Once physically set, he heads to the bullpen, where he gets prepared for what could be a lengthy stay. Several hours might pass before the reliever is needed, if at all.
During the game, he continues to prepare. The 24-year-old first stretches his body in the fourth inning. He does so again in the sixth, two innings earlier than many of his appearances will be in 2010. He then studies hitters and begins to visualize himself on the mound. And when the call finally comes for him, Bard is so physically and mentally ready that he can turn it on in an instant.
"You can go from talking to the guy next to you about something totally unrelated to the game, and then the phone rings, and you've got to flip the switch," he said.
When your ducks are in a row, it is that much easier to transition from shooting the breeze with a teammate to putting the outcome of the game on your shoulders, he added.
Bard, who will be entrusted to protect several leads this year, learned how to handle the pressure in his 49-game stint as a rookie last year. He was 2-2 with a 3.65 ERA while pitching 87 percent of the time in the often stressful innings of seven through nine.
While his pinpoint preparation and electric stuff carry him much of the way, Bard relies on a natural hormone to get him over one final obstacle — nerves.
"I just let the adrenaline do the work," he said. "That extra adrenaline doesn't allow for those distractions."
Routine, preparation and adrenaline. Put them together, and you earn the right to experience "one of the better feelings in the world."