He’s 37 and throwing 99 mph: Meet MLB’s ultimate comeback story
He’s 37 and throwing 99 mph: Meet MLB’s ultimate comeback story
THE HAGERTY HOUSEHOLD, located in a small Ohio town named Defiance, operates under a short but firm set of tenets. The first involves work. Hagertys work. Hartsell Dodrill, Bretta Hagerty’s father, worked afternoon shifts in a coal mine when he was playing college football and basketball. Gene Hagerty, John Hagerty’s father, worked in the steel mill in Steubenville. John Hagerty still works, the past 23 years as a journeyman millwright at the GM plant. Nothing he and Bretta taught their three children was as important as how work — and the honor of it — carried the family from generation to generation.
Luke Hagerty, the eldest of the siblings, learned about work through sports. He played everything, though baseball came most naturally. When other kids struggled to throw strikes, he feathered the ball over the plate with uncanny ease. He didn’t exactly love the game, and he knew next to nothing about it. Before his senior year, when Hagerty was going to quit and focus on basketball, his high school baseball coach, Tom Held, told him that standing 6-foot-7 and throwing left-handed was unique. “Really?” Hagerty responded.
He could play baseball in college if he worked, Held said, so Hagerty did, and Ball State offered him books and a spot on the team. And when he got there, someone told Hagerty he could be a first-round pick if he threw 94 mph. His fastball sat at 82 mph at the time, so he spent the next three years building up his arm, adding a tick here or there. By his junior year, he threw 94. The Chicago Cubs chose him with the 32nd pick in the first round of the 2002 draft and gave him more than $1 million to sign.
Hagerty went to the Cubs’ affiliate in Boise, Idaho, and dominated, and it was supposed to be the start of a meteoric rise, with team officials telling him he could be in the major leagues by the next September. He chuckles at that now, the salad days, before he lost the ability to do what was so fundamental: throw a baseball. Before he really learned what it meant to work, and before he had any idea what he could be, and before he was 37 years old, sitting in a hotel room on the outskirts of Seattle, 12 years removed from his last pitch in organized baseball, unable to sleep, his mind racing at 2 a.m., wondering if he actually could convince a room of scouts that he wasn’t just some crazy old man who thinks he can still pitch.
EVERY DAY, LUKE Hagerty woke up and said the same thing: “I’m going to be fine.” This was all a bad dream. Opening his eyes would end it. He forgot how to pitch in an instant. He would remember just as quickly. He said this in 2005, and then in 2006, and on into 2007, and for the last time in 2008, when baseball gave up on him.
Hagerty had gone to spring training with the Cubs in 2003 full of promise and left on a plane to Alabama, where Dr. James Andrews diagnosed him with a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow. Tommy John surgery kept Hagerty out for 2003 and most of 2004. His arm hurt throughout the rehabilitation. He forged ahead, When the Cubs did not add him to their 40-man roster that offseason, the Florida Marlins acquired Hagerty during the Rule 5 draft, in which teams poach young, usually flawed players. Hagerty’s fastball had lost its zip upon his return. The Marlins wanted him anyway.
Early in spring training, before he was set to throw a live batting practice session, Hagerty surveyed the field. He saw Miguel Cabrera, Carlos Delgado, Mike Lowell, Paul Lo Duca, Luis Castillo. All of them were All-Stars. Typically prior to throwing, Hagerty would visualize what he wanted to happen. When he closed his eyes that day, he saw himself hitting the batter with a pitch.
Just like that, his ability to throw a baseball over a 17-inch-wide plate vanished. Whatever you want to call the malady — the yips, the thing, the monster — it attacks like a snake that coils itself around its prey. It squeezes and squeezes and squeezes, and then it swallows what’s left whole. It consumed Steve Blass, Mackey Sasser, Chuck Knoblauch, Rick Ankiel, countless others no one knows because, like Hagerty, they never made it.
