After our 2017 season ended in Charlotte last September, I drove back to Florida. I thought I was done for the year.
Almost immediately, I had to work to get ready for Hurricane Irma, which was supposed to hit the state. I spent the day boarding up windows, helping my parents and sister.
Then the White Sox called, and they said they wanted me to come up to join the team. It was kind of crazy. I wasn't thinking it would be an option. It was a surprise.
My next thought then was, "I hope I can get out of here." Everything was shut down because of the hurricane. I'm thinking, "I finally get called up again, and I might be stuck in South Florida."
Fortunately, I did get out and was able to finish the season with the Sox. Now I'm back with the team in 2018.
Getting back to the big leagues has been a long time coming. Since the end of the 2013 season, I only had appeared in one game with Pittsburgh in '15 prior to being called up last year.
At my age, 31, you do wonder if you'll ever get the call again. But I continued to work hard and kept believing. I always thought as long as I still had a jersey on my back, I had a chance.
Having been in the big leagues for a while, knowing what it is like, that's the drive to get back to The Show. Also, this being my second year with the Sox, knowing everyone on the team and wanting to be a part of what is happening here -- that was a big motivating factor, too.
I never thought about quitting. I always was dedicated to figuring out a way to get back and have success. I never felt I was too far off.
I've had an interesting journey in baseball. When you're growing up, get drafted, start playing, you don't really envision bouncing around this much. After being picked in the first round by the Marlins in 2005, I only was 21 when I reached the big leagues in '08. I had some success early on, going 12-9 in 2010. After being traded to the Cubs in '12, I ran into some tough times. I've spent the better part of the last five seasons in the Minors. In 2014, I played in South Korea.
Looking back, I didn't handle adversity really well. There was a lot of frustration. I kept trying harder, putting pressure on myself. I was getting in my own way.
The biggest thing for an athlete is relaxing and letting your natural ability take over, as opposed to trying to force the issue and thinking too much about what's happening. It's more playing the game like you did when you were young. It would have been nice to do that at 24. But no matter what profession you're in, you always can look back and say, "If I only had done that when I was younger …"
Now taking that pressure off has made it a lot more enjoyable. I am competing against the best hitters in the world, and I've been able to have some success.
Besides baseball, I'm involved in owning a brewery in Jupiter, Fla., called Civil Society, with my cousin, Karl Volstad and my good friend, Evan Miller. It's been a lot of fun, and our IPA beers are gaining some popularity in the area. We're hoping to open a second brewery this year.
During the offseason, I try to learn all the ins and outs of brewing beer. But I'm not ready to go full time into the beer business just yet.
Physically, I feel great, maybe the best I've felt throughout my career. I'm learning my body more as I got older. Even though I am 31, I don't see any reason why I can't go on for a while. Besides, for me to stop playing, they're going to have to take the jersey off my back. I'm not going to give up.
There's nothing like being in the Major Leagues. I love being in the locker room, dugout, field. At a younger age, it's easy to think that's normal and it will be that way forever. Now, when you've been away for a while, you appreciate every day even more.
As told to Ed Sherman.