To My Baseball Buddy

Tampa Bay Rays Baseball club
Rays Clubhouse
Attn: J P Howell
100 Tropicana Drive
St. Petersburg, Florida 33710

We have been Baseball Buddies for some time, and with that distinction, you know I have got your back any time you need anything….anything. And right now, the only real gift I can offer you during your time while rehabbing from your shoulder surgery is to try and constantly remind you that there is a huge amount of positive support and encouraging words coming out of the Tampa Bay Rays Republic community that want to see you smiling and taking the Rays mound as soon as humanly possible 2011.
I know it is a setback of massive proportions, but it is also a charcter building exercise as you learn more about yourself as you endure the struggles and the obstacles that come with such a surgery. But by staying in a positively focused mindset, you already would have gained the first step towards heading to the mound again. 

I personally have been in your shoes before in my life with an unforeseen injury taking not only your breath away, but making you face some realistic mortality issues both on and off the field. I have had an negative injury prognosis overtake and consume me to force my mind and soul into a unnaturally dark place that seemed to constantly suffocate all the good around me, and made me dwell and focus on the darkness just out of reach that was seeming to surround and confuse me daily. But, the stark turth is that you and your attitude and mindset are the best foundations to staying positive and remaining encouraged throughout this whole unfolding episode.

It might be time for me to use a really badly conceptualized California allegory right now. You really do have to ride this turbulent shifting wave the rest of the way out to its ultimate conclusion. And it is extremely possible that it will still have a chance to thrash and toss you around a bit with its unexpected twists and turns, but stay focused on the sun on the horizon and you will be able to ride it from crest to the beach shoreline.
Try and focus on the “goodies” so that those negative whitecaps just wash by you and far away. It is so easy right now to get into your own head with the demons and demoralizing thoughts, but do not get pulled into that bottom rip current of doubt, uncertainty and utter frustration. Hang Ten and take this as a bonding experience of strength and determination, not as a loss of opportunity or major physical boundary. 

And there will be more than a slight bevy of demons and unforeseen confusing thoughts that will suddenly sideswipe you and try and toss you from the safety of your board. But just keep paddling and riding those turbulent waves towards that serene and tranquil spot (maybe a lagoon in Bora Bora) that brings back your unique aire of confidence, and the “Dude” we have gotten to know during your Rays days.
And it is understandable that right now you might be looking towards that deep dark swell of water with a small sense of doubt or uncertainty. Push through that obstacle and focus again on the great things just within your eyesight and heart. The joy of spending extra time with your expanding family,your beautiful bride, and your life outside the lines and clay fields of the game. 
And hopefully you will beam  just from the pure thought that you have the entire Rays Republic and Tampa Bay Rays fan base wanting only the best for you. Many Major League Baseball players have gone down over the age with this same difficult and traverse obstacle to their careers and seen both amazing long-term results and some increased mobility and strength because of this same surgery, which revitalized and energized their careers.

Sure all of us Rays fans miss our own unique “J P ” moments during the Rays season. Be it the special gestures, or even a head nod that tells us we are part of your Rays game traditions. But now it is time for us to return the favor. It is time for us to return all those hand gestures, photos and talks on the side of the field. It is time for all of us collectively to show undying support and to display to you our own levels of admiration and the baseball bond  that has become supremely special to us. It is time for the people within the Rays Republic to visualize that we are there for you in any and every way possible during your recovery process.

And the greatest thing about this Rays organization J P is that you already know the guys in the Rays clubhouse, from the players, to the Medical Staff and all the way to the Fourth floor Rays offices are firmly behind you tri-fold. But there is an even bigger crowd that also want you to know you have our undying support and any positive vibes you might need in the future.

One thing I learned from my days after my injury is that the true fans of your team do not forget you. They are the one who make sure to see how you are feeling every time they see you, or ask you how things are going for you, even when you are playing for an opposing squad. And you have a large group of those fans right now hoping and praying for both a speedy recovery, and a time for you to renergize and focus on a date with the pitching mound as soon as March 2011.

These fans might seem like borderline stalkers at times, but there is a genuine emotional want and desire to see your Baseball Buddies have on-the-field success and a constant reminder of crowd confidence in their abilities. We have seen you not only grow in confidence, but become more extroverted and open up towards the fans in the stands to become a true Rays fan favorite for your smiles, waves and in-game gestures.

And you should pull on those special moments of talking with people like George Stone, or taking photos or chatting with the Pat and Christin Manfredo before the game. Of all the people you see and talk with on your journey down to the Rays Bullpen every night. Most of those same collections of Rays fans people are not only hoping and praying for a speedy recovery, but hope that you strive to maintain a positive outlook even when the pain get unbearable, and the rehab exercises drain you of all your strength in your body.

I know your impending struggles will at times seem totally disheartening and frustrating, but I hope the thought that we all collectively are pulling for you to again to sling a nifty 12-6 curve ball over the plate as soon as possible again for the Rays can provide some small foundation of support and affirmation we can’t wait to see you pitch again.

Working your way through the rehabilitation process after an injury or surgery is a seemingly never ending game of solitude and a roller coaster ride of emotions and painful moments. I can not say I envy the enduring trail ahead of you right now. But if I can offer any advice, it is to just keep those positive affirmations in your life close. Focus within those special moments, take positive emotional stands and push through the pain knowing it gives will provide you strength in the end.

My father once told me the true measure of a man’s fortitude is how he faced his adversities and overcame them. That to turn and run ruins not only your own aspirations, but those around you in life.

J P some doctors in Indianapolis still think it was a miracle I was running and sprinting less than 4 months after being on that field with no feeling in my extremities. But I put the things I cherished on a piece of paper and put to memorizing them into my subconscious so that when it got rough, tiresome and totally mentally and physically exhausting, I could pull out that list and find a few more reps, a few more steps, and even a few more moments of sweat and tears.

I remember a quote by the late Christopher Reeves, who said this passage during a motivational speech session I once attended: “Misfortune can force you into doing things you should be doing anyways. Lessons come from adversity. Anything can happen to anyone…You can find a new lease on life-more meaning that you thought possible in simple things…Let go. Live in the moment. Go forward.”

If you need anything, any time…..You know where to find me, because that is what Baseball Buddies are for….Can’t wait to see you again on the field.
Rays Renegade
Section 138….You know where



What a tremendous gesture on your part!

Hopefully he has a quick and full recovery.]

I really do not think it is a huge gesture, but thank you for that.
I just have a bit of a kinship withy guys who play hard and somehow have a unforeseen injury knock them on their butts. Might be because of my injury, or it might be because I can relate 100 percent to the the struggles and utrmoil they will embark in rehab and beyond.
It ended my career, but Howell can still come back from this stronger both mentally and physically if he devotes his energies in the right direction.

Rays Renegade

I am one of those people who believe that a positive outlook and a positive reinforcement program helps the healing process.
If you mentally think you will heal, it gives your body an edge to setting up endorphines and needed relaxation to support healing.
I hope he doesn’t have a set back or any complications.
Howell is definitely one of those “good guys” you hope as a long MLB career.

Rays Renegade

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