Mackey Sasser was, by my pre-teen lights, exactly what a baseball player was supposed to be. Prone to half-corny Ring Lardnerian malapropisms — his pregnant wife’s “contraptions” were, at one point, merely one hour apart — he was a big-swinging, chaw-sporting catcher who looked and seemed every bit a catcher. He signed an autograph for me at Shea Stadium when I was nine or so years old and I vaguely recall him standing by the dugout, taking cards from kids’ outstretched hands, signing them, and returning them, then repeating the motion identically with another wide-eyed Mets fan. It was, considering the brutal throwing hitch that wound up being his undoing as a ballplayer, an admirably fluent display.
That hitch — a weird triple pump that came and went but finally was there more often than it wasn’t — has taken on a weird significance in the paranoid cosmology of those Mets fans convinced that their team is somehow Uniquely Fucked. I’m not one of those fans, but the hitch was kind of weird. Anyway, from Jeff Ciprioni, who is probably one of the few people alive who cares as much about what Mackey Sasser is doing today as I — comes this article, by Jim Baumbach in Newsday. To set the scene, we join Sasser — still yip-afflicted as an assistant coach at a community college in Alabama, and probably as unlikely a subject for psychotherapy as anyone not imagined by David Chase — as he follows a friend’s recommendation to see a sports psychiatrist in New York:
On Aug. 4, 2006, Sasser met for three hours in Manhattan with Dr. David Grand, who has a practice in Bellmore. In a telephone interview, Grand said they spoke in detail about past traumas that occurred on and off the field, going as far back as when he was 10 years old. And then, using a system he calls “The Grand System,” Sasser identified and released these memories from his body.
According to Grand, throughout the session Sasser kept saying, “I feel relaxed. I feel safe. I can’t see it anymore. And I can’t feel it anymore. My body feels clear.”
Then when Sasser returned to Alabama, he suddenly could throw batting practice without any hitches. And this was so stunning to him, considering he spent several years as a player trying everything from working with some of the nation’s best psychologists to such activities as yoga.
“It’s not hypnosis, or anything like that,” Sasser said. “They find out about you personally, the trauma in your life, that kind of stuff. And they work from that. And it actually helped me, believe it or not. You find out a lot of stuff about yourself that you really didn’t know.
“It really is kind of scary. But it brings peace to you. It opens up a lot of windows to look at your history. I think it would’ve helped me handle that situation a lot better.”
Without going into detail, Sasser said he learned a lot about his past injuries and about his father, whom he lived with after his parents divorced when he was 10 years old.