Our finest moments are when our deepest most feared fears meet our hearts unquenchable thirst for courage. I write a lot about luck and that it happens when preparation and opportunity meet, but there is one more important factor that I haven’t talked about. Energy. What we focus our time and energy on its crucial. How can I focus my energy into something constructive and positive?

I am really glad I have an outlet or some things. There is no better feeling that going to go lift when you are frustrated or thinking about something. I attack the weights without stopping and sweat myself to death. It feels great because I am accomplishing my goals, not taking it out on anyone, and letting out the steam. Lifting also releases endorphins and makes me feel high on life. Arnold would agree. Russell goes, “Im glad you have an outlet for everything, or else you would probably eat all day.” Haha, very true.

Back to baseball stories. If I had to remember one moment from baseball, it would probably be the first time I was called up to Varsity in high school. We were playing one of our greatest rivals, Serra, whose team was stacked with D1 players. I remember warming up in the bullpen with butterflies in my stomach. This was by far the biggest game I had been a part of, and there had been some pretty big games in my lifetime. Picture this, the game was 1-0 in the top of the seventh (you only play 7 innings in H.S.) Our starter, Steinstra, pitched a gem the whole game, and in the final inning started getting into some trouble. He walked a guy, and went 2-0 on the next hitter…in the heart of their lineup. I remember that night perfectly. The stands were packed, lights were on, it was a bit cold and damp. My catcher and I were down in the bullpen and I was a bit nervous, but I was dialed in at the same time. My coach, who I had barely known, walked out to the mound, took the ball from Steinstra, and signalled for me. Sometimes, if your scared, that run from the bullpen to the mound is the worst. I wasn’t scared, I was nervous but eager. I remember the crunch of the dirt under my cleats walking up the mound. Standing up on the bump in my brand new white uniform, yet to be used. I heard my name announced, “Now pitching, Evan Sanders…sophomore.” The other team went nuts. Yelling, screaming, trying to get in my head. They were all Seniors mostly, and most of them were going to college to play. They were definitely all good. I knew it. After my warmup pitches, my catcher Dreyfuss, probably the best catcher in California at the time, came out to the mound and I will never forget what he said. We had been family friends for a long time, and he looked at me and said “You look good in that uniform…now f*ck em’.” That made me smile, and I knew I was ready. I knew exactly what to do because I was focused, confident, and sure of my abilities. I knew the runner was going to try to steal on me on the second pitch, and why wouldn’t he I was a young gun coming into the game and they were anticipating me to be completely overwhelmed and clueless. I toed the rubber, got into the stretch, and fired. Strike one! Phew!  ’Alright Evan, lets go buddy.’ Talking to yourself on the mound by the way, well, its completely normal. Back on the rubber, the fans are just yelling, cheering, and out of control. If there was ever performed a perfect pickoff move by me in my baseball career, it was about to happen in this game. I threw the ball over to first like a dart, and picked the runner off. One out. The place went nuts. My team was cheering, Serra was pissed. You could have canned the amount of energy there was on the field. Now I was in charge. back on the mound in the windup. Strike 2…Strike 3, got him looking. 2 outs.

The noise from the stands was incredible my dad told me. But when I was on the mound, I couldn’t hear a thing. I was so focused on that moment, I dialed everything out. Their best hitter came up, funny enough he was accused of taking some “questionable”…well steroids. He was huge. This next at bat, was the biggest battle of my pitching career. Quickly I went 0-1 on him, and then he proceeded to foul off the next 8 pitches I delivered…one of which he crushed foul. I threw a few balls to make him chase…he didn’t chase them. Foul after foul, the count became 3-2, 2 outs, top of the 7th. Me vs. him. I took my hat off, got off the mound, took a deep breath, found my dad in the stands. Our eyes connected, he smiled and I read his lips, “Ice Man.” (The nickname my dad has called me since I was little). The next pitch I threw was in slow motion, the hitter connected, everything sped up, the ball went straight into our second baseman’s glove. Our team poured out onto the field.

We won I was the hero. As the other team left we were celebrating. I look for my dad in the stands again, he was just grinning ear to ear.He has seen me since I was little playing T-Ball. This, by far, was my best moment. Writing about baseball gives me goosebumps.

That night, I had this energy I cant explain. That energy was focused on what I have to do, what my purpose was, and how I was going to do it. Like Dreyfuss said,”F*ck em’.” Baseball is long gone for me now, but it has never been closer. I have my days where I still get rattled by stuff. But, theres really no reason why I should spend my energy on it. I need to spend it on things that are in my control. Things I can manage. I need to get back up on the mound, and like in that game, take charge of something thats not ideal. To put forth my best effort. You fail a lot in baseball, but the thing is, if you fail, you come back stronger next time.

Having thick skin and true grit is important when your a pitcher. Right now in my life I have a big heart, and thats why I care so much. But its time to have some thicker skin. Its time to focus all that energy and take it towards positive and optimistic things. Time to get back on the mound, and start to throw another beautiful game.

Evan Sanders
The Better Man Project