“I usually tell people it’s like your signature,” Hagerty says. “You know how to write your name. Someone gives you a piece of paper and a pen and you can write it. Maybe there’s variance. It was like someone gave me a pen, and it was scribble all over the paper. It made no sense.”
The yips are an exercise in loneliness. Nobody is quite sure what to do, what to say.
“I don’t know if somebody told me how to act — just act like everything’s normal,” says Mark Reed, one of Hagerty’s catchers in 2005 with Class A Boise, where Hagerty went after the Marlins sent him back to the Cubs. “I remember having to stay in the squat. The ball is flying over fences and into nets and onto fields. I knew I had to be ready to be a hockey goalie but also be ready to jump up and dive for something.
“I never wanted to show it. I just wanted to be prepared to make him look like, dude, it’s no big deal. I wanted him to feel like, You’re not that far off. You’re not that far off. It was preparing for the worst, but when he’d throw four or five balls to the backstop, getting it to him and making it seem like it was all good — he knew exactly what he was going through. You see the guy trying as hard as he can and not having a clue where it’s gonna go. I felt so bad for the guy. All I heard about him was greatness.”
That year, Hagerty threw 6⅔ innings. He walked 30, allowed 14 hits, threw nine wild pitches and hit four batters. He turned himself into a test subject to conquer it. Coaches set up targets behind Hagerty’s back, and he whirled 180 degrees and tried to hit them. They wanted to detach his thoughts from learned physical behaviors. That didn’t work. Neither did the conversations with sports psychologists or private throwing sessions away from teammates in batting cages or anything else. One time, when he was starting a game, Hagerty threw two warm-up pitches and then waved off the catcher. “I’m good,” he said. “I’m ready.” His left hand was shaking. He was scared to throw any more warm-ups.
The next season was no better. With Class A Daytona, Hagerty threw three innings and walked nine batters. The Cubs stuck with him anyway. There would be days, Reed says, when the wildness would abate. The misses wouldn’t miss by as much. Hagerty would leave throwing sessions upbeat. This is it. This is the turning point. This is where the work pays off. And then he would be so wild pregame he worried he was going to hit a hot dog vendor with a ball.
“I usually tell people it’s like your signature. You know how to write your name. Someone gives you a piece of paper and a pen and you can write it. Maybe there’s variance. It was like someone gave me a pen, and it was scribble all over the paper. It made no sense.”
Luke Hagerty on the yips
During the offseason, Hagerty returned to Defiance. Held ran a fall-ball camp for local kids in which he taught the fundamentals of throwing. Hagerty attended. Next to middle schoolers who looked half his size, he did drills on one knee, trying to remember how to throw. In 2007, the Cubs suggested he play independent ball with the Rockford Riverhawks. He walked eight in 1⅓ innings. The next year, he went into camp with the Chicago White Sox. They cut him mid-spring. Hagerty latched on with the Schaumburg Flyers, an indy-ball team about 30 miles west of Chicago. He lasted eight games.
“As long as they’re not telling me to go home, I’m gonna come,” Hagerty says. “We did early work. We did late work. We did all kinds of stuff. Working’s easy when you know how to do it. People would’ve quit. I just couldn’t quit. I didn’t care. Of course I was embarrassed and everything, but I couldn’t quit. I’m going to figure this out. I don’t know what it is. I’m gonna get this. It’s gonna be fine. We’ll be back to normal. We’ll be good.”
Hagerty tried to find logic where it didn’t exist. He called his mom one day. He was sitting on a hot curb, holding a sack lunch, waiting for a van to pick him up and take him to a game. Bretta never allowed her children to feel sorry for themselves. If there’s a problem, she always said, work through it. “You know what, Luke?” she said. “If you want to get to the good stuff, you’ve got to crawl through that muck. There’s a lot of ways to go. Apparently yours is digging a tunnel to China and back.”
