I’ve long found Tommy La Stella fascinating, both on and off the field. His career arc has been unusual, especially for a guy who is now 29 and likely could have been a multi-year starter on so many lesser teams. His attitude about life and the game is magnetic. His fun with his teammates (and the front office) is clear.
Still, for many, I wonder if there’s a lingering sense of questioning or resentment about what happened nearly two years ago, when the Cubs optioned La Stella to AAA Iowa, and, rather than reporting, he simply went home to New Jersey.
Given the front office’s mum but apparently understanding reaction, we could tell immediately that there was nothing “simple” about the situation, though it would be only a trickle of information over the following year to help us understand what exactly had happened.
Now, here’s an absolutely MUST-READ from Ken Rosenthal with a whole lot more than a trickle. It’s a look at Tommy La Stella’s journey in baseball, as a Cub, and as a human. And yes, it does go very, very deep into what exactly happened in August 2016, and why La Stella didn’t immediately report to Iowa:
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) June 21, 2018
With that read, I think you can finally truly understand how it came to be that a guy who was only being sent down for a few weeks from a championship-caliber team could see that as a moment to just let it all go and stop playing. I never thought I’d understand it, but after reading this, I’m pretty much there.
Even many of La Stella’s teammates had trouble accepting what he was going through mentally, and how it related to why he would – in their minds – just abandon the team. Over time, though, they’ve come to better understand what exactly La Stella was struggling with at that time in particular, how his outlook has changed (note that he was optioned multiple times to Iowa last year without issue), and why he has now emerged as one of the natural leaders on the team.
I’ll leave you with a quote from La Stella, that speaks a great deal to many of my own challenges, and I anticipate, many of yours:
“I think we give ourselves way too much credit for being able to compartmentalize difficulty and stress and our fears,” La Stella says. “We believe we handle it much better than we actually do. We’re not nearly as honest with ourselves about addressing deeper issues.
“Your mind is difficult. So much of the time it seems the noise is so loud I can’t even stand to look at it. But it’s the opposite. You have to make your peace with all of the stuff that makes you afraid. You have to go into the noise in order to ever get any separation from it. If you keep looking the other way, it grows louder and louder and louder, because you’re not tending to it.”