We all know it. We all feel it. That moment when you tighten up, your hands feel antsy, that rush of blood to your chest…paralyzed.
I don’t want to talk about what it’s like to be afraid today. I want to talk about what that moment is like when you realize you are afraid. The time for decision. Let me tell you a little story.
My sophomore year of high school, I was pulled up to varsity baseball for the playoffs. We were playing one of the best schools in the area…filled with guys who are actually now playing in the Majors, and here I was…pip-squeak. Game gets to the 7th inning, our closer is losing his grip on it, and the last thing I thought I was going to hear was “Sanders, get your ass ready!” I sprinted down to the bullpen, had the opportunity to throw about 3 pitches. Coach walks out to the mound….in my head im going “Oh sh*t! Oh sh*t! Oh sh*t!” I am petrified. My arm was shaking a bit…”What would he put me in! I only got three pitches in! I am a sophomore! AHHH.” As you probably know, when fear hits you in the face, it has a flurry of voices that come along with it. He calls me to the mound, I run down there, hands me the ball, doesn’t say a single word. I throw my warmup pitches…nerves are still on edge.
I am standing behind the mound, looking out into the outfield. I needed to dig deep…real deep. I needed something, some sort of motivation. Two things happened. Our announcer, one of my teachers, goes…”Now pitching, Evan Sanders…sophomore.” The other team goes nuts. They are taunting, they are screaming, yelling…they think they have the game in the bag. Two guys on, no outs…their best hitters coming to the plate. What they didn’t know…was that the screaming and yelling actually motivated the hell out of me. It pumped me up. I am almost there, I still need something else. All the sudden, my catcher taps me on the back…says, “You look great out here in that nice clean white uniform…now wreck these mother*******.”
Struck out their best hitter, grounded the next out, struck out the last.
What was decided in that moment where fear was swarming around me. “You got this, you were born to do this, this is what you love.” I think when fear comes to us, we need to know exactly what we are. Because in that testing moment of character, if we don’t know, we will begin to question exactly what and who we are. As you heard in the story, my mind was going crazy in the bullpen…because I wasn’t even sure what I was made of. Those moments, and I had many of them throughout my baseball career, have defined my life in many ways. Drastic ways. When the pressure is up in life, I stay cool. Why? I spent a year as a closer on a playoff team…one where our set-up man would usually leave me with an absolute terror to clean up. When the critics are up…I remember those moments of the other team yelling and screaming in the dugout…take a deep breath, and remember that their opinion is not going to my next action, because if it does, we lose. When I walk into an office with an owner of CEO of a company, I remember the time I faced the number one pitching prospect in state and top 10 in the country…and beat him.
Fear is a challenge. It’s not the reality you have to choose. Recognize it is there, and then use it. Use it to motivate yourself, to get yourself into action. Don’t forget to breathe…and you will do just fine.
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