Former Major League Baseball player and current ESPN commentator Doug Glanville talks about being a baseball player during an interview conducted by David Macaray. A few of his thoughts about the grind of the game, the psychological toll it takes on the players, are worth reading:
Most fans focus only on the glamour and drama of the game. We view players as guys with God-given skills who just go out there and play. We don't really take into account the "angst," if that's the proper word for it.
I think every player seeks a "recovery" of sorts, a way to purge this feeling, the need to get away from something you love, in order to "reset" yourself. So it's this weird circle of love and resentment. During the season, the rhythm of the game doesn't allow you to take a break, even for one day.
Despite how much you appreciate playing baseball for a living, you have moments where you have big questions. You try and play through it. It could be because your hamstring is falling off, or your wife is sick, or your swing is totally broken, or your confidence is shot. Or it could be because you are playing so well, it becomes expected, and you're underappreciated.
And it could be because you realize a "family game" like baseball doesn't really leave a lot of room for a player intent on having his own family.
What's the one thing, more than anything else, that surprised you about becoming a professional baseball player?
I was surprised by the dichotomy. On the one hand, players are happy and generally excited by being there. I felt that most players really loved the game and loved playing it. But on the other hand, I saw a lot of personal grief. Personal problems, marriages on the rocks, struggles reconciling the selfish way you must be in order to work within a relentlessly unforgiving system.
Was this something you saw immediately or something you gradually became aware of during your nine seasons?
I recall standing in left-field with the Cubs (we were playing the Phillies), and looking around at my teammates. For a split-second I considered their personal lives. I thought, Wow, there are a lot of problems here, even with everyone making a million dollars or more. Sandberg, Sosa, Grace....no one was exempt. So many players, even the elite ones, faced so many challenges trying to balance their personal relationships with the game. I didn't expect that to show up in such indelible colors, or to become aware of it so quickly.