There are days when Trystan Magnuson is like every other person who has ever taken a baseball, walked out onto a small hill, and tried to outmatch, outfox, or simply get out whoever who stands at home plate gripping some form of lumber.
Even though it seems like they’re few and far between, there are days where the 6’7″ Vancouver native does not have his best stuff. Often on those days, he says, his brain gets in the way:
“Those are the rough days. Those are the really rough days…when you’re struggling against yourself.”
Sometimes in baseball, thinking gets in the way of doing and the mind overrules the mechanics. Interestingly though, Magnuson uses the very thing responsible for his struggle- his mind- to remedy the situation… and get back into a groove.
“When you don’t have your best stuff, you have to remove yourself [mentally] from the situation and analyze what’s going on between pitches. You think of all the bullpens, the flat-grounds, the dry work you’ve done. You remember video you’ve watched and you look at what your pitches are doing now- and how hitters are reacting.
“Then, once you’ve thought about it all- and before you go to deliver your next pitch- you take a step back and filter all that stuff in. You think about what you want to do… and you do it. You just let your body go.”
The 26-year-old Magnuson, who reached the big leagues in 2010 with the Oakland Athletics and now pitches for the Toronto Blue Jays, believes that any pitcher’s success is tied to how he approaches the game. Good pitchers must “practice enough and [be] confident enough that they can take their mind out of it.”
In other words, successful pitchers are those who can, at will, take everything in while blocking everything out. They can do in reality what Kevin Costner’s For Love of the Game character Billy Chapel could do in fiction: clear the mechanism. The pitchers Magnuson admires (growing up it was Nolan Ryan and Steve Carlton, now it’s Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay, and Mariano Rivera) seem to be able to do just that regularly…and almost instinctually.
Clearing the mechanism is useful not only on the field, but off it. There are certainly days when one doesn’t have his or her ‘best stuff’ in life. And those indeed can be rough days, ‘really rough days.’
For Magnuson, those rough days in life are not too dissimilar from rough days on the mound: the struggle is against oneself.
Magnuson is not immune to this struggle because he is a Christian. In fact, his faith probably makes him more aware of it.
“When we are in this world, we are going to be influenced by it,” says the former Louisville Cardinal. “So when the world takes control instead of the Spirit of God in you, those are your rough days…when you start thinking about only yourself…focusing on things that I want, or that I see.”
But because he is a Christian, Magnuson knows how to get back to his best as a person. He knows how to clear the mechanism, spiritually speaking.
“So much of it has to do with just thinking about God’s will: thinking about Him as the most important thing.
“When I get out of focus, it is because other things get in the way of my relationship with God, what He wants me to do. And so, to get back that focus is just to spend time with Him. To read His Word. To seek out what this Word is saying- not what anybody else is saying… not even what pastors are saying. But what is God saying? I want the truth, whatever the truth is. So when I spend time seeking after that and making God the only thing… that’s how I get back [to my best].”
And getting back is a good place to be.
As a pitcher and a person.