After Schaumburg released Hagerty, the calls stopped. So did the bromides. Nobody was telling him he would figure it out anymore. He had taken solace, or at least as much solace as someone so broken can take, from those words. He remembers Oneri Fleita, then the Cubs’ farm director, telling Hagerty sometime around 2006 that when he beats the yips, Fleita simply wants to be in the movie about it.
“You feel so bad for people like that,” Fleita says now. “Your heart bleeds when someone is dealing with that. Anything to motivate him. Anything to make him feel like he can see that light.
“Because, man. Who has ever come back from it?”
HAGERTY NEEDED A break from baseball after 2008. He didn’t want to watch it, listen to it, hear about it. A year earlier, he had met a cancer researcher named Rachel Rempel. They got married in May 2009, by which time Hagerty was back in school, studying at Arizona State’s College of Health Solutions. He passed his test to be a certified strength and conditioning specialist and bounced around a few gyms in the Phoenix area before coming to terms with his future. “When you have a dream and a purpose, to be a baseball player, that is your life,” Rachel says. “I don’t know if that ever goes away. That’s part of the challenge when it does. It’s like your identity. You can’t get rid of that.”
When he started X2 Athletic Performance in Scottsdale, Hagerty figured most of his clients would be baseball players. What that meant, of course, was he would need to pick up a baseball again.
The first time Hagerty touched a ball after his career ended, nothing mystical happened. No jolt of lightning up his arm or tingling sensation. This was work. This was his job. A gangly teenager who came in to train named Austin Davis would throw the ball to Hagerty, and Hagerty would throw it to him, and it didn’t exactly seem natural to Hagerty, but it wasn’t foreign, either. His left hand didn’t tremble. The ball came out firm enough. Nobody there could tell he had the yips.
As he threw more, Hagerty felt more comfortable showing off his arm strength. His students marveled. He could hit 94 again. They encouraged him to come back. He shrugged. Maybe. Maybe some day. He and Rachel had a newborn daughter, Elan. He went to throw one afternoon in August 2012 with the Sonoran Explorers in the defunct Freedom Pro Baseball League, and in a quick-and-dirty Facebook post, he said he felt better than he had since his first season with the Cubs: “Its time for the real Luke to make an appance. Its been 10 yrs but I found him. Its about to get nasty.” The real Luke, or at least that version, wasn’t particularly nasty.
Hagerty needed more for X2. He wanted it to be Phoenix’s most progressive facility. He was an early adopter of teaching using programs with overweight and underweight balls to promote gains in velocity. He searched online for a 4-ounce ball and found the website of Driveline Baseball, a small, performance-focused training lab in Seattle. Hagerty marveled at the trove of research-based knowledge but didn’t want to blindly implement it on teenage arms.
Hagerty was his own best test subject. The Driveline program suited him. Lots of throwing with high intensity and velocity into nets. No hitter. No visualizations gone wrong. Hagerty could let balls fly with impunity. He knew the game could be lonely. This time it would be self-imposed.
“I did this whole thing to go through the process to see what I’m capable of,” Hagerty says. “The angle wasn’t to be like, oh, if I can get back and play again. I just love throwing. It’s fun. I love the challenge.”
It was like when he was a kid. Hagerty told John that he wanted to improve at basketball. John bought him a notebook. When you get home from school, he said, shoot from both blocks, both elbows, both wings and the free throw line. Track how many you made. If you do that, you’ll get better. If you don’t, you probably don’t want to improve that much after all. John would come home from a shift at the plant and crack open the notebook. When a particular day was empty, he reminded Hagerty not to complain about not getting better. Most days weren’t empty.
When the velocity program worked, and his implementation of it on groups of students showed significant gains, Hagerty grew ravenous for knowledge. He read studies he didn’t understand, so he read them again until he did. “Sometimes I feel like I’m just an idiot,” Hagerty says. “Like, what are you doing? I want to be as good as I possibly can be at whatever I’m doing. If that takes work, I don’t care. In the grand scheme of things, I don’t know where that puts me. But I want to be able to figure things out.”
