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In it for the long haul

Lance Lynn, a new member of MLB’s 10-year-service club, wants to pitch until he’s 40. Try telling him he can’t

By Jerry Crasnick

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Lance Lynn celebrated 10 years of MLB service on the final game of a recent road trip. The White Sox brought a cake into the visiting clubhouse at Yankee Stadium, and to the best of Lynn’s recollection, teammates Lucas Giolito and Dallas Keuchel got a little caught up in the moment.

“That’s what you get for 10 years -- a cake smashed in the face,’’ Lynn said.

Lynn landed in Chicago in time to celebrate with his family the same night, then got back to business. In nine starts, he’s 6-1 with a 1.37 ERA while allowing a mere 5.8 hits per nine innings. Results-wise, he’s pitching as well as he has at any point in his career with the Cardinals, Twins, Yankees, Rangers and White Sox.

In a video chat with the MLBPA, Lynn reflected on his road to 10 years while two-year-old Lively, the middle of his three daughters, climbed in and out of his lap.

As a guy who’s been around, why is this so special to you? What does it mean to you personally?

“When you came into the game, you had certain spots you wanted to get to. Once you came up, that was obviously an honor. The next phase was getting to arbitration, then free agency. Then the ultimate goal was being around long enough to play 10 years.

“Maybe because I was the youngest guy on the team (in St. Louis), it felt like everybody had been around for a long time. Now that’s starting to go away and you see less and less guys on teams like that. There were guys I had watched in high school and college because they had been around that long, and it was an honor to play with them. Hopefully I become that guy that’s old enough and has been around long enough where guys will go, ‘Hey, I watched you in high school.’ It makes you feel old, but it’s also fun.’’

You missed the 2016 season with Tommy John surgery. Was there a time when you thought you wouldn’t reach this point?

“I don’t think there was ever a time where I didn’t think I was going to have an opportunity to pitch again. I was at five years or so (in the big leagues) when it happened and I was like, ‘You’ve got a lot of work to do. You have to regroup here, and hopefully everything comes back healthy and you can do your thing.’ ’’

You seem to be getting better with age. How important is it to adapt year-to-year?

“As you get older, you kind of find a routine. When I was younger it was, ‘Hey, try this or do that.’ You get told, ‘You need to work out like this or run like that,’ and that just won’t work for certain people. So I got older and started having some success and tinkering with certain things. And the older I got, the better I felt. When you’re chasing around kids all day, you kind of feel young, too.’’

You have three 200-inning seasons on your resume and you led the AL in innings pitched in 2020. What does the durability mean to you?

“That’s how I was taught by guys like (Chris) Carpenter, (Adam) Wainwright, (Kyle) Lohse, (Jake) Westbrook and (John) Lackey. If you’re out there long enough to pitch 200 innings, if you’re out there for your teammates, everything usually works out well. Take the ball every five days and pitch as long as you can, and give the bullpen guys a break. That’s what I was always taught.’’

You’re clearly an engaged father? What’s it like to celebrate these moments with your family?

“It’s awesome. My oldest (Mia) is nine, so she knows it’s kind of a cool thing. It’s been her whole life, so she doesn’t know anything differently. When my two-year-old sees me on TV, she thinks it’s cool and gets excited. Hopefully I play long enough for the seven-month old (Rumer) to do the same thing, and everyone can understand what dad does for a living. When I get done, it’s going to be car pools and softball and basketball games and stuff like that. I’ll just be some guy who picks them up and makes sure they get to where they need to go.’’

Now that you’ve reached 10 years service, what’s the next personal goal?

“I want to play for as long as I can. To have an opportunity to play this game has been a blessing. When I was 12 years old, I would tell (people), ‘Hey, I’m going to play in the major leagues,’ and that was obviously a dream. Now I’ve been able to live that. I just turned 34, so hopefully my body lets me play to 40. That’s the plan -- being the best teammate I can and trying to win as many games as I can for my team and win a World Series. Those are the goals.

“When all is said and done, my body will tell me when it’s time to go. I don’t think my mind ever will. I’ll always think I’ll be able to get people out, but one day my body will be like, ‘All right, you’re done.’ When that time comes I’ll be ready to go home and be a dad and enjoy all the perks that come with it.

You have a lot of young teammates in Chicago, and you’ve seen the recent debate between old school baseball and players showing more emotion on the field. Where do you come down on that?

“To be honest with you, it keeps me young. It teaches me things I didn’t know existed, whether it’s music or the social scenes of social media.

“When it comes to the game, we’re starting to see the new wave of, ‘You’ve got to be able to show who you are as a person.’ There’s a fine line, obviously, between that and showing up people and showing up your opponents. You have to have fun with it and enjoy it and do everything you can to show your personality. We’re here to play the game for a living. But you’re also living a dream, so you have to be able to enjoy it as much as you possibly can.’’

What’s your best advice for young players who want to last in this game?

“You have to find a routine for yourself. Nowadays, every team has people around you that can help you. Be engaged with them. Try to learn as much as you can and not have a cookie cutter way of doing things. We’re all different. We all have a different way that our bodies and minds work and the way we go about playing the game. Try to learn as much as you can and incorporate it into what makes you the best you can be, and move that forward to have a long, healthy career.’’