My StoryPosted on Saturday, May 11th, 2013
In about 3 weeks it will be 10 years (YIKES!) since I graduated from Brown and was drafted by the Tigers, and with both of those milestones looming, I can’t help but look back on the last decade of my life.
Since I was 5, I’d spent the majority of my free time outside of the classroom playing baseball. I played 3 varsity sports in high school (basketball and soccer being the other two), but I never went more then a couple days away from the baseball field even in the off-season.
After playing at Brown and getting an extra four years of baseball that most people don’t get, I really didn’t want it to end.
I converted to a pitcher before my Junior year of college and I knew that as a guy of average size, playing a new position, and coming out of the Ivy League, I was a super long-shot, at best, for pro ball. But six days after graduating, I heard my name called in the 42nd round and I had the opportunity for more baseball!
After 2 seasons in the Minors and seeing the writing on the wall about my prospects of becoming a Big Leaguers (a topic for another blog), I decided to hang up my cleats and set off on a new adventure in life. I packed up my car with all my worldly positions (2 bags of clothes, an acoustic guitar, and my glove) and drove to Hermosa Beach with my girlfriend and now wife Marissa.
We had no jobs lined up, nowhere to live, and about $700 to our combined names but we didn’t care! We were young and we were so close to the ocean that could throw a baseball from our studio apartment above the dumpster behind Sharkees to The Strand – what more could we have wanted?
Well, it took me about 3 days before I started going through total baseball withdrawal. I didn’t necessarily miss pro ball lifestyle or even playing the game – I knew that my career had run its course and I had zero regrets – but waking up and not going to a baseball field felt really weird. I knew all ballplayers go through various emotional states after their careers ends as I had many friends who had already been down the “High School -> College -> Pro Ball -> Retired” path. Some get angry or disappointed about how their career ended. Others get excited for new challenges. Others get burned out and are just happy not to play anymore.
I didn’t feel any of these things: I just missed being around the game.
A few days later my first bout of “baseball withdrawal,” I found myself showing up at fields in the area, completely uninvited, introducing myself to coaches during their practices and asking if I could help out. I had no thoughts of starting a business around coaching, or even trying to get paid for my time (Bank of America knows I could have used the cash) – I simply went to the fields because that’s where I always felt I belonged.
After a few months of helping with various teams, I started to realize how baseball truly was a bigger part of who I was than I realized and that despite my playing career being over, I needed to be around the game. To this day, I never feel more at home or comfortable than I do on a baseball field.
Soon after this realization, “Spring Training” was born and now NINE years later, I still get to go to the ball field every day. I honestly can’t believe how lucky I am.
Of the 50 players drafted by the Detroit Tigers in 2003, I was one of the first players released, but today I’m only 1 of 2 guys who still get go to the field on daily basis. (Best of luck to my good buddy Virgil Vasquez who is still chasing the dream in AAA for the Twins!).
As I wrap another lesson season of more than 1000 private workouts with my students and I look ahead, I can’t help but smile knowing that I get to spend the next two and half months on the diamond at Summer Camp with hundreds of youth baseball players who have the same love of the game that I do.
A full decade removed from being drafted as an 42nd round after-thought, and I’m still going to the ball field every day.
As my old man (and New Yorker) said would, “who wouldda thunk it?”