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Ty Adcock finds strength in the struggle

It was 1,178 days between competitive pitches for Ty Adcock, but he made every one of those days count

Miami Marlins v Seattle Mariners Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

A different player might have been stressed out in Ty Adcock’s shoes. Summoned to the majors after throwing all of 28 innings in the minors—over half of those in the low minors—with an additional travel wrinkle thrown in to the already short two-day notice he was given to pack his stuff and prepare to meet the big league club, coupled with the already intense situation of making one’s big-league debut, a moment players dream about for years: it would have been understandable for Adcock to come out in front of his friends, family, former and current teammates, and over 23,000 fans, and look a little shaky in his first outing as a Seattle Mariner.

But Adcock spent the 1,178 days he had to wait between throwing competitive pitches preparing himself, mentally and physically, for this exact moment.

Miami Marlins v Seattle Mariners Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

Finding peace in the chaos is a skill Adcock has been developing for years, making him uniquely equipped to deal with any obstacle—including a two-and-a-half-hour delay in getting out of Dallas to head to Seattle to make his major league debut.

“I was just kind of thinking, if I make it here, I make it here,” he told reporters, shrugging. “If not, if I don’t make it on time, I don’t make it on time. But I was hoping that plane was going to show up, and eventually, it did.”

Adcock’s family and friends actually beat him here, arriving in Seattle around 9 AM yesterday from North Carolina. Adcock himself wouldn’t arrive at the park until just a couple of hours before game time, knowing there was a chance he could be called upon to make his major league debut that night if the game broke right. But rather than letting the travel delay send him into a frenzy, he tapped into his mental skills training and methodically went about preparing to possibly make his big league debut.

“I knew I was able to adapt. I knew I didn’t have all the time in the world to get ready, but I don’t need a ton of time to be prepared to get into the game. I got here, met the clubbies, was trying to meet the skipper, touch base with everyone. Get in the tubs, heat up, start moving around and then do everything I needed to do in there, then come out here and play some catch. Once I was ready to go, I went over to the bullpen, just to touch the slope a little bit, make sure I had everything ready, everything was feeling good out of hand.

And then from then on, I was just trying to calm myself down a little bit because everything had been so sped up the past day or so.”

For his part, Scott Servais tried to recognize the unique situation Adcock found himself in. “I tried to be as loose around him as much as I could,” said the skipper. “Because you don’t want him to take it too seriously, you don’t want to put too much weight on anyone’s shoulders. So I just goofed around with him, loose as I could possibly make it, joking around, keeping it light and fun. Because if you do that, it’s just a game.”

But Adcock seems to have the mental side of the game well in hand. When Ty France crushed a three-run home run to put the Mariners up 6-0 in the second inning, it seemed like things were indeed trending towards Adcock making his MLB debut just a few hours after setting foot in T-Mobile Park. A lockdown performance from fellow rookie Bryce Miller led to Adcock taking the mound in the seventh, pitching two hitless innings with one lineout and six ground ball outs (the lone batter who reached did so when the normally surehanded Eugenio Suárez mishandled a grounder).

“I felt comfortable,” said Adcock of his outing. “It didn’t feel too foreign on the mound for me, I think because I try to oversimplify things on the mound with my stuff. I try to trust my pitches, everything I got, and just attack the hitter. Whatever happens after the ball leaves my hand, it happens. You can’t control it after that.”

The illusion of control is one Adcock let go of long ago. A two-way player at Elon College, where he was teammates with George Kirby, Adcock started closing games and pitching more from his junior to senior year, along with playing in right field every day, which wore on his body, causing a mild labrum tear in his shoulder. The Mariners drafted him in the eighth round in 2019, knowing he’d need to be shut down for short season ball, but Adcock worked hard to rehabilitate with the training staff in Arizona with an eye to starting his pro career at the beginning of the next season.

Then, the pandemic struck, wiping out the 2020 minor-league season. In his eagerness to get back on a competitive mound in 2021, Adcock thinks he might have attempted to ramp things up too quickly at “Camp Carolina,” the Mariners’ satellite alternative training site; with a shoulder that was still recovering and additional strain on his pitching arm, Adcock suffered a UCL tear in April of 2021 and underwent TJ surgery and a long and grueling rehab that tested his mental toughness just as much as it did his physical fitness.

But those long and lonely days of rehab paid off when a composed and calm Adcock took the mound on Monday. The days of monotony turned into a structured daily routine that helped him navigate his hectic first day in the bigs.

“I credit all my stillness on the mound to all of the days spent in Arizona and with the mental skills team, just kind of preparing myself for these uncomfortable situations. While I was in rehab with TJ for over a year, I read a ton of books on psychology, just trying to prepare myself and put myself in good situations so that when I do get into an uncomfortable situation, or something that feels off or foreign, I have a strategy to calm myself, anchor myself back down, and just breathe and get back to the present moment and just enjoy it.”

“As weird as it sounds, I’m thankful that it happened to me because now I feel like I’m a big leaguer in the way I go about things. I’m a lot more proactive in taking care of my work in a professional manner.”

During his rehab, Adcock had the phrase “know your why” inked on his right forearm, just below the elbow he spent months rehabilitating. At the time, Adcock hadn’t yet read the source text that inspired the mantra, a favorite among the Mariners’ mental skills coaches, drawn from Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search For Meaning, but once he did, it only deepened his understanding of the concept. If you know your why, you can endure just about anything.

“If you don’t know exactly why you’re putting yourself through these terrible situations where you’re suffering every day—or like, not suffering, but like, I gotta go into the facility, I gotta lift, I gotta run, I gotta go through the monotonous arm care every single day. It sucks.”

“But to me, when you love it so much, it’s everything. It’s the world to me. I love to suffer, as long as I’m chasing my goal.”