Here is an early link to my Saturday column about Jake Peavy. The full text runs below:
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Very early Friday morning. Jake Peavy enters the clubhouse. He is singing, his voice passionate, his face filled with emotion.
“But darling, oh darlin’/You’re the best thing I’ve ever seen/Won’t you roll me easy/Oh slow and easy.”
He is singing “Roll Um Easy” by Little Feat. Lowell George wrote and performed the song and Little Feat and Lowell George, deceased, are dear to Peavy. He considers George a hero. “Hero” is the word Peavy uses.
Peavy sings himself all the way to his locker which is near the lockers of Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain. The lockers are in a corner. Call it Pitchers Corner. It is so early Lincecum and Cain haven’t arrived.
“Jake, why are you always so happy?” I ask.
He stops singing. He thinks. “That’s just the way I choose to live life,” he says. “One thing my grandfather always told me, your attitude is a choice. I wake up — and it doesn’t happen every day — but I try to wake up with a positive attitude and choose that and bring that to work.”
Peavy often refers to his grandfather. Peavy is from Alabama, very down-home with down-home wisdom.
“Why do you still love to pitch?” I ask.
“Right, I do. Baseball is something I’ve been in love with since I was a kid. It’s all I know. I have other business ventures, but this is what makes me happy. Can’t do this forever. I don’t want to look back and wish I had more time. I want to enjoy all the time I have while I have it.”
“‘Love’ is the word you want to use,” I say.
“I love the game of baseball. There are sacrifices I make. That being said, I’m blessed to do this for a living.”
“Let’s say its bases loaded,” I say, “and you’ve got a big hitter up. You’re cursing how you do when you’re tense. Do you love that, too, facing that batter?
Peavy is tying his laces. He makes bows of the laces, then tucks the ends of the laces into his baseball shoes.
“That’s a Catch-22,” he replies. “I don’t know if you necessarily love that situation. That being said, we as competitors love a challenge. Yeah, I love and welcome those challenges and believe I can overcome. If you’re not wired like that, you’re going to have trouble in this sport.”
“When you’re throwing a pitch where so much depends on it, sometimes you yell out loud. Who are you talking to?”
“I’m out there going 98 miles an hour sometimes. I’m talking to myself, to the catcher. I’m talking to the Good Lord up above, ask Him to help me. When you play professional sports, some of the places you play in, I have to go to my special place.”
“I’m in my own mind out there, in my own head. I have to be. Otherwise, I’m thinking about the wrong stuff. I can’t get out there and make everything go away. I’m trying to go to that place where nothing gets in my head and I have a clear thought process.
“I’m acting as if I’m not involved and I’m just looking on. I want to have that mindset. A lot of times when I’m not playing the game, say Huddy (Tim Hudson) is pitching, I can watch that game, and process it so clear and know what he should throw next. It’s pretty clear to everybody in the dugout. Sometimes, I can be on the field in the midst of what’s going on and not see that as clearly as I can from the outside looking in.
“When you can get to the point where you’re thinking that clear on the field, I think you’ve achieved that happy place. That’s certainly what I’m trying to do — try and see what’s going on from an outside perspective. It takes a lot of concentration. It takes a lot of will to not let crowds and noise and all that’s going on affect that train of thought.”
Peavy found his special place last season after coming to the Giants in late July. He won six games, had an earned run average the size of a pea. The Giants would not have made the postseason without him. The subject is not even up for debate. The Giants re-signed him for two more years for $24 million.
What is he looking for this season?
“Last year from the trade deadline on, I was able to put together some of my best numbers I’ve put together in the second half during my career. I hope to build on that. I wouldn’t have showed up if I didn’t believe that. I really think I can be a big part of things moving forward as I was last year.”
He walks out to the field at Scottsdale Stadium. He takes the mound. He throws to live hitters, his first time doing it this spring. He is pitching, really pitching. His delivery is perfect. Textbook. He throws his arms over his head in an old-style full windup. His right arm comes straight to the plate. Not a wasted inch of motion.
His pitches are low in the strike zone. Where he wants them. Some pitches get raked. It means nothing. It is early. He is familiarizing himself with the ball, the mound, the plate, his hand, his arm. When he is done, he slaps hands with Buster Posey.
Everything has been smooth and effortless the first time around. Or as a guy named Lowell once sang, “Oh slow and easy.”
For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at email@example.com.