If Chris Salamida could freeze a moment in time -- a moment that would perfectly encapsulate his love of the game -- it would go something like this:
"It's when you've got that ball in your hand and you're on the mound and everyone's watching you," began the veteran Winnipeg Goldeyes' lefty, fresh from landing in town for another Fish season. "You're the centre of attention then. You're in control of the game.
"I love the competition. I love wanting to be better than the next guy."
Ultimately, it's that desire which had the 26-year-old hurler opting to return for a third year with the Goldeyes. There may have been doubts as to whether he'd return and attempt to post a third straight season of 10 wins or more, but when a job he thought he had lined up fell through -- a security gig with decent pay and benefits -- his reaction to the news told him a lot about the desire still burning in his gut.
"If I did get that job I probably would have hung up my cleats," admitted Salamida. "But baseball's in my heart. I've always loved the game. It was a tough decision. If it came down to me having a full-time job, I might have stayed at home... I don't know. As I'm getting older you realize you've got about a month after the season where you sit down and get your body some rest. And then once you decide to get back into it, you've got to find that motivation again and start doing the things you need to do to be where you need to be.
"As far as hanging 'em up... when the time's right, it's right and when you know, you know. Right now, I don't know. I'm here playing. I love playing. It's a tough game to give up. It's tough for anyone to give up something they love."
Now, let's not paint the picture that Salamida is the Jamie Moyer of the American Association. He turns 27 next week, but still has a live arm and a high compete level. But he's not getting rich -- at least not financially -- playing independent baseball. What he is doing is fulfilling a lifelong dream and getting paid to play a kid's game.
"I'm back for the love of baseball and the group of guys we have," said Salamdia. "The past two years I've said it's going to be my last year in baseball, but I just keep coming back and playing. Even when I retire from pro ball, I'll still play in a men's pick-up league. I'm always going to play. I'm riding this out and I'm going to keep this going as long as I'm physically able.
"It's the friendship, too. There's a camaraderie. They say when you go to college you make your best friends there. I think you meet your best friends in baseball.
I still have fun. The day I'm not having fun is the day I'll hang them up, to be honest. I still have fun every day I'm out there."
DIAMOND DUST: The Goldeyes have already sold over 6,000 tickets to their home opener, May 29 vs. the Amarillo Sox.
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THE SALAMIDA FILE
Born: May 7, 1984
Resides: Watervliet, N.Y.
2011 numbers: 11-4, 3.82 ERA; 115.1 IP, 109 Ks.
Notes: Entering his third season with the Goldeyes... 2011: Became just the second pitcher in Goldeyes history to win at least 10 games in back-to-back seasons, joining Rafael Gross... Led the Goldeyes with 109 strikeouts... Lowered his ERA to 3.82 from 5.25 from 2010... Made his pro debut with the Houston Astros Short Season-A affiliate, Tri-City of the New York/Penn League... Was drafted by the Astros in the 13th round (399th overall) in the 2006 MLB draft.