They always said that when it was time to hang up the cleats, I would know. Being a naïve kid, I never thought that day would come, but as I entered college that reality became a little more surreal.
It was my sophomore year of college, and we made the NWAC championship tournament. Big news for our baseball team because our program was only three years old and this was everything we’ve worked for. If you would have saw our team the year before you would know how far we’ve come. We weren’t a bad team, just inexperienced. When our pitching was doing well, our bats struggled and vice versa. A team full of freshman that just couldn’t quite get it together. The next year was different though; everything clicked, and as a team we seemed to mesh.
When we made playoffs it was finally our time to prove ourselves. The Clark College Penguins were pumped-up and ready to take the playoffs by storm. Unfortunately, the baseball gods had other plans and our time at the tournament was short-lived. Two losses and our season was done. As for my baseball career, I knew it was time. Just as the final out was recorded, I saw my playing days’ flash before my eyes like a scene in a movie.
There was my big grinned, 6-year-old self-getting out of bed in full uniform ready for my game that morning. I saw myself as a 12-year-old, working hard in my backyard batting cage chasing a big league dream everyone imagines about. There was the time when I was 15 and I hit my first homerun, and I looked into the stands to see how excited my father was. And of course, there was that day my senior year in high school where I signed my letter of intent to play baseball at Clark College.
Playing baseball at Clark College was the time of my life. I met life-long friends that I now call family, made memories that will last forever, and I learned more about myself from being a college athlete than anything I would ever learn in the classroom.
As our final game came to an end, we shook hands with the other team, packed up our stuff, and loaded the bus one last time as brothers. There was a lot of emotion going around amongst teammates and coaches. Anger from the loss. Sadness knowing this was the last game we were going to play together. Joy because the season was over and the grueling nine months of practices was over. I, however, just sat there. Didn’t say a word. I was numb to emotion, melancholy to be honest. No one really knew what I just experienced, I kept it to myself.
All my life I’ve been a ball player; it was part of my identity. I was a sweet-swinging infielder who loved the sport to death. I gave up free-time and weekends to train and play this sport, and suddenly it was all gone. But if I’m telling you the truth I was okay with that. Don’t get me wrong I miss the hell out of the feeling baseball gave me, but I’ll never miss the 6 am workouts, 3 pm ass-chewing’s from your head coach during practice, and the constant exhaustion from juggling school, ball, and a social life into your daily life.
It took me a couple years to come to terms that my playing days were done, but with all endings come some new beginnings. I decided to go back to school after a year off and pursue a different baseball career with the goal of one day joining the front offices of a professional baseball team. Today I study Public Relations, advertising, and Sports Marketing, and I haven’t been this excited about life in a long time. Doing homework, applying for internships, working full-time; it seems like a lot of work but it’s not so bad when you love what you do. As I sit here today I am finally able to reflect on the positives playing a college sport gave to me. Aside from the awesome memories, baseball gave me valuable life lessons that I would never learn in a classroom. When I remember my time playing baseball, I’m thankful for five things the sport taught me:
- An appreciation for the grind. Everybody wants to be great, but no one wants to work
- Learning that not all failures are losses, it’s about what you learn from them
- Knowing nobody owes you anything, and you better be ready to prove yourself when opportunity comes
- Realizing nothing last forever, and exploring your passions is good for the soul
- Believing in yourself or else no one else will
Over the next five blogs, I’ll elaborate on the lessons that came to be from my experience as a collegiate athlete.