Scott McGregor is peering in for the sign. But maybe he's looking for something else. The look on his face is one of confusion, uncertainty, perhaps even disgust. Maybe he's trying to recapture something he's lost.
Three years before this picture was taken, Scott McGregor experienced the greatest moment of his career, standing on the mound in Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia as Cal Ripken, Jr. caught the final out of the clinching game of the 1983 World Series. Catcher Rick Dempsey ran to the mound and embraced McGregor, who had shined on the biggest stage of them all, shutting out the Phillies on five hits and two walks with six strikeouts. He'd avenged a Game One loss in which he'd been almost as strong (four hits and two runs in eight innings), but was undone by an Oriole offense that mustered only a Jim Dwyer solo home run. You could have made a strong case for Scotty as Series MVP, but that honor went to Dempsey for his unlikely offensive surge (.385, 4 2B, 1 HR). But personal accolades didn't matter as the two were engulfed by their jubilant teammates.
But three years had passed in the blink of an eye. In 1986, the Orioles were suffering through their first losing season in two decades. McGregor was suffering as well, logging his first losing record since his rookie campaign in 1977 (11 wins, 15 losses). He's staring into the catcher's glove, and wondering where those three years went. He's wondering where he goes from here. The answer would be less than promising. After another subpar season in which he was relegated to the bullpen, he would get pummeled in his first four starts of the disastrous 1988 season. On May 2, 1988, he suffered the indignity of being released by the only major league team he'd ever played for, his career over at age 34.
Similarly, I'm sitting here today wondering where the last three years have gone. In Spring of 2005, I took a job that was supposed to be a stepping stone, something to pay the bills for a year or two while I found something that I really wanted to do (and could do) for a living. All of a sudden, I'm approaching my three-year mark in this job, and I'm no closer to moving on. I still don't know what to do, and I've got no leads.
Meanwhile, change is occurring all around me. Since October of last year, there have been four engagements in my circle of friends. Last night, my roommate Mike informed me that he'd be looking for his own place in June when our apartment lease ends. He and his girlfriend figure to be engagement number five before too long. I'm honestly not surprised; they've been together since college and she's almost done with graduate school. But Mike and I lived together for two years in college and have shared an apartment for the last - you guessed it - three years. It's going to be a tough change. I have three months to figure out where I'm going to be living, and who I'll be living with. This is of course complicated by my desire to find another job. If I don't know for sure where I'll be working and how much money I'll be making, that throws a major kink into my plans. I feel like I had three years to prepare for this moment, and I fell asleep at the switch.
Scott McGregor did land on his feet after the rocky conclusion of his playing career. He's led a life of faith, serving as a minister in the Baltimore area, and ultimately returned to the Orioles organization as a minor league pitching coach. This year, he returns to the Aberdeen IronBirds, for whom he coached in their inaugural season in 2002. Hopefully I'll find my own path before another three years have passed.