Roy Oswalt once thought it would be easy to walk away from this old game

“You spend a good piece of your life gripping a baseball and in the end it turns out that it was the other way around all the time.”_Jim Bouton.

Roy Oswalt never figured it would be him. There was a time a couple of years ago when he absolutely couldn’t wait until his playing days were over. He wanted to get back to his ranch in Mississippi and say goodbye to hotels and planes and all the other stuff he’d come to despise.

“Every hotel room is the same,” he told me one day. “They’re just boxes. I still love pitching. I still love competing. But it’s the other stuff.”

I wondered if it would be that easy. I mentioned Roger Clemens, who tried and failed at retirement multiple times. Clemens found out that even though his joints ached and his 99-mph fastball had come a distant memory, he still loved it. He realized that pitching a Thursday afternoon game against the Royals would still end up being one of the best days of his life.

Oswalt said it would be different with him. He didn’t need the crowds or the attention. He’d never done it for that stuff anyway. He said some of the best times of his off-seasons were spent alone on his tractor doing chores around his arm. He said he loved the quiet and just didn’t need to have his ego constantly stroked.

Turns out, the game has a little bit more of a grip on him than he thought or was willing to admit. Oswalt wants to pitch a 12th season in the major leagues. He hasn’t found that team, but he will. I can’t imagine he needs the money. His career earnings have passed $92 million, and that goes a long way on a fairly modest lifestyle in Weir, Mississippi.

Like hundreds of players before him, Oswalt has discovered that he loves the game maybe a little more than he thought and that he needs it more than it needs him. He may still hate the planes, trains and automobiles, but he loves being part of a team, loves trying to accomplish a game, loves competing.

His two seasons with the Phillies had disappointing finishes. He still hasn’t gotten back to the World Series for the first time since that one and only trip with the 2005 trip with the Astros. He may have that goal still to accomplish, but I’m guessing his reasons for playing go far deeper than that.

He’s returning for a 12th season because he loves the game and knows he’ll miss it. In the end, the game almost always tells the player when it’s time to go. It’s almost never the other way around. That has been true for almost every player in history, and it’s probably going to end up being true of Roy Oswalt, too.

7 Comments

Insightful, and from what I know of Roy O, undoubtedly true. I lost touch with your move, Richard, so drop me a note when you get a chance. Pat

I thought Roy might be the exception to the rule. The travel, the cities, the grind, the pressure, … who needs all that when you’re banking eight figures with everything paid for. It’s not like he cares one whit about the trappings of fame. Must be the game itself.

Kurt Warner is the only recent guy I can think of who walked away near his peak and still able to play.

Wish that MS boy would spend a season or two with MN. Oswalt/Mauer battery would be fun dynamite – as long as they are both healthy!

Richie: Now you are letting the world know that one of the best writers covering baseball was hidden and unappreciated in Houston.

Love Oswalt, always will. Wish I knew who talked him into Leno appearance in ’05 before WS, though. Painful.

But on the one hand, he wants to stay in the game but his back has a pretty big dent in it.

On the other, he wants 5MM/yr for the privilege.

He loves the game, but needs a GM to love him.

Wish you the very best, O. Really do.

“In the end, the game almost always tells the player when it’s time to go. It’s almost never the other way around. That has been true for almost every player in history, and it’s probably going to end up being true of Roy Oswalt, too.”

Spot on RJ – excellent article.

Radio guys in Houston were babbling about Roy O – as usual, not insightful. The Houston Chronicle sports writing now: pitiful. Glad to see you are here. Wonderful article about Roy O.

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