Anthony Gose Decided To Be a Pitcher and I Can’t Even Reinvent My Breakfast Routine

It happened while I was walking down the sidewalk to the deli to stock up on a few more bottles of my favorite chalky breakfast replacement liquid, Soylent, that I saw a man, not much older, but certainly much rougher, than myself, wearing what appeared to be an expensive, crisp white and freshly pressed Detroit Tigers jersey. Now, there was a time where I would have uttered a friendly remark along the lines of “GOHHH DEEE!” or “Country Strong!” or “Leland for Governor!” to such a superfan passing me on the streets of Brooklyn, but over the years I’ve met enough fellow Michigan expats from my own Northern Michigan birthtown among these filthy streets to be thoroughly desensitized. So rather than alerting the man to this allegiance of circumstance, I instead turned around as he passed to peep the name and number emblazoned on his back: Cabrera? Martinez? Or maybe someone real dope, perhaps newly old school and slightly tragic, say, Sanchez??

Instead, the name staring back at me nearly caused me to trip over my own feet:

GOSE
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Anthony Mother Farm Team Gose. The everyday, completely decent and equally forgettable center fielder of the 5th Place, 74-87, Dombrowski’s Swan Song, swept by Anaheim, Pittsburgh, Toronto, and fellow 5th place Oakland, even more completely forgettable 2015 Tigers?!

My first thought, naturally, was, did I just pass Anthony Gose on the street?, a thought quickly reduced to rubbish by the inconvenient facts that this man 1) looked nothing like Anthony Gose, who 2) no longer plays for the Tigers (or professional ball at all?), and even if he did would 3) not be walking down Kingston Avenue drinking a wild blue pineapple Tropical Fantasy or 4) wearing his own freaking jersey for a team that sent him back to Toledo to presumably languish into a Class C collegiate batting coach or vending machine restocker. Too flummoxed to double-back and ask this guy if he knew Gose personally (or if, more likely, he had never heard of him or the Detroit Tigers but instead was simply wearing the only button-down shirt from his closet), I instead wandered into JBC Friendly Deli Corp., grabbed my Soylent, and paid $10 for two bottles of the pallid brown aqueous morning goop.

If you haven’t tasted Soylent, the BFD morning favorite and Silicon Valley-borne product that’s disrupting the eating industry, I can’t say you’re missing much from a flavor perspective. It’s an acquired taste at best, and much like Taster’s Choice coffee crystals wake your ass up on Day 50 in the fallout shelter, or Busch Light provided a brief respite from the horrors of your daily pre-shelter existence during the “before times”, neither is being consumed for the pleasant effect they have on one’s palate. I drink the stuff because I believe that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but figuring out what sustenance with which to fill my body three times a day, every day, is such a monumental effort and thus a losing battle that I’ve adopted the bland nectar as a sort of “life hack”, as they call it. My idealized self would wake up a full 90 minutes earlier every morning, giving me time to get in a solid workout and hit the showers with time enough remaining to cook myself a wholesome breakfast with ingredients I’d acquired from my twice-weekly trip to the supermarket. But, because fervent discipline in the name of my own well-being is not a skill that, most unfortunately, belongs anywhere near my resume or list of LinkedIn endorsements (amid my many admirable traits, I can’t imagine my eulogist mentioning anything along the lines of, “Joe was the kind of guy who never let inaction get in his way”), I take easy wins where I can. If a nutritionally-balanced bottle of slop saves me the effort of buying food, thinking about food, and then preparing said food at 8:30 in the morning, before I embark on my twice-daily sojourn of abject misery to and from Midtown Manhattan, where all hope goes to die but before it can breathe its last breath is wickedly hooked up to diodes and forced to live ad infinitum as a wretched, writhing husk of its former self, I’ll not only tolerate the taste of liquefied ingredients with names like “isonaltooligosaccharide”; I’ll learn to enjoy it.

As I strolled back home in a bemused reverie of Where Are They Now? for recently nixed Tigers, I grew eager to search the MLB store for the price of a custom Gose jersey, since they’re sure as hell not producing them, and either way, that thing must have cost homie a cool $120+S&H. Before I stumbled down that rabbit hole and accidentally bought one for myself, though, I first decided to look up Tony and see what the old so-n-so is doing these days. If I thought my Gose shocks had reached their apex for the day, what I found next gave my delicate constitution a run for its money:

GoseBio

Anthony Gose. Yup, that checks out. Oh, a little “Share” button thing over on the right, that’s convenient, thanks Google. Baseball. Sure, he’s a baseballer, we knew that. Everything here looks pretty norm- PITCHER??!!!???!