As the scope of Driveline’s business grew, and technology enabled pitching labs to flourish, Hagerty embraced the evolution. He played guinea pig again after he bought a Rapsodo unit, a camera-and-radar system that captures pitch velocity, RPMs and the axis on which the ball spins. It allows pitchers to take a pitch they like — in Hagerty’s case, it was two-time Cy Young winner Corey Kluber‘s breaking ball — look up the movement profile captured by the tracking systems inside major league stadiums and try to replicate it indoors. It took hundreds of tries. Hagerty was designing an entirely new pitch for himself through failure. This wasn’t baseball, though, as much as it was problem-solving, figuring out answers to something that did have them.
“I just think about that solitude,” says Bretta, a renowned volleyball coach in northwest Ohio. “You’re in the gym by yourself, and say it’s not working. What do I do next? There’s a lot of elements that have to be present with him to get through that.”
He had been there. He had known that. It prepared him. His yips weren’t gone. They never go away, Hagerty says. He created an environment that helped him cope. His successes were his and others’. Austin Davis, that skinny teenager who caught Hagerty’s first throw, grew into a man, ascended through the Philadelphia Phillies‘ system after being a 12th-round pick in 2014 and got called up last June. Hagerty flew cross-country the next day. He wanted to see what it looked like when someone from X2 wore a major league uniform.
That part puzzled Davis. He always believed someone from X2 would make the big leagues. He just thought it would be Hagerty.
“When you see your trainer throwing 98, it’s like, let’s go,” Davis says. “When you’re paying your trainer and he’s better than you … “
This Luke was nasty. His fastball sat in the mid-90s. The radar gun at X2 once flashed 98.9 mph for a pitch off the mound. His breaking ball didn’t just mimic Kluber’s. Its movement pattern complemented the horizontal ride of Hagerty’s fastball. He designed a changeup and another breaking ball. He started throwing to hitters. They flailed.
“You just see it, and you’re like, dude, you’ve got to do something with this,” Davis says. “People have been telling him that for years. If he truly decided to go for it, it wouldn’t be a matter of stuff. It would be whether he was willing to do it.”
IN SEPTEMBER, HAGERTY met with a woman named Debbie Crews. She studies the brain. Most of her research focused on golf, another sport with cases of the yips. She wanted to test her neurofeedback system on baseball players, and a number of people recommended Hagerty because of how he embraced data.
“Pitchers are always fun,” Crews says, though she didn’t realize how much she would enjoy Hagerty’s company until he got to talking about himself, his comeback, his yips. Crews was fascinated. She asked if he would be willing to answer a questionnaire. He obliged.
It covered five categories: adventure mindset, connect, authentic, forward focused and courage. On almost every reply, Hagerty was above average compared to the elite athletes Crews surveys. In only two segments were his answers problematic: negative thoughts and courage.
This, Crews says, is typical of athletes with the yips. It is almost autoimmune, the way they forever lurk, ready to strike at the most inopportune moment. They manifest themselves physically. They poison psychologically.
Crews asked Hagerty to go to an archery range that month. The idea was to get Hagerty away from his main sport and into an unfamiliar situation, where he doesn’t have coping strategies. Everything, Crews says, shows up. When she noticed he was not shooting for the 10-point bull’s-eye target, she asked how often Hagerty adopts his game persona. He stopped to think. That’s what was missing.
The yips had taken his ability to throw a baseball and his career the first time around. They were not going to kill this chance, too. They had infiltrated deep into Hagerty’s mind, stealing another fundamental element — his unrelenting competitiveness, the sort that lived inside his lab but was needed to leave it — and torpedoing it.
“He needed to go through it,” Bretta says. “He needed to take ownership of it, carry it around on his shoulder and beat it up every day. He had to understand it. He had to dissect it and figure it out. That was important to him. It was important to him to get to this step.”
