Archive for March 14th, 2010

Interview With Former Minor Leaguer Garrett Broshuis

On the heels of last week’s retirement announcement, I asked Garrett Broshuis a few questions about what went into the decision, what it meant to go out on a high note, and what comes next.

First of all, congratulations on your spectacular failure to become a major leaguer. This isn’t a Brett Favre style retirement, is it? You’re not gonna show up in a month with an “aw shucks” smile and a shrug and be like, “Changed my mind!” Are you?

Well, funny you ask that. After further consideration, I’ve decided to (drumroll please)…stay retired. Actually I did just visit our minor league spring training complex a few days ago. Everyone looked at me like I was crazy, but I was just there to visit teammates. I gave a few hugs, shook some hands, offered face-to-face “thank you”s and left. What’s odd is that it didn’t even really feel odd to be there.

Seriously, though, the decision to retire couldn’t have been an easy one. What was the mental process behind the decision, from the end of last season up to Tuesday?

Really I started having thoughts during the season, which is never good. My wife had surgery and I was stuck in A ball at 27-year-old. Then I went up to AAA for one start before being shuffled back to AA. That was probably the turning point, where the thoughts really set in.

There were a lot of sleepless nights during the second half of the season. I played this one song by the Shins over and over again to the point where I thought I was going crazy. (In reality I probably was slightly crazy.) I didn’t actually make the decision though until around a month or so ago.

Who did you tell first? Did they or anyone else try to talk you out of it?

Well, I guess I told my mom and my wife first, but then I had to make the actual phone call to the Giants’ organization. I called up Bobby Evans while I was watching my wife do an indoor triathlon (talk about boring). He seemed a little surprised. They were willing to give me my release if I wanted to try to play with another organization, but I told him it was time to move on.

I talked to a few other coaches as well. Almost all of them told me that I made the right decision. They consistently said that too many players hold on for too long. The game wraps itself around you. It’s difficult to escape its web.

After talking with them, I was confident I’d made the right decision. After all, who wants a soft-throwing, aging righty anyways?

After a rough 2007 season in which you appear to have pitched well but couldn’t buy a win, you bounced back with solid seasons in 2008 and 2009. How important was it to you that your career end on a strong note?

Wow, that was an agonizing year. There were about 17 different moments that I wanted to take a bat to the Gatorade cooler and the Port-a-Potty.

It would’ve been very easy to just give up after my 2007 season, but I kept my head held high and used it as motivation. I re-dedicated myself to working as hard as I’d ever worked. I made a few adjustments. I heightened my focus a bit and had a very solid 2008 season. That’s probably the thing I’m most proud of in my baseball career (other than pinch-running once and sliding without breaking my neck). I persisted through rough times and didn’t give up.

What comes next? I’ve seen mention of law school, and you’ve shown obvious concern for the way players are treated in the minors – could a second career as a sports agent be in the cards?

So yeah, I’m going to be entering another competitive, challenging field. I visited a law school the other day and looked around me. It’s a totally different world. Instead of talking about the break on a slider or a game of “Call of Duty”, everybody was talking about their LSAT scores and the amount of time they spent in the library. But hey, I have a little nerdiness in me that’s been suppressed for too long. Time to cultivate it a bit.

As for the agent thing, I’m going to be helping my own agent out while in school. I want to explore some other things as well, but baseball has been too large a part of my life to completely turn my back on it.

Do you plan on continuing your writing with Baseball America and your blog? I for one think we could use a good, thoughtful perspective on what a ballplayer goes through after retirement.

I’m definitely going to keep writing. There are some issues that I think still need to be brought to light, and so I’m going to do my best to illuminate them.

It might be hard to always find time to write, but it’s like going to the gym for me. I just have to set aside an hour or two and do it. I enjoy it too much to not do it. And Baseball America has been great. They’ve told me to keep pitching ideas to them, and they’d love to have ’em.

Thanks for the time, Garrett, and good luck!

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Red Sox Prospect Westmoreland To Have Brain Surgery

By now, of course, you’ve heard the news that Red Sox minor leaguer Ryan Westmoreland, the team’s top prospect according to Baseball America, has been diagnosed with a cavernous malformation in his brain and will undergo surgery next Tuesday.

MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo gave a brief explanation of the malady and how it applies to Westmoreland:

A cavernous malformation is a vascular issue which, according to an audio report on the Mayo Clinic Web site, is a group of “abnormal, thin-walled blood vessels.” Typically, cavernous malformations don’t cause symptoms and are often only discovered if doctors are looking for something else via a brain MRI exam.

If the malformation bleeds, it can cause stroke-like symptoms, seizures, numbness, vision changes or other neurological problems.

“Typically, a stroke might be more dramatic, while symptoms from a cavernous malformation come on more gradually,” Mayo Clinic neurosurgeon Dr. David Piepgras said in the audio report. “Most people who have cavernous malformations, we can’t tell them why they occur.”

While the severity of Westmoreland’s condition is unknown, it was serious enough to require surgery. The course of treatment is often just observation, with surgery becoming an option if symptoms persist.

For what it’s worth, noted sports injury writer Will Carroll is refraining from comment until he can talk to those who have a better handle on this type of illness.

Westmoreland, who turns 20-years-old on April 27, is a five-tool player who has struggled to stay healthy since the Red Sox made him their fifth-round pick in the 2008 draft.  A Rhode Island native, he debuted with the Lowell Spinners in the New York-Penn League in 2009, hitting .296 with 7 homeruns, 35 RBI, and 19 stolen bases in 60 games before a broken collarbone finished his season.

I missed Westmoreland in Lowell, but was looking forward to seeing him when he got to Double-A Portland in the next year or two.  While I obviously still hope to see him play someday, I’m more concerned with seeing him come through the surgery okay and resume a healthy life.

Westmoreland isn’t the first young Red Sox player to experience serious health issues (although I’m drawing a blank on recent years – UPDATE: Did I forget about Jon Lester?  Why yes, yes I did).  Rookie Jimmy Piersall was hospitalized in 1952, subjected to electroshock therapy, and ultimately diagnosed with bipolar disorder; three years later, second-year player Harry Agganis, a local boy who starred in football at Boston University, died of a pulmonary embolism at the age of 26; and 22-year-old Tony Conigliaro was hit in the face with a pitch in 1967, severely damaging what could have been a Hall of Fame career.

On the bright side, both Piersall and Conigliaro overcame their difficulties, returning to the field and performing well (Piersall made two All-Star teams and won two Gold Gloves; Conigliaro hit 36 homeruns and drove in 116 runs in 1970).  I’m hoping for the same for Westmoreland.