Ghiroli: Retired MLB players on hard choices and life after baseball

From Brittany Ghiroli at The Athletic on April 9, 2019:

He​ doesn’t wear​ sandals much. The lingering nerve damage​ has ​ still, 13 months​ later, made​ some of his​ toes​ and​​ the bottom of his left foot numb. He can walk, sometimes with a limp. But the hardware in his joints won’t allow him to sprint, change direction or balance. Sometimes he’ll be out somewhere, like at the grocery store, and the flip flop will just slide out from under him.

That’s how Will Middlebrooks feels about his baseball career, too. One minute, he’s finally at a place where he can enjoy the game, where the pressure of “Will I make the team?” has dissipated. At best, he’s competing for a bench spot with the Phillies. At worst, he’s in Triple-A getting paid to play baseball and that’s still pretty damn cool. The next minute Middlebrooks is being carted off Spectrum Field during a meaningless spring training game against the Orioles.

If it’s an inch one way or the other, he gets flipped by left fielder Andrew Pullin and he’s fine. Instead, Pullin’s knee slammed into Middlebrooks’ mid-shin. It’s so vivid in his mind, played countless times over and over.

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Originally published: April 11, 2019. Last Updated: April 11, 2019.