This step was the biggest. It was what Austin Davis and every kid who walked through X2’s doors said at one point or another when they saw Haggerty light up a radar gun. Try. Just try. Hold a workout. There were always excuses. There always would be. “He’s waiting for things to fall into place,” Crews says. “He’s got his business going. I said you just have to make a decision, and if you’re going to go, you take steps to get the business covered, your family covered, everything so he can go when he makes it.”
She was right. Both Elan, now 8 years old, and her little brother, Lincoln, 6, were in school. Every day was dragging Hagerty, who turns 38 on April 1, further from his prime. So, Crews said, strike the negative thoughts. Summon the courage. It will never be the perfect time. Just choose a date and stick to it. He did. Hagerty would spend the next three months training harder than ever, getting to X2 at 10 a.m. for two hours of solitude before opening up the place to his clients, refining pitches and hunting an extra mile of velo and working. And then on Jan. 13, 2019, in a facility about 20 minutes south of Seattle, he would try to summon his game persona — that long-dormant alpha just ready to re-emerge — and validate everything he’d done to get there.
FINALLY, A LITTLE after 2 a.m., Hagerty’s mind stopped racing and he fell asleep in that hotel room on the outskirts of Seattle. He wasn’t a crazy old man. The scouts would see that. His sleep was short-lived. Hagerty woke up around 5:30 and started to get ready to throw the most important 27 pitches of his life.
Hagerty found his hotel’s workout facility and took a soak in the hot tub. Then he jumped into the pool. Back and forth he went: hot tub, pool, hot tub, pool. His body needed the shock, as it did sustenance. Dylan Rheault, a minor league pitcher who a couple days earlier hit 98 mph during a workout, texted that Hagerty needed to eat eggs and potatoes. “That’s the velo breakfast,” Rheault wrote.
He needed every last mph he could muster. It was Driveline Pro Day. About 40 scouts from 19 MLB organizations, two teams from the Mexican League, one from Nippon Professional Baseball and one from an independent league would travel to Kent, Washington, where Hagerty and 20 other pitchers would throw a bullpen session. Rapsodo and Trackman units would capture every moment in exceptional granularity, with a spreadsheet that tracked pitch velocity featuring seven numbers after the decimal point and 28 other measurements for R&D departments across the game to study.
Hagerty didn’t need to see them. He understood exactly what he threw. He had studied Brooks Baseball, Baseball Savant, FanGraphs — the public clearinghouses for modern sabermetric knowledge. His high school coach was right: Standing 6-foot-7 and being left-handed were gifts. So was being curious.
“The only way I ever wanted to play again is if my stuff would be at a major league level — and an above-average major league level,” Hagerty says. “I wanted my worst day to be acceptable. That’s how I judge if I’m ready or not. You can have the good day. I’ve seen it. But their average to below-average day isn’t good enough.”
All he needed at Driveline was the good day. He walked around the facility awaiting his turn. He stretched. He closed his eyes to visualize. He saw strikes.
It felt, Hagerty says, like his days before the yips. When Hagerty was at Ball State and even his first year of pro ball, when his team was losing, he would start to pace. Put me in, he would say, even when it wasn’t his turn to pitch. Being locked in made the rational slightly irrational.
At 11:01 a.m., Hagerty ascended the mound at Driveline. He wore a trucker hat, a gray T-shirt, black shorts and black cross-trainers. His first throw, filmed in slow motion from the side, sizzled in at 96.3148491 mph. He threw 26 more pitches: 16 fastballs, five sliders, three curveballs and two changeups. Hagerty grunted loudly — “like a tennis player,” one scout in attendance joked — when he threw his fastballs and barely made a sound on his off-speed offerings. His 12th pitch was a fastball clocked at 98.5 mph, the second-hardest ball he has ever thrown. His 25th was the Kluber slider, low and away, executed to perfection. At 11:10 a.m., 9 minutes, 8 seconds after his first pitch, and more than 12 years after his last pitch that mattered in pro ball, he was done.