Now, I’ll forgive and even congratulate those dear readers among you who don’t have any recollection of Anthony Gose and have still for some sad reason made it this far into the article. To catch you back up to speed, Anthony Gose was not, is not, and in accordance with everything I know and believe to be true about professional baseball, cannot ever be a pitcher. Even in a world where Tim Tebow decides to swing a bat in the name of the Lord and John Grisham bellows “YOLO” and writes Christmas With the Kranks, becoming a pitcher is not just a thing an adult person (even a pro baseballing one) decides to do. And while goalies also don’t become forwards and quarterbacks do not defensive linemen make, the concept that a working man’s centerfielder would ever throw a pitch from the mound (at least before the 19th inning, and even then, much to the chagrin of his teammates) seems simply preposterous. To pitch professionally requires the acquisition and honing of such a uniquely difficult set of skills, not to mention a lifetime of grim determination and focus, with the constant threat of career-ending injury looming, that the very concept has driven many a talented high school and college-aged pitcher from the mound to the dugout in hopes of scoring a seat on a 25-man squad in any other available capacity. Think of it this way: I’ll bet you, if you asked Bo Jackson, a veritable demigod of a man, a Herculean jock whose athletic prowess and insatiable lust for victory enabled him to not only play, but achieve All-Star status at, professional baseball and football at the same time, if he’d ever considered taking the mound for the KC Royals, he’d glare at you for the briefest moment before delivering an arrow from his longbow into your chest. “Hell no,” he’d say, as the life rapidly left your body. “Clearly, you don’t know Bo.”

That’s more than a little grim, I know, and I’m not suggesting Bo Jackson in a murderer. (Big fan, Bo!) He’s definitely not. What I’m trying to illustrate for you is, well; I think you get it. Mike Trout is never going to be a pitcher. Kris Bryant is never going to be a pitcher. Hell, Shohei Ohtani might never even be a pitcher, and he’s a pitcher! So, I might not know much, but I’m telling you, Anthony Gose, career slashline .240/.309/.348 Anthony Gose, played five seasons but only one full one in the majors Anthony Gose is not somehow now a pitcher. …right?

Anthony_Gose_on_July_31,_2015

This is exactly how I imagine Gose pitching a baseball.

Wrong. I am wrong. Despite everything I think, know, and feel to the contrary, an aging Gose, relegated to AA ball, grasping at straws to keep the ever-dimming dream alive, gave in to the coaches and scouts who’d apparently been hounding him for years and took the mound.

Myself, I’ve wondered many times over plenty of years if perhaps my soul might not be crushed so frequently by the weight of the World’s Biggest Apple if I had, say, a job somewhere in Brooklyn, in the same borough I call my home, and not in the Seventh Circle of Hell they innocuously call “Midtown”. If I had an office job in DUMBO, would I own a scooter? Or maybe just a better-than-legal bicycle equipped with a little 2-stroke gas motor, spewing exhaust and noise pollution into the Brooklyn streets, the wind in my face? Would I feel invigorated upon arriving at the office, fresh and renewed, ready to take on the day? Or would all those conceptual anvils come plummeting down, flattening this weary soul still, leaving me just as exhausted, just as ill-equipped to navigate a life of trading precious time for some subjective standard of fiduciary value, still without a compass? What is it this lonesome heart wants out of this short, precious life? is a question all too familiar to me, though I cannot take credit for originality. Far too many of the teeming millions feel quite the same. There’s nothing more delightful, more satisfying to me than to be inspired by the people I care about achieving their goals, defying the odds, and taking a stab at lasting contentment. If you’re like me in that regard, you know that’s tough to come by. This collective experience we possess, this time we share on this rapidly spinning orb, has no predefined playbook. Granted, many have been written, with said millions committing the plays to heart; and in an endless battle to one-up one another and be King Shit atop the heap, none have clearly cracked the code. The only truths are those we inherently know without being told; but what if they’re so muddled in pretext and sullied by some arbitrary, collective standard of expectation that they’re too murky to even discern?

As it turns out, Anthony Gose was once a kid with a hell of an arm, and not just from the outfield, long before even the most ardent sports fan knew his name. At the age of 17, Anthony was the star pitcher of his high school club out of Bellflower, California, with a nasty 97 mph fastball that we can only imagine was stifling his most able opponents, and scouts had the high school athletics department’s number on speed dial. I can just imagine: “Tony, kid, you’s a natural born stah.” / “What’s it like to see all your dreams comin’ true at your age, Mr. Gose? You ready for the Big Show?” / “Yah evah ride in a cah faster than yah ahm, sonny? How bout dis supahcharged Dodge Caliber?” (the last scout is from the Tampa Bay Rays.) But it wasn’t all John-Hancocks-on-the-dotted-line and courting clubs with the deepest pockets for the young Gose. The thing is, he wanted more than anything to make his way to the Big Leagues. He just didn’t want to be a pitcher.

Gose had promise on the mound. His coaches all thought he had a good enough arm to get drafted early. But, as often happens to the best of us, first when we’re young and impressionable, and later when we’re tired and conditioned, he did it because he was told to. His coaches knew how great he’d be on the mound; they could see his strength, his control, his focus. They had a generational high school talent on their hands, being wasted on fly balls to the outfield. He was fast, sure, and an all-around good athlete, but he’d never be a Silver Slugger, and his full potential deserved to be crafted. When their hunches were confirmed, everyone was over the moon but Anthony. From an article I read on Bleacher Report, Gose reportedly told the scouting manager for the Phillies, “My coach wants me to pitch, but I don’t want to pitch.” The kid wasn’t out on the field simply because he was talented; he was out there because he loved the goddamn game. And he didn’t want to be relegated to the bullpen. He wanted to play every day.

