This story appears in the Oct. 17 issue of ESPN The Magazine.
IF I COULD FAST-FORWARD to the postseason every year, I would. It's ridiculously fun. You get new life after what's often a boring, monotonous summer. There's a feeling of contentment knowing we've made it and have a shot to move on. We get along better in the clubhouse -- no one's fighting over the spotlight or trying to be the hero. The team comes first.
This is also when the intense attention -- from media and family -- kicks in and chaos ensues. We might have clinched on Labor Day; the guys on the other side might have clinched Sept. 25. Everyone's asking, "Will they be rested or tight? Will they be fatigued or riding momentum?" Your neighbor's nephew wants tickets. Your mom wants her hair done before every game. It's hysteria all around.
Things get a little hairy on the field, too. Pregame routines are off because the times are mixed up. You feel the butterflies a little more. But once the national anthem starts, you dial in. When "O say can you see" begins, our starting pitcher is thinking about the leadoff guy. More often than not, he's faced the opposing hitters before and knows their tendencies.