Posted at 10:30 AM on September 28, 2005
by David Zingler
When Terry Mulholland stepped on a major league mound for the first time on June 8, 1986, Ronald Reagan was knee deep in the Iran-Contra Affair, Kirby Puckett was less than half way through his first All Star season under manager Ray Miller and three-year-old Joe Mauer was putting the finishing touches on the Quickswing.
Ten teams and 19 years later, Mulholland finds himself with the Twins in a mop-up role. In 49 appearances (59 innings) this season, the veteran is 0-2 with a 4.27 ERA. Despite the limited role and unimpressive numbers, he has no intention of hanging it up anytime soon. “I am not even close to quitting,” he quipped. “I don’t concern myself with questions like that.”
Because the ultimate decision may not be his, retirement is a touchy subject. That being said, I believe in a direct approach:
What if the phone doesn’t ring this winter?
“Then I don’t play.”
Are you at peace with that?
“We’ll wait and see.”
A long big league career has many benefits, not the least of which is financial security. Mulholland’s motives for hanging on however are as pure as those of a little leaguer. “I love playing baseball,” the 42-year-old said in a genuine, heartfelt tone. “I love being out on that mound facing big league hitters and trying to get them out knowing that there are 24 other guys on the roster relying on me to get them out...When you don’t get the job done, you bust your butt trying to come out there stronger the next day. When you do get it done, you don’t rest on your laurels, you come back the next day ready to do it again.
The world of professional athletics is Darwinism as its’ purest. There is nowhere to hide; success and failure are readily apparent and easily measured. Survival in this unforgiving profession requires a levelheaded approach and an unwavering belief in your ability.
“I learned a long time ago that when you start questioning yourself, you start to let negative thoughts creep into your mind and before you know it, you get real negative about what you are doing,” Mulholland explained. “It’s hard to play that way. This game requires a positive attitude day in and day out. You are going to have bad days and bad stretches of days, but the worst thing you can do is become your own worst enemy by thinking negative thoughts.”
“You have to have a real short term memory,” he continued. “You can’t dwell on things that have already happened and you can’t dwell on things that haven’t happened. It’s a lot like that in life...there are good and bad days in work, school and life, you have to move on and look toward what is around the corner and not worry about it.”
You would think that when an athlete gets into his 40s, he would have an idealized, if not unrealistic, version of his final game. For Mulholland however, this is not the case, “Honestly, I don’t dream about (how my career will end),” the journeyman left-hander claimed. “It doesn’t enter my mind. I haven’t really given too much thought about how my career is going to end or when it is going to be time to walk away. I am still having too much fun doing what I am doing.”
Whether or not he has thrown his last big league pitch when this season ends, Mulholland plans to take some time out to clear his mind, “I am going to take a nice drive home to Arizona, take my time, see some sights,” he commented. “Do what other people do.”
Get Well Ray