Dear Astros Fans

Baseball, Faith

Dear Astros Fans,

Ever since the trade from the Astros to the Phillies, one thing I know is certain: I miss y’all. I’m not saying that Phillies fans have been anything but gracious and welcoming, because they have been. In fact, I have loved meeting people here in PA and being welcomed to the Phillies family. I look forward to hopefully many years with some of the most passionate fans in the game! I’m simply saying that you, Astros fans, always treated me well and remained hopeful for my success with the Astros even through the bad times. You made my time in the Astros organization exciting and fun. You gave me an added hunger to play better to get to Minute Maid. And I want to thank you for that. I know that being drafted first overall in 2013 added to the already growing hope you had in the future of the organization. And rightfully so! Just look at how far your team has come from having the worst record in baseball from 2011-2013 and three straight #1 picks to where they finished last year, taking the Kansas City Royals to Game 5 in the ALDS.

Speaking of that series, I know it hurt being up 2-1 in the series and not being able to close it out. I was in Minute Maid Park for Game 4. I get it. I was sitting with the players’ family during the game. During my time in the minors and spring training, I played with many of the 25 men in that dugout. Even though I never reached my goal of playing with them at MMP, those men were and still are like family to me. So as much as it hurt you, it hurt me equally, if not more. And as much as it hurt me, it hurt them much, much more. But I know that those of you who stuck with your ‘Stros through the thick and thin only have optimism for the future because, according to all the experts, the playoffs weren’t supposed to happen last year. But they did. The future looks extremely bright for the Astros.

***

Transitioning from one chapter of life to another, you can always look back and learn a few things. For me, those lessons came in bunches. There’s so much I regret, what I wish I did better, what I should’ve done, and what I should not have done. But regret only has value if you allow it to spur change inside of you. So, I am learning and growing constantly. I’m not a finished product on the field and definitely not a finished product off the field. I don’t think I ever will be. But that is part of the beauty of life. We always have an opportunity to experience new things, to learn from good and bad, to improve, and to grow. Let me share some of my lessons.

Lesson number one is how little you can control life. There are many things you can control, such as your attitude and your work ethic, but other things you simply have no control over. Being traded was a confirmation of that. Did I want to leave my hometown team? Of course not! (By the way, I still live 20 minutes from MMP in the offseason). Did I want to say goodbye to my teammates who became my brothers over the last two and a half years? No! But that is one of the mysteries of life: sometimes we get what we want and sometimes we don’t. I believe how you react defines your character.

Lesson number two has to do with expectation. I know many of you deal with having high expectations placed on you from work, your family, yourself, etc. The only difference between mine and yours is the public nature of my expectation. Baseball fans know where I was drafted. My signing bonus is a Google search away. And every Astros fan anticipated I would be a cornerstone of the Astros’ future. That is how being picked 1-1 works: you’re supposed to pan out quickly. This all translates to expectation, not just from myself, or the Astros front office and staff, but from thousands of Houston Astros baseball fans, and millions of baseball fans across the country. Every game I pitch, my performance is graded through statistics. Even the pitches in my arsenal are analyzed, graded and compared. So how do you deal with expectation, separating it from your life circumstances altogether? If I had a definitive answer, I would tell you. But I don’t. Life doesn’t always go as expected, and that is okay. However, I think I have learned a little bit dealing with expectation over my time being a professional ballplayer. Keeping things in perspective is a huge first step. Whatever you are going through may feel like a huge boulder resting on your shoulders, constantly weighing you down, but it is only temporary. That is a fact. The second step is simply to have fun. Don’t take yourself seriously. Take your craft seriously, but don’t take yourself seriously. There is a difference in attitude, not work ethic.

Two guys both work extremely hard at their jobs. The first guy never jokes around, never has fun, is all work and no play. He finds his worth only in how successful he is, the results from his job. Failure is not an option. The second guy relishes the journey. He wants to learn, grow and ultimately succeed, but understands failure is just another step along his path. He is a great friend and knows there is a time to be serious and a time to have fun, to be light-hearted. Nobody wants to be around one of those guys; everyone wants to be around the other. One guy drains energy from his surroundings and the other gives energy others. I was the first guy for part of my time with the Astros. I want to be the second guy. Life is too short to not enjoy what you have been blessed to do. Each moment has an opportunity to be wasted or be incredibly special. I squandered too many moments with the Astros because I took things way too seriously. I couldn’t laugh at myself when I made mistakes. I had to be perfect to have fun. And humans aren’t perfect… especially playing baseball, a game where all stars give up 3 runs a game and fail at the plate 7 out of 10 times! Baseball is a game of failure. Life brings about failure too. Friends, not being able to have joy is no way to live.

Lesson number three is to be thankful. Appreciate what God has given you and the people He has placed in your life to make your experience uniquely yours. In all your reflections, seek to understand and share the things that make life, in its essence, good. That’s what this blog is about. It’s not here to draw attention to my draft status and other successes I’ve had, or to dwell on my failures, to have a pity party. It is here to point out why God is always good and that in any and every circumstance, we have great reason to be thankful. So this letter is not just to you, Astros fans, but to everybody that has made my story uniquely mine.

Thank you Mom, Dad and Bro for supporting me always and loving me well.

Thank you Houston for being my birthplace and for being close to my heart.

Thank you Coach Piona, Coach Powers, and all my fellow Mustangs for making my high school years some of the best of my life.

Thank you Coach Marquess, Filter, Stotz and Brock for teaching me the game and supporting me on the field and in the classroom at Stanford.

Thank you Jim Crain, Jeff Luhnow, Mike Elias, David Stearns, Quentin McCracken and others in the Astros front office for making me a professional ballplayer and more importantly, an Astro.

Thank you Matt Klentak, Joe Jordan and the rest of the Phillies organization (fans included!) for trading for me and welcoming me to Philly with open arms. I look forward to pitching at the Bank, wearing “Phillies” proudly across my chest.

Lastly, thank you Astros fans. As a boy, I was one of you. I remembered wearing my Astros cap proudly, cheering on Bagwell, Biggio, Berkman, Oswalt, Clemens, and Pettitte. As a young man, I got the dream of every boy playing Little League in Houston: to be a part of this great organization. And though that chapter is over now, I am and always will be grateful for your support and encouragement.

Going forward, I am optimistic. I remain hopeful because my hope lies in something, rather someone, that gives me unshakable faith and undeniable joy. But I also remain hopeful because I know however bleak things may look at the time, they get better. They always get better! I want to let you, the fans, know that if I ever get the chance to play in Houston, whether in the blue and orange or in the third base dugout, I will be an improved man on and off the field. I will work hard, give my all day in and day out, but most importantly I will always enjoy it! Like I said, life is too short for anything else.

Thankful,

Mark Appel

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