Author Topic: Leaving on a positive note  (Read 323 times)

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Offline hammondsnats

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Leaving on a positive note
« Topic Start: May 31, 2010, 10:23:22 AM »

There was nothing out of the ordinary about the May 17 ballgame between the Columbus Clippers and visiting Durham Bulls, at least according to the box score. A fifth-inning grand slam by catcher Carlos Santana was the difference in the contest, lifting the Clippers to a 5-1 victory.

But there are some stories the box score just can't tell.

The game's winning pitcher that evening was Mike Gosling, a southpaw reliever who had been called upon to make a spot start. The veteran of eight professional seasons pitched brilliantly, scattering five hits over 6 1/3 shutout innings en route to his third win of the season. Although the 9,000-plus fans in attendance had no way of knowing, there was a special poignancy to Gosling's strong outing.

Prior to the game, the 29-year-old had announced his retirement, making the strong effort his 289th and final professional baseball appearance.

Changing priorities
The immediate question that springs to mind regarding Gosling's retirement is a simple one: Why?

His stellar final game wasn't an aberration -- he went 3-0 with a 2.96 ERA over 13 appearances with the Clippers before hanging up his spikes. And while Gosling never established himself as a day-in, day-out Major League pitcher, he was certainly no stranger to "The Show." The Stanford product pitched in 15 games for the Cleveland Indians in 2009, marking the fourth time in the past five seasons that he had spent time on a Major League roster. It certainly didn't seem inconceivable that he could find his way back.

But there are no guarantees in baseball, and the possibility of a return to the bigs was significantly outweighed by another, far more pressing concern: family. Kim, Gosling's wife of five years, gave birth to the couple's first child this past Christmas Eve. And it was Max Gosling's arrival into the world that changed everything.

"[Retirement] was something I had been thinking about for a long time, ever since my wife became pregnant," said Gosling, speaking from his home in San Diego. "Once the baby was born, I had a really tough time being away from home. The only way I wanted to keep pitching was if something was going to materialize in the Major Leagues, because that's the pinnacle of the profession. But still, retirement kept creeping into my mind."

Gosling reported to 2010 Spring Training with the Indians, hoping to "catch fire and make the team out of camp." When this did not materialize, he nonetheless opted to accept a roster spot with Triple-A Columbus.

"I decided to give it a shot, to see how I would react to being away from home," explained Gosling. "And I found myself thinking about my family all the time. My wife and son were able to visit during one homestand, but she's finishing maternity leave and ready to go back to her job as an attorney. That was going to make it very hard for them to visit again. I started to think about [retirement] more and more, and decided that I needed more information."

In search of an honest answer regarding the likelihood of a return trip to Cleveland, Gosling solicited the opinion of the Indians' front office.

"The way it stood seemed to be that I would spend the year in Columbus, so that all I'd really be pitching for was a good year in Triple-A," said Gosling. "If I had felt like I was the next guy in line to go up to the big leagues, then I might have hunkered down and just kept going. It would have been hard to be that close and walk away.

"Toward the end, the Indians were nice enough to look around and see if there might be interest from other Major League organizations," he added. "But they didn't come back with any leads, and the situation didn't seem too positive. That was the final straw in the decision. But it was very nice of them to do that, to let me know that I was valued as a person and not just as a player. Their attitude was 'We'd love to have you, but in the end we're going to help you do what's best for you.'"

Making the decision easier was the fact that Gosling has a college degree from Stanford, having majored in human biology at the prestigious university. While he is uncertain what his next career move might be, his education coupled with his wife's position as a lawyer helped to make his baseball career expendable.

"If I felt that the best way to support my family was by playing baseball, then I'd still be playing baseball," he said. "It's definitely a bit of a luxury, not having to keep playing just for the paycheck. My goal starting out [in baseball] was to never just do it for the pay, but for the enjoyment of playing. I didn't want to hang on for the sake of hanging on."

But for now, Gosling is simply enjoying his role as "Mr. Mom."

"It's amazing to be home with my son, to be able to see what's going on every day. It had been really tough just hearing about it," he said. "What it comes down to is that this is my priority right now, and these are the people I care the most about."

Going out on top
All of this brings us back to May 17, when Gosling made his final appearance as a professional baseball player.

"I made the decision before I pitched, so that I wouldn't be swayed by any in-the-moment emotions," he said. "The fact that I ended up being a star on my last day, I certainly didn't plan it that way. It was definitely a bittersweet experience. ... I told my teammates before the game that I would be retiring, and they were very supportive. They told me to go out and enjoy every minute of it."

This, perhaps, was easier said than done.

"I went out there and, sure enough, walked the first batter on four pitches. It was tough for me to get into the flow," said Gosling. "I thought to myself, 'If you keep this up, it's going to be ugly.' Fortunately, I was able to knuckle down, get some good fortune and make some good pitches. Usually guys don't go 6 1/3 innings in a spot start, but there was no use in keeping my pitch count low. They let me go out there and have some fun.

"[The final game] was something I'll always treasure," he added. "As a reliever, you usually only get a day or two off before you have to pitch again. But this one, I'm going to have it for the rest of my life."

Offline CALSGR8

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