So, in what seems to me to be either the product of youthful bullheadedness or the most admirably difficult decision a 17-year-old high school athlete could be expected to make regarding his future, he simply refused to be considered a pitcher for the major league draft, despite the pleas of all the mentors who should know best and the professionals with overstuffed sacks of money in the trunks of mid-market sedans. Instead, he dug in his heels and insisted that he was the speedy, perfectly competent outfielder he knew he was and wanted to be. And, against the odds, for a brief moment in time, his longshot bet, the stack of chips he threw down all on 8 Black for himself alone, panned out. The Phillies drafted him in something like the 7,834th round as an outfielder.

What happened over the course of a few years is the subject of someone else’s essay, and we won’t bore ourselves with the dime-a-dozen details here; but, suffice it to say, Tony G’s career in the majors was a flash in the pan, and he found himself, like so many other 20-somethings, presumably at a loss for what to do next.”Yah all washed up, Tony,” the same slithering scouts who so desired him in his youth seemed to hiss in unison. “Ya shoulda stuck with what you was good at. Maybe you’d be somebody.” 

“Well, fuck you, you contemptible ghouls,” he retorted one recent morning at the breakfast table, apropos of seemingly nothing, and to the growing concern of his girlfriend (I’m really editorializing now). He’d never wanted to be a pitcher, that was true. He’d meant to forge his own way, and damn it if he hadn’t succeeded for a time. But, in his heart of hearts, Anthony Gose loves the game of baseball, and if all the game had left for him was some lime green turf field and a dusty cubbyhole in the locker room of the Paducah Butterwagons or whatever other permutation of undesirable double A team that may or may not exist, he had to make another tough decision. This one would be a little more tragically poetic, considering the gamble he’d taken eight years before, but if it worked out in his favor, maybe he could squeeze out just enough remaining ink from the wordworn ribbon of the proverbial Underwood with which he’d so stubbornly penned the first half of his story to compose the most remarkable chapter yet (hey, if you’ve made it this far, that’s your fault).

The human condition has both a cruel and practical way of making universal experiences feel personal. Our egos act to both keep us alive and limit our potential. I’ve never been courted by scouts in any capacity, except for the handful of opportunistic children hoping to squeeze me for my hard-earned money in exchange for some refined sugar, but those slithering hisses Anthony Gose hears in his head invade mine too. Some days I wake up and feel like I’ve got no out, no leverage, and no options. Other days I take comfort in my routines, I laugh at the absurdity of my pedestrian plights, and I put my head down and get to work on my own endeavors. And sometimes, all I want to do is spend the day outside, away from the myriad of meaningless distractions and self-induced stressors, and just toss a ball around an abandoned outfield somewhere.

Chances are, Anthony Gose’s pivot to the pitcher’s mound won’t amount to much. From the little I’ve now read, he’s somewhere in the Rangers farm system, working on his four-seamer and likely blanking a handful of kids making ten grand a year and grinding away with all they can muster to get a shot at the big time. Gose has already been there, the way he wanted to be, and despite the league’s chew-em-up-and-spit-em-out fatalistic tendencies, he knows what he wants. It might not be the way he wants it, and it might not be the way it could have been, but it still might be something. He wants back in.

To know what you want is autonomy’s greatest gift and finest curse. To have fervent commitment to a goal, a dream, or a purpose, and to wake up every day with the conviction to see it through, is one of the most universal standards of success. To achieve that goal, only to find there’s no checkered flag at the finish line, no lasting peace of mind, no victorious sigh of relief as the hiss of the detractors fades for good and the mayor whispers in your ear as she hands you the key to the city, “Congrats, kid, your worries are over; you’re happy now,” is the sucker punch that knocks the last breath out of countless dreams. It’s the answer to the question so many admirers and devotees ask when their idols fall, falter, flip out or mutter their hatred for humanity on their deathbeds.

As @fish2000 has long been known to say, “It’s a dirty world.” And while, as a catchphrase, it certainly lacks a certain cheer, I’ve always found the adage rather encouraging. This world is many things, and has been called them all, but when it comes to living your life the way you’d like to define it, there’s a whole lot of sludge to trudge through. That’s a fact. You can’t count on being handed your dreams gratis in a nice, frosty mug, and you can typically count on plenty of haters selling you the equivalent of a Solo cup of Lysol and telling you to drink up before the keg blows. It’s a dirty world, not through and through, but filthy enough to decide whether you’re gonna clean up your little corner of it, or live forever deep in the filth. So, maybe, probably, in all likelihood, and in accordance with everything I know and believe to be true about professional baseball, Anthony Gose will never take the mound for a Major League ball club. But I have to wonder, when I see a guy, not much older than myself, but quite a bit rougher, walking down the streets of Brooklyn wearing a Detroit Tigers GOSE 12 jersey that costs $125+S&H on the MLB store (I priced it out), what does he know that I don’t?

Maybe he’s just keeping the dream alive.

 

 

 

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