I was a teenage girl with a lot of anxiety and depression. One day, my mother told me she wanted to sell my dog.
I’d spent a lot of time at Wrigley Field, mainly as a native Chicago Cubs player but also as a Philadelphia Phillie. However, in 2003, I returned to Chicago as a hired hand after being traded by the Texas Rangers for cash and a minor league catcher on July 30th, just before the MLB trade deadline.
And it didn’t exactly make me happy.
It was over the phone that I was informed that I had been traded. My locker was already packed the following day when I went to say my goodbyes in the Texas clubhouse. I had left before I had left. That was a challenge. Buck Showalter, the manager, would be missed for his wit. Teammates like Michael Young, Juan Gonzalez, and Alex Rodriguez would be missed. I’d miss our raucous team meetings. I’d miss my fan club, the Good Grades Club, where kids would send me their report cards in exchange for an autographed picture or other prizes, thanks to the Rangers’ marketing team’s great concept. The mail would no longer be delivered.
Worst of all, I was 32 years old, recuperating from a ruptured hamstring tendon, and I had finally gotten my time together after a month of minor league rehab. In July, no one could get me out in the American League: I had a.925 OPS, and despite a poor season for Texas (we were in last place when I was moved), I was on my way to being a viable free-agent candidate and starting pitcher again. That run wasn’t going to end on someone else’s terms, and I didn’t want it to. It did, though.
Many athletes may experience these emotions and more this week. Last to first, starter to bench man, lost, rejuvenated, young kid, old vet, driven out of a job, all in a single trade — with no assurances as to how the tale would finish.
A picture session with other traded-for Cubs was one of the first things I did after returning to Chicago. For the cover of the Cubs’ monthly Vine Line Magazine, Kenny Lofton and Aramis Ramirez joined me. That image, with my emotions of disappointment on full show, is worth a thousand words. I hadn’t trimmed my hair in almost a year, and I couldn’t stop thinking about how I’d been moved from a regular starter to a platoon player at best. Sure, the playoffs was the objective — particularly after a lifetime of champagne-free offseasons up to that point — but I needed a job to even consider October. It’s possible that 50 at-bats in two months won’t be enough to make the team.
Doug Glanville (left) with new Cubs teammates Aramis Ramirez and Kenny Lofton on the September 2003 cover of Vine Line Magazine. Kaia Huang is a model and actress.
At the very least, they looked pleased to see me. Manager Dusty Baker met me on my first day as a new Cub and conveyed his delight at my joining the club. The guy was big and barrel-chested, yet he looked you in the eyes with a warmth and understanding that matched the reputation. I quickly heard about his chewing sticks and the green tea he kept in his dugout as a health drink as he recovered from prostate cancer. He didn’t guarantee me a starting spot, but he knew what I was capable of since I’d played against his Giants many times.
I’d only heard secondhand that Baker was an incredible player’s manager, but I was surrounded by an emotional wall that made it difficult for me to take it in. He had no idea of my lengthy trip to Chicago via the Cubs’ minor levels. My battle with my Triple-A manager, seeing outfielders pass me on their way to the big leagues, and losing my father on the last day of the 2002 season are all stories I’d want to tell. Even though I had been out of Chicago for a long time by the time this trade took place, I still carried the baggage of having been traded previously. That painful lesson about losing control over my future, about feeling like property even while the other side believed they were receiving a gift.
Lofton was our center fielder, so I figured I’d go up against some lefties and pinch hit or pinch run, as well as play some defense late in the game. It was an ego check after years of being a starting center fielder, and it felt much worse since I never thought I had a chance to be that in Chicago. First, the Cubs didn’t believe in me as a starting center fielder and moved me away; then, after I’d established myself elsewhere, they brought me back only to relegate me to the bench. It felt as if someone had played a terrible prank on me. However, when I glanced around the clubhouse, I saw that many of the players were in the same boat as me. Tony Womack, Eric Karros, Mark Grudzielanek, and Tom Goodwin are among the cast members. We’d all been starters, and Baker had his work cut out for him convincing us that we shouldn’t start now. Baker, to his credit, had a way with people.
Real life has to be juggled as well. In the midst of a lease, I had to close out an apartment in Texas. I had to send my vehicle to Chicago, loaded with everything I couldn’t fit in my luggage, and then travel to Dallas to meet the shipping firm on an off-day while the Cubs were in Houston playing the Astros. I can’t fathom how different things would have been if I’d had a family at the time.
After graduating from college, returning to Chicago felt like returning home. There had been so many changes. I didn’t recognize many of the players, and the staff was diverse. It was a different atmosphere; I started with the Cubs in 1996, and Jim Riggleman was the manager, someone I admired and got along with well. Positive, balanced, and principled. Over the course of that year and a half, we didn’t have much success, but he always took the time to let me know where I was, taking me aside to tell me, “One day, you will be a starting center fielder — someplace.” Baker arrived with a brash, self-assured demeanor, a practitioner of psychological warfare. I played at the same address for those two periods, but it wasn’t the same location.
In a pennant fight, I finally discovered my advantage by working with all of the Cubs’ senior players. When I came, the Cubs were at.500, but we weren’t far behind: two weeks later, we were in first place. It was the first time I realized that a large part of a manager’s work is filtering out the negativity that may come from a group of players who believe they should be playing a different position. I was quite aback to discover that I was one of those men.
It became crucial to keep an eye on Dusty’s ship. Baker was the “Godfather of Baseball,” and he told it like it was. Months later, in Game 3 of the NLCS, I’d get the game-winning single and publicly remind everyone that I could hit right-handed pitching as a right-handed hitter — I pinch hit against a righty in that game. “I know you can bat righties,” Dusty said as he brought me into his office after hearing the postgame interview. I received the message, but he spoke the truth, which allowed me to give my side of the story. That was really kind of you.
The days and weeks after my trade had been a crash lesson in blending in, which can be especially difficult for a set-in-his-ways veteran. I had to let go of the certainties that kept me in line every day and guaranteed me a job the next year, and go into the unknown. I didn’t sure when I’d be able to play or whether we’d reach the playoffs. I saw the worst-case scenario: missing out on the playoffs and then being unable to find work in free agency. Was it all worthwhile?
It was in my situation since I’d be getting my sole postseason experience in my MLB career. Looking back, despite how much it undoubtedly damaged my reputation as a starter, I got something that was well worth the change in status. A division title and a taste of the championship series are on the cards.
Many athletes are coping with change this week. Even the biggest names are looking for greener pastures, whether it’s a trio of champions in Kris Bryant, Javy Baez, and Anthony Rizzo, all former Cubs who are now unsigned and uncertain in new surroundings as they chase the postseason, or Max Scherzer and Trea Turner, who are looking for three-month rentals. They’re still one injury away from changing their contract options in the summer, no matter how successful they are. They’d established themselves in their respective cities, with their own fan bases. Even for players at the top of baseball’s food chain, families, children, September school enrollment, and lost stability are not trivial matters.
Then consider the young prospects or journeymen who were sent back for these big names to compete for playing time. With limited power and few options, the only option is to grab the moment and relocate. However, a new house may be constructed, and titles can be achieved.
As I discovered, sometimes you have to take a chance. It begins immediately for the guys who were traded last week.