Willis takes a hard look at his situation
Dontrelle Willis said the biggest change to come out of his stint on the disabled list is the ability to not worry about perception anymore. That includes not only his pitching, but the perception of his diagnosis with anxiety disorder. He has his thoughts, and others have theirs.
“I’m a guy that shoots from the hip. I was just playing bad,” Willis said. “And that happens. I’m not a doctor. I’m not trying to be a doctor. I’m trying to be a baseball player. I’m not getting into that.
“Even when I went on the DL, I felt fine. You can ask anybody in here. I’m not a depressed guy. Maybe I’m hard on myself, but I wouldn’t have gotten here if I wasn’t. But there’s a fine line to knowing what you can control and what you can’t control. As far as how I feel, I don’t have a condition. My condition is me going out there and playing baseball and having fun. If God doesn’t want me to do it, then I’ll find something else to do.”
Clearly, he wants to get back to baseball instead of talking about his health. Still, he was able to make light of it when he talked about what his family thought.
“The whole situation, to be honest, they were just laughing,” he said. “They were saying, ‘Now the whole world thinks you’re crazy, but we all knew you were.'”
As for his pitching, Willis said he has been able to take his games one pitch at a time. He wasn’t thinking ahead too much, he said, but he was worrying about his past pitches when he couldn’t do anything about them.
Asked if there was a specific pitch or situation when he knew he was better, he cited the home runs he allowed.
“Every time I got a ball hit hard for a home run,” Willis said, “[I was] coming back and focused to continue to work and continue to push forward. You can’t give up.”
That, he said, was the big thing he got out of talking with coaches and doctors and instructors: He has been able to shake off some of the pressure of being in his shoes.
“Everybody says they want to have fun, but when you struggle, it’s not as fun as when you’re playing well, obviously,” Willis said. “Now my mindset is just simplified, going out there and really just thinking about myself and not really caring about anybody else as far as what they think. I’m not going out there and, excuse me, pitching with a gun to my head instead of just going out there and having fun. You make a pitch, and if you don’t [execute] it, go on to the next one.”
Talking with him, there’s very much a sense that he’s at peace with his situation, whichever way his comeback goes. If he’s going out, he’s going out trying to enjoy the game.
“Whatever the outcome may be, I’m going to really go out here and enjoy this game of baseball,” he said. “Only a few of us to get to play until we’re 35, and I’m not Tom Glavine, so I’m going to enjoy this.”