Nobody there threw like Hagerty. Few anywhere do. His average fastball at pro day registered at 96.9 mph. Only four left-handed relievers in baseball last year threw a harder average fastball than Hagerty offered Jan. 13. None of the other pitchers at Driveline came within a mile per hour of him. Even though he struggled to throw strikes, and at times missed badly, he was the star of the day. The yips were nowhere to be found.
It went well. That’s about all Hagerty told Rachel. He was giddy, clearly, but didn’t want to make a big deal yet. He hadn’t said much to her about pro day leading up to it, either. It’s not that this entire endeavor was frivolous. It wasn’t. And it’s not that Hagerty was trying to keep her in the dark, either. Far from it. It’s the residual effects of a dozen years ago, the leftover feelings, the knowledge that baseball is cruel and irrational and illogical and that sometimes, no matter how hard you work, it still doesn’t reward you.
And Rachel understood that. He told her when he had a good day at work; she told him she was happy. He put up clip after short video clip on YouTube of him throwing a ball hard; she watched them. He turned their patio into a makeshift bullpen; she didn’t say a thing. He spent countless nights doing arm exercises while they watched “Game of Thrones” or “Downton Abbey” or “Endeavor” or “Stranger Things”; she thought nothing of it.
Because what was there to think? It’s like Oneri Fleita said: Who has ever come back from it?
WITHIN 12 HOURS, the entire organization was on board. The scout loved him. The video folks offered a thumbs up. The R&D department was giddy. The Chicago Cubs wanted to sign Luke Hagerty again, 16½ years after the first time.
Andrew Bassett worried he was too late. Bassett is the Cubs’ assistant director of pro scouting, and he was convinced that another team had seen the raw numbers from Hagerty’s pro day session and made him an on-the-spot Godfather offer. He called late at night on the 13th and was relieved when Hagerty said he hadn’t signed. For 30 minutes, they talked about how the Cubs could maximize the uniqueness of Hagerty’s abilities. Forget his height or age. Inside his facility, amid the solitude, Hagerty had built one of the most talented raw left arms in the world. In the meantime, Kyle Evans had been talking with Josh Knipp. Evans is the Cubs’ senior director of player personnel, and he had forged a relationship with Knipp, Hagerty’s agent, the previous year when Chicago signed reliever Justin Hancock. The familiarity helped. What the Cubs did for Hancock — giving him his first major league opportunity at 27 years old — they could do for Hagerty.
It sounded a touch odd to the Cubs when they thought about it, too. A big league debut for a guy selected the same year as Craig Breslow, the major league veteran the Cubs hired this winter as their director of strategic initiatives? An eventual shot at the major leagues with a team that aspires to win the National League pennant for someone who never has been above A-ball? A guy who’s older than every current player on the Cubs’ 40-man roster no less?
“This is a really, really competitive team,” Evans told Hagerty during another sales pitch a few days later. “The bar to clear to get into the major leagues with the Cubs is really high. But we wouldn’t be having this conversation if you didn’t have the stuff to clear that bar.”
Were he to clear that bar anywhere, Hagerty would be the oldest pitcher with no foreign experience to debut in the major leagues since Hall of Famer Satchel Paige in 1948. Only eight pitchers ever have ascended to the majors after their 38th birthday. Jim Morris, whose comeback story was made into a movie, was 35 years old when he pitched for Tampa Bay in 1999.
The Cubs were not the only team with grand aspirations for Hagerty. The Milwaukee Brewers, the team that filched the NL Central title from them last season, wanted to sign Hagerty. The Cubs played up their infrastructure, from minor league pitching coordinator Brendan Sagara to new major league pitching coach Tommy Hottovy to a group of 10 R&D analysts who nerd out every bit as much as Hagerty when it comes to pitch design.
