When I was eight years old, I mapped out my life. Given that I was eight, I had those quintessential innocent high hopes that often go hand in hand with being told I could be anything in life. However, I was not to be taken for some naive chump. I was a realist; I knew that my dreams of becoming a professional baseball player were well outside my scope of athleticism. I knew that playing shortstop for the big club in Anaheim was not going to be a plausible outcome. I was a 4-foot-nothing, crooked-toothed doofus who got picked last to play kickball. Acutely aware of my physical limitations as a human, I set my sights much lower than professional sports.
So low, in fact, that, after about ten minutes of deliberation (a LIFETIME when you’re eight), I settled on just being a straight A student that went to Stanford on an academic scholarship to get my degree in a science-to-be-named later then pursuing a firefighting career by the age of 22 shortly followed by making my first million before the age of 30 then retiring at 40 and finally embarking on my around-the-world post-work travel life.
This was my fallback option.
Now, as I sit here, as a soon-to-be-thirty year old doofus who writes for free at a mid-sized Angels fan blog and shares memes on Twitter for more hours a day than I’ll ever admit to my employer, I realize I may have overestimated myself a bit. I still don’t even know if the semicolon I used in the first paragraph is grammatically correct or not. I thought I would know that by now.
Today’s somber reflections are brought to you by the number 30.
I turn 30 in about a week. The big three-oh. Thirty whole rotations. I think this completely arbitrary yet still foreboding specific date is what is sparking these realizations of my mediocrity. It is an objectively disgusting milestone to reach. Like, I understand how counting works, and I’m sure I knew, somewhere in the back of my mind, that one inevitably reaches this age. Yet I never thought I would be thirty. I know my younger sister is going to be thirty. I know my little niece and nephew are going to be thirty one day. I know you are going to be/are already thirty years old. But it just feels so different talking about thirty years old in the first person. I don’t know if I was expecting to be one of those people that says "oh this is my xth 29th birthday!" until I die or if I just expect my insides to explode at 11:59p.m. on August 23rd in a morbid Cinderella experience.
I realize that the portion of the audience that has read this far and is over thirty years old is probably cursing at me to get off their lawns, while the portion of the audience that is under thirty years old is probably Tik Tokking this article (what the hell is a Tik Tok?). I know that thirty is objectively not old, and that I have a lot of aspirations that I don’t even know I will not live up to yet. The people that work next to me have to hear about this thirty-eight percent life crisis that I’m enduring on a constant basis, so I thought a good idea would be to open it up for the Internet as a whole. Please just use the comments to tell me I’m pretty one last time before I hit 30.
It’s just a weird time, and I don’t know why I didn’t listen to other people when they told me how weird it was going to be. The things that connect me to my youth have suddenly become not things that connect me to the youth. I own a Hey Arnold t-shirt. I go to concerts of bands doing "20th Anniversary" shows. I still remember my LiveJournal. I unironically have a floppy disk in my bedroom.. I still recite lines from Superbad as if they are cool.
Then there are things that I did in my twenties that I thought I wouldn’t want to do when I was all grown up and in my thirties. I still occasionally long for the sweet taste of a memory-zapping Adios Motherfucker. I wear different colored socks most days. I laugh at fart jokes even when they are bad. I do all of my laundry in one load, regardless of what kind of clothing or what colors they are. I still will ask you to borrow a pencil to take notes with on my first day of a new job.
I think part of my problem with turning thirty is rooted in my sports fandom. Thirty years old is the beginning of the end for an athletic career. This is sheerly anecdotal, but it seems like nobody says a 28 year old player "looks 30", yet people often describe 30 year olds as "looking 40". Dallas Keuchel and Craig Kimbrel both turned thirty last year and not one team thought they were worth a goddamn draft pick this year. They were worth draft picks. I’m worth a draft pick!
