Posted on May 12, 2011
If there is anything inevitable in this life, its change.
Over the past few days I wasn’t sure what I was going to write, but I’m going to give it a shot. I haven’t been good with change in the past. Lots of things changed. Friends in H.S. changed, family changed, sports dreams changed, I changed. Up until now, the hardest thing I had to do in my life was hang up the cleats in baseball.
After blowing out my elbow the first time, endless doctors visits, excruciating physical therapy, and lots of mixed emotions, I gave myself an ultimatum. Give everything you’ve got, give it 100%. If it doesn’t work out, then baseball just wasn’t in the cards for you. Well, things were going great, but as I said before, change is inevitable. The pain returned, so did the doctors visits, and so did the mystery of why my elbow couldn’t take the stresses of playing in college anymore. I have been playing baseball since I was 5 years old. I have photos from T-ball where the T was bigger than I was. I have memories, lots of great memories where I did some amazing things or was personally responsible for blowing a game. Baseball was life. Baseball for me wasn’t just a game.
It was living the dream every single day, getting closer and closer to it every time I put my cleats on and felt the crunch of the grass and dirt underneath them. When I touched the mound, I was in heaven. Some of the best writing that I have ever done was a creative writing piece about showing up to the field early in the morning when no one is there, putting my cold leather glove on, and going out to a field that is still full of fog. Kids have lots of different dreams of what they want to become when they are older….I just dreamed of being a professional baseball player. Roughly 1% of kids who play baseball in the world make it to playing D1 college sports. I never played in a game because of my injuries, but to have made it to that point, I lived the dream. My dogs legs gave out for that dream when she was older. She lived the dream with me. Even though I will never touch a baseball field as a player again, I loved every moment of it.
I learned a lot from baseball. If anything, it made me into a better man. I learned two different sets of things from different situations. If you want to be good at something, it takes blood, sweat, and tears. Dreams are worth the hard work. I became a full time pitcher in H.S. my senior year because thats what the team needed. I pitched some of my most memorable games ever.
Facing up Kevin Eichorn from Aptos who was drafted to the Diamondbacks, and holding my own while fully inflicted with pneumonia and hacking up a lung on the mound, will be a memory that will always be close to my heart. I was really sick, but I guess I just knew what I had to do and went out and did it. Heres what I learned that night. If you have 60% in the tank…then give it 100% of that 60%. We lost still, by one run on an error, but that memory of playing Aptos with 8 D1 scholarship players in the lineup will never fade. Lesson 2: never let them see you sweat. If you are feeling nervous, hurting, anything…never let the other team see that in you. Part of being a pitcher is your presence on the mound. Ken Rivissa, one of the wackiest sports psychologists I have ever had the pleasure of knowing, would call it “taking your sh*ts off the mound.”
If you are going to sh*t your pants, go walk on the grass somewhere, but leave the mound…which is a sacred place. Once you are ready, get back on that rubber, take a deep breath, and say to yourself “60ft, 6 inches…here it comes Bitch!” Life is really similar to being a pitcher. Sometimes things don’t go your way, you walk a couple of guys, give up a couple of hits, someone makes an error behind you…the question then becomes, “How are you going to react?” When I was younger I would get rattled, but in my later years…I would just breathe, look out into the outfield somewhere, clear my mind and focus on the next batter. My dad still calls me “The Ice Man” for being cool as ice.
A person who is increasingly getting closer and closer to me as a mentor told me recently “we have to hold the people we love with an open palm…so they are free to fly away, and if it’s meant to be they will come back to us.” I just lost my best friend, and I can’t tell you how much it hurts. I guess we never really know why things happen in our lives till later. For now, I know that I am holding true to the things I hold dearest to me: love, never quitting, and passion. I know that like with all things in life, if I give it my best shot, I can hold my head up and look myself in the mirror every day and not be ashamed. I think this is why writing my journey down in becoming a better person is so comforting.
I try to improve upon myself every single day, and really do try hard at it. A lot of the time, things don’t really work out the way they are supposed to. There are always complications. Thats okay though. Embrace it. I know for a fact I would never say anything bad about what happened. They were great months of my life and I built myself back up from bad things that happened last year…fed by lots of love and affection. It ended before I wanted it to, but maybe it wasn’t really saying goodbye, but just saving Hello for another time. While it hurts, I understand and have accepted it. I don’t think I would be able to say that to myself with anything in my life up until this point. “God only gives us as much as we can handle.” I sit in silence not because I am filled with hate, but because I am learning to forgive, and beginning to heal.
The Better Man Project