They outlined the plan: Get him to their spring-training complex in Mesa, Arizona, well before minor leaguers arrive and allow Hagerty to dictate his pace. Their indoor facility is similar to X2’s. He could start throwing outside and facing hitters when he’s ready. They wouldn’t push his regular-season assignment, either. Maybe he stays in extended spring training for more reps. Maybe he pitches his way to Triple-A out of spring training. Maybe he goes level by level and winds up at Wrigley Field in September.
For all the grand scenarios they played up, the Cubs held one distinct advantage over Milwaukee: They were the Cubs.
“He’d talked about this, how much they’d done for him,” Rachel says. “He felt like he didn’t give them that back yet. Almost like a letdown. This is his opportunity to redeem himself. He owed them something. It’s unfinished business that he’s getting a chance to fix.”
For 12 years, Hagerty carried that. The disappointment and the guilt and the desire to right it. As he and Rachel were FaceTiming with Knipp and telling him to finalize a minor league deal with the Cubs, Elan was in the kitchen, video chatting with Bretta. Hagerty and Rachel came into the room. They told Bretta the news. She started to cry. Then Rachel. And finally Luke.
“He made it back,” Rachel says. “There’s this sense of achievement. It’s just a journey. And it still hasn’t ended.”
DURING THE MORNING portion of a daylong physical, a doctor studied Hagerty’s chart, then Hagerty himself, then the chart again.
“So,” the doctor said, “are you a coach?”
“I’m a player,” Hagerty said.
“Well,” the doctor said, “I saw the age and … “
Hagerty already is getting used to it. He was almost picked by the Oakland A’s in the Moneyball draft. He’s in the same class as Zack Greinke, Cole Hamels, Jon Lester, Charlie Morton and Rich Hill, five pitchers with a combined 66 major league seasons. He is the one driving a white Silverado, pulling into the Cubs’ spring facility with a slight grin on his face, because look where he is. It doesn’t bother him when an employer points toward the major league clubhouse and says: “Those are the big leaguers over there. You have to stay over here.” If someone stuck Hagerty in a storage closet at the complex, he’d shrug and be cool with it.
All he really wanted was for the Cubs to call and tell him he passed his physical. Let’s not forget: The graft holding together his left elbow is 15 years old. Combine that with a fastball topping out at 99 mph, and his medicals weren’t exactly a forgone conclusion. The polar vortex didn’t help, either, delaying the results of the physical for two days, making him wait until Friday afternoon, when the word finally came: He was officially a Cub again, signing a non-guaranteed minor-league deal. And he already had his first goal in mind.
“I want to see how hard I can throw,” Hagerty says, and not because “I’m being a meathead wanting to throw 100. To me, it’s about the intricacies. If I can hit 100, that entails a lot of things. I’m healthy, I’m moving efficiently, I’m being very aggressive over and over again to allow my body to adjust and produce that velocity. And my mental space is good.”
His mental space is good. He knows what he needs to do. Keep throwing hard, yes, but throw strikes and throw lots of them. Pitcher’s don’t walk their way to the major leagues. Hagerty recognizes the yips will join him at spring training when he arrives in less than two weeks, and he intends to give them a nice vacation. “I’m not going to fight it,” Hagerty says. “When you have those feelings, how do you look at those? Is this going to be a negative experience as soon as it comes up? One thing somebody said and I read is you should feel these things. That means you’re doing something important. I try to hold onto that.”
It’s like Bretta always said: “Things aren’t fair. Sorry. Figure it out.” It bred survivalism in her son. He might kick the yips for good. They might return with a mean, nasty streak. Whatever manifests itself, he’ll figure it out.
The 50 or so people who train at X2? They won’t have Hagerty and his preternatural ability to look at a person’s body and guess just by how he moves what the velocity on his pitches will be. Hagerty will figure that out. And getting Elan and Lincoln to school. Rachel’s job at the Mayo Clinic starts at 8 a.m. Hagerty always takes them in the morning but, if all goes according to plan, he won’t be around. He’ll figure that out, too.
There’s just something about Hagertys, from a place named Defiance. They know how to make things work.
February 1, 2019 at 12:56PM