Maintaining some semblance of normalcy in a constant coast-to-coast occupation is never easy. Every player has his own routine away from the park, but each one is critical to being able to head to the park each and every day and not have it feel like Groundhog Day.
Of course, actual game times have plenty to do with a player’s choice of activities. A night game means there isn't much to do other than hit the hay when all is said and done. The mornings would then offer up an opportunity to freestyle. Day games give way to open nights, which can involve dinner or a night on the town.
Many players like to golf if they ever get the chance. But the links aren’t for Dan Wheeler, a 12-year veteran who has been to every city in the majors many times over. He actually prefers to get away from sports for a bit. One way is to head to the local cinema.
"Instead of spending five hours on the golf course, I'd rather spend five hours at a movie theater," said Wheeler, who signed a one-year deal with the Red Sox this offseason. "I kind of like it because you go in, and you be quiet for a couple of hours and just lose yourself in the movie. I think that's the most important thing, where I can get away from everything."
Some of those decisions also depend upon the city. If Wheeler doesn’t care for the road stop, a movie would work just fine — those are the same in any city. If the trip is in Seattle, Chicago or San Francisco, where the Red Sox stay when they play the Oakland A's, he'll make more of a point to get out and about. Those are his favorite spots on the road.
This process can be particularly important in a role like that of a reliever, whose actual work changes from day to day and is impossible to predict. Performing well when the call comes at a moment's notice can often depend upon preparation, and preparation involves managing time away from the park as well.
Whether you make your living as a relief pitcher or not, finding activities to do away from the job is important.
As Chief Information Officer at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Dr. John Halamka, deals with the daily stress of managing online systems that help save lives. At least once in a while, he tries to get as far away from technology as possible.
"I do not worry about my Blackberry when I'm 4,000 feet up on a nine millimeter rope," says Dr. Halamka, an avid rock climber. "Climbing, kayaking and winter mountaineering recharge my spirit, reinvigorating my brain for the work ahead."
That said, for a ballplayer, there is something to maintaining consistency on the road. Even with the monotony of clubhouse, game, clubhouse, hotel — a pattern still must be observed.
"The thing that helps us so much throughout the year is a routine, and you kind of get used to doing that," Wheeler said. "You realize that we're actually not going to these cities on vacation, so we've got to keep that mindset and that edge, I think, so that when you go on the road, we play to the ability that we need to play."
You also have to have the ability to stay fresh, both mentally and physically. It's an important component in a job where the rigors of the road can wear you down.