FORT MYERS, Fla. -- When Mark Melancon comes into a game in the middle of an inning with runners on base and the game close, he's able to put things in perspective.
Sure, the prospect of losing a lead is daunting. But Melancon has faced more thrills and chills off the mound, and that allows him to focus.
Years ago, Melancon and his wife developed a "bucket list" of sorts. They compiled a laundry list of daring adventures they wanted to experience, and slowly but surely, have been checking off the activities each off-season.
This past winter, during which Melancon was dealt from the Houston Astros to the Sox, Melancon and his wife went to New Zealand where Mark was taking part in a program to work with Kiwi teenagers and introduce them to the game.
While there, the Melancons went on a shark dive, heading into deep waters in a protective cage, the better to be closer to some Great White Sharks.
"Shark Week (on the Discovery Channel) plays it up like the sharks are coming out of the water," said Melancon. "We didn't see any of that. It's like a big, huge fish is swimming by. It wasn't ferocious. They weren't coming to eat you, but they were right there, don't get my wrong. If you stick your hand out, it might be gone."
Great White expeditions are merely the latest activity.
"We have the whole gamut there," he said. "We didn't hold back (with the list). We've gone on safari. We have some crazy things. We've already hiked the Grand Canyon and biked the most dangerous road in Bolivia.
"It was as wide as a sidewalk with thousand-foot cliffs and no guard rails and cars coming at you. It's not like it's paved. It's just a dirt road. At that point in time, it was November and I think there were 55 or 56 deaths on that road."
Melancon resists the tag of "thrill-seeker.''
"It's more about getting out and being active,'' he said, "and not sitting on the couch and watching TV."
Nonetheless, the activities help him deal with the pressure associated with late-inning jams.
"One hundred percent, yeah," he said. "I always feel like if I'm out doing something, I'm learning rather than just sitting around. Subconsciously, I think it's there. I don't feel as pressured as someone else might."