Saturday, May 4, 2013

Kevin Slowey Never Wins

September 18, 2010.  What does that day mean to you?  Possibly nothing, perhaps more than that, but ultimately, it was just another day.  It was just another day for Kevin Slowey as well.  Slowey awoke fresh that morning, went to the ballpark and started a baseball game for the Minnesota Twins.  Slowey pitched well, going 6.2 innings, giving up just two runs on five hits and a walk.  He struck out eight and improved his record to 13-6.  The ball literally jumped from his hand, like a basketball player jumping for an offensive rebound and then throwing down a powerful put-back dunk.  Little did Slowey know that he would still be waiting for his next win to this very day.

Two and a half years, but only fifteen dreadful starts later, Slowey is still searching for that next win.  The path toward that elusive win has been winding, like a snake living in a terrarium that is too small.  His travels have taken him all over the nation, but success has not followed.  This isn't easy to swallow for the 2005 second-round pick out of Winthrop.  He made Minor League Baseball look silly, like a tall guy walking on his tip-toes through a forest of miniature model train trees.  It only took him three years to reach the Big Leagues, but he was back in the Minors in just that same short, fleeting, momentary, passing period of time. 

How Slowey returned to the Minors is a sordid tale, one that is difficult to express clearly and without constant metaphor.  A Pittsburgh-native, Slowey was known for his steely demeanor and nerdish leanings.  His book learning was frowned upon and his intelligent manner of communicating was spat upon with the disdain of many generations of Proletariat backlash.  That Slowey was smarter than those in the room was a demon that seethed within his belly, lashing out repeatedly when Slowey was forced to interact with members of the Media and clownish teammates.

Slowey harnessed that demon on the mound, using it as motivation, like an eight-year-old with a father who makes him play a sport for 12 months straight and then watch videotape of his performance to make him a better player even though all he really wants to do is watch some TV.  Using that motivation, Slowey became a reliable hand, someone the Twins could really turn to in times of need.  Times like when Slowey started games.  But Slowey never really fit in with his team.  In a lot of ways, he was the Zubaz of Minnesota.  He was liked because he was comfortable, but he just didn't look right or fit well or gain the respect of the other pants, so to speak. 

2011 would be Slowey's lowest point as a pitcher.  He spent the majority of the season battling shoulder and abdominal pains like a warrior fighting a mythical beast while also learning how to love.  When he had slain his own body like a two-headed dragon, he was ready to get that next win.  However, that next win would be a figurative two-headed dragon, who could breathe both fire and ineffective pitches.  At the end of that fateful season, as if written in the stars, Slowey finished without that elusive, slippery, mysterious win and added a 6.66 ERA to boot.

This would be Slowey's final season with the Mighty Clones of the North.  The force of his potent brain was too much for the Twins' clubhouse.  He read Newsweek instead of nothing.  The Twins shipped Slowey off to the Rockies of Colorado, both physically and baseballically.  Slowey wouldn't last long amongst the mighty mountains of the Northwest, ending his travels in Cleveland, a city where all dreams come true. 
Alas, Slowey's Cleveland dreams of winning baseball were dashed, sputtered out like one of those old-timey cars that you see at a car show but that also isn't running well and is just a model at this point.  Slowey wouldn't pitch an inning for the Indians, spending his season split between the misery of injury and the humiliation of Minor League Baseball.  Slowey's tale was as winding as a long, gross rat tail, but was also very close to falling off altogether. 

Flash forward to just one year later.  Slowey had resurfaced in Miami, a city best known for Burn Notice.  Through fortitude, hard work, grit, guile, resilience, cunning, wiliness, slyness, command and control, Slowey reached the highest level of the Majors, as if he had climbed his own Mount Kilimanjaro or a really long staircase.  Now at the top once more, Slowey was ready to earn that unattainable win, and slay the dragon, oppress the Proletariat and conquer the Zubaz while getting that cameo on Burn Notice that he so richly deserves.

Fate is a cruel mistress.  Fate is unkind.  Fate is a that person who won't move over in the fast lane.  Slowey has been dynamic this season, like a magician set on fire while performing card tricks of the Gods.   And yet, that win has eluded him, like a green shell from Mario Kart that wasn't aimed quite right.  Slowey spent all of April hurling a baseball like he had never hurled before, but at the end of the month, he still sits winless.  Slowey still endures.  Slowey still burns.  Slowey still aches.  But Slowey won't relent. 

Slowey turns 29 today; bittersweet as birthdays always are.  As the hands on the clock spin like one of those breakdancing guys who is really good at spinning on his head, it is impossible to forget about mortality.  However, few will ever have to wonder what it might mean to never have another win in life.  For Kevin Slowey, he has to wonder every day if that last win, way back in September of 2010, will be his last.  One last fleeting moment of pure success, drenched with the sweat of hard work and dedication, dripping with the saliva of lessons learned, engorged with the tears of failed expectations and covered in the blood of man.  This amalgamation of bodily fluids is all one can really ask for, and all one can really hope for another. 

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