Wow, you're way behind.

As I stepped back into the batter's box at Fenway Park on this particular night, it began to dawn on me that my comeback to baseball was going to take some time. I had swung really late on a fastball, and I started to realize it was going to take a few days in the cage just to get my timing back.

But in the meantime, I needed to salvage whatever I could from this at-bat. I was already behind 0-2, and now I just needed to put a solid swing on the ball.

If I looked out of sorts that night, I had a pretty good reason. I had missed the previous four games as I grieved the loss of my mother. Gretchen Piscotty passed away on May 6 of last year after her brave fight against ALS, and just the day before this particular at-bat, I was attending her Celebration of Life.

My mind was so scattered in my first game back that everything felt like a blur. In the back of my mind I was hoping to play well, because we've seen players do some incredible things in the midst of grief. In 2016 Michael Lorenzen hit a home run in his first game back after losing his Dad. Later that same year, after Jose Fernandez passed away, Dee Gordon led off the next game with a home run as well. I was hoping to do something special too.

As I tapped the bat on the ground, and looked back toward Red Sox pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez, I needed to remember there were actually two things different about this ball game. The first was obvious, that it was my first game without my Mom. But the second was more subtle - I was wearing a new belt for the first time, with a special inscription....

Knock the snot out of it.

During those few days as I grieved the passing of my Mom, my teammates were incredible. I remember Khris Davis giving me a Nintendo Switch with a game a bunch of my teammates were all playing. Last year was my first season with the A's, so getting a gift like that helped show I was part of the team. But the other gift I remember came from Ryan Buchter, who gave me the belt with "Knock the snot out of it" written on the inside.

It's what my Mom used to tell me during my little league games as a kid. I just didn't know that it would come true that night.

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Title Photo courtesy of Getty Images Sports

Thomas Hager