Andrelton Simmons turns thirty this year. Matt Harvey turned thirty this spring. Tommy La Stella turned thirty before either of them. These three players represent the spectrum that is thirty. There are three ways to age and three ways only.
The most common positive way to age, in my eyes, is the Andrelton Simmons method. Simmons had a great start to his career; bouncing between 2 and 3 fWAR early, and setting a high floor for his productivity with small error bars (is that the proper semicolon use? Please advise.). Bounding around the 5-6 hole like Smash Adams in Doug Funnie's daydreams, Simmons made a name for himself for his one elite skill--defense. The least sexy of all the tools, Simmons quietly aged into 5 fWAR seasons as he grew into his late twenties. His age thirty season has seen Simmons regress back to his 2-3 fWAR days, but that’s still a really productive starting shortstop that should not be taken for granted or traded. Simmons was the kid in high school who had like a 3.4 GPA, went to the local university, and landed him a nice, mid-level job immediately upon graduation. Great life, low error bars, but never reached peak excitement.
Then there's Matt Harvey. Oh boy, there's Matt Harvey. Harvey was like the smart kid in high school who also somehow gets plastered every night and still shows up to class and out-schools everybody. He was the guy that drew my envy; combining an active social life with elite tangible and useful skills (okay, how about THAT semicolon?!). He was a young, successful star in New York, which seems like one of the best combinations ever. Racking up 12.2 fWAR through his first 65 starts, he even, much to the chagrin of my Dodgers fans roommates, challenged Clayton Kershaw as the best pitcher in the league in 2013. Then he started to age, and his health and skills wavered. This eventually led to his age 30 season with the Angels, where, by fWAR, my 0.0 fWAR was actually more valuable than his -0.3 (okay, that's not really how it works, but let me have this). His career is my worst nightmare; the absolute combustion of what was once a promising early twenties, being eroded by being sore and injured. The creaks in my knees have never been louder, and every weird morning neck ache feels like it could send me on my Matt Harvey demise.
So far, judging by the 2019 Angels, being thirty is either a boring gradual decline, or it means being a pitcher so bad the 2019 Angels are forced to release you. Not great, Bob. But Tommy La Stella brings me hope! He has been reborn after celebrating his thirtieth birthday. After toiling around for six seasons in the majors, never being good enough to be a starter, but never bad enough to not be at least a part timer, La Stella decided to give no fucks this year and started swinging for the fences. After ten career homers and accruing 2 fWAR in his career, La Stella has hit 16 dingerz while amassing 2.2 wins in only 78 games as a thirty year old. Whether it be the juiced ball, a swing change, or both, La Stella has become a near .200 ISO guy while turning Officially Old. La Stella is that guy who was nerdy but nice in high school, then discovered p90x at age 30 and became AC Slater. The #GlowUp is real, and it gives me hope that I, too, can venture along a similar path.
So, when you’re talking about baseball players being old and decrepit, just remember your dumbass is also talking about me. These are people, and sometimes they are thirty. Whether they be on a La Stella upwards trajectory, a Harvey downwards tumble, or a Simmons slow walk down the stairs, we should all change the discourse around players getting older. In every conceivable aspect, I am a nobody. I don’t have an audience whatsoever. My job doesn’t even allow for me to get Yelped. And if I am having a hard time saying goodbye to my nondescript youth, I assume players are going through a similar experience. But they’re having to do it while pitching/hitting in front of 40,000 people a night. That’s got to be taxing.
Who knows which type of person I’m going to be during my thirties; but I damn well better not catch you talking shit; I will wear my Hey Arnold t-shirt; wear my different colored socks; and continue to go to live Ludacris concerts; Hopefully; I’ll be able to leave my LiveJournal and pencil-forgetting ways in my twenties like Tommy La Stella; but please be nice to me if I occasionally order a pink or blue drink from the bar; While I did not write 1500+ words as an elaborate scheme to fish for compliments; I will take them at this time; Please tell me I’m pretty;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;