For all of my life I had given my heart and soul to a game. My happiness had depended on this game. It defined my life. Throughout all of this time, I was never able to enjoy the moment. There was also a constant notion that I needed to get better.
Growing up I was always one of the best players my age and that continued throughout high school where I was a three-year Varsity starter and all-conference player throughout my time. The goal was always to play at the next level and I had done everything in my power to get there. I was always undersized growing up on every team I played on and this led to self-doubt although I always worked hard to make sure I was ready to compete.
All of my hard work paid off when I was recruited to play college baseball. The dream had come true. Or so I had thought. I had numerous options on the table to continue my playing career but had decided to stay close to home as I felt it made the most sense for me and myself as a person.
As my freshman year had come along I had walked into fall ball once again being undersized and this time by a vast margin. The self-doubt began to get worse as I felt I wouldn’t be able to compete with the guys who were giants in my eyes.
As the year went on and I had gotten acclimated with all of the workout programs we had been involved in I saw major changes to my game and my confidence had risen. Then in March 2020, the Pandemic hit. My freshman season was canceled soon after ending my first season prematurely. At first, I thought to myself this could be a good thing. I would have an extended offseason to work as hard as I ever had in order to return next season and the very deep and “giant” senior class would be graduated and moved on. This was not the case once again.
The NCAA delivered two Covid years which later led to guys getting 6 years of eligibility. So my return to campus the next season would not only have the same team as last year but an additional deep freshman class coming in.
The self-doubt had reached an all-time high. How is the small undersized outfielder supposed to compete with all of these guys? This led to me falling into a hole and impacting my performance on the field. I wasn’t the same player after all of the time off and mentally I was not there. This led to a meeting with the coaching staff who explained that I would either have to take this year as a redshirt year or look to transfer and find a new program.
After all of the recruitment process and being acclimated and thought I was wanted in my new home to continue my career for four years it came to a halt. I then do what I had always done my entire life, I ended up working even harder and putting myself through even more stress, but it was all for the love of the game.
I had a bunch of schools reach out once again but my main focus was getting to a school in conference to prove my worth. I received a call and was once again recruited and committed, this time to a conference rival.
A few weeks before I get started, the coach who had recruited me had left for another school so I was once again on my own as the new staff was not familiar with me. Despite this, I was locked in once I got onto my new campus and knew I belonged. I worked way too hard not to show it off and leave it all on the field.
I played with a new level of confidence. I guess my new attitude and demeanor had gotten in the way as I was leading my new team through our fall season on the field and even winning our Fall game with a big time performance capped off with a walk off.
I was called into the coaches office the next day in which I thought I would be receiving praise after jumping off the page and making the impact that I made. Instead I was told the unexpected. I was told I had a character issue and was removed from the team. Something I never thought would be said about me.
This led to a downward spiral. My career was over. After all of that, it came to an abrupt ending, with no closure. I went to a very dark place. Later that year after I had suppressed all of my emotions and did not tell my situation to anyway, I had my first panic attack. I didn’t know what was happening to me. My heart was pounding out of my chest. Two months of suppressed emotion finally had to come out. I continued to have these episodes for weeks until I had enough. I lost 20 pounds as I couldn’t eat. There were days when I couldn’t sleep as well. I didn’t know what was happening to me and I thought my life was over.
I was finally brave enough to seek help. It was weeks of thinking I was dying because of my heart continuously beating out of my chest and being short of breath constantly. I was told I was going through anxiety and depression. I didn’t even know what any of that meant at the time and didn’t even believe it was possible to be so out of control with yourself until I had gone through it myself.
After receiving help I started to get my life back on track. I returned to work on my craft, but it was for me this time. It was my “last dance” and I wanted to give it one more chance and go out on top.
Unfortunately for me, God had other plans but I am so grateful that I was able to go back to my original school this past fall and play out one last semester with all of my friends that I loved. My first day back on the field I had partially tore my mid and outer hamstring as well as my meniscus. Once again it was for the love of the game and I wasn’t letting this get in my way. I rehabbed a 6-8 week injury in 2 weeks, returned and finished out my career with a wrapped leg and competed for the final two weeks.
Those last two weeks were awesome as I led me to receive closure on my baseball career. I was at the top of the team in hitting through that fall and all of my teammates had believed in me, something I didn’t think would ever happen in the early days of my college career.
Unfortunately as is the common theme of this story, that fall was officially the end. There were 6th-year eligible athletes coming back and healthier athletes in the transfer portal that were more appealing than the injured undersized contact hitter. But this time I had achieved all that I could within this game and was at peace.
This past year was the hardest and darkest of my life and it was all because of a game. A game that defined my life. If I could go back in time I would not change a thing as all of the relationships and memories this game created as well as life lessons are ones to cherish. I am forever grateful for my baseball career and ultimately I achieved my goal. I played college baseball, no matter how it had gone due to the pandemic and the injuries I went through, nobody could take that away from me and I am blessed to have done so.
I am proud to say that I now pass my knowledge on to the kids in my town as I am an assistant coach for my old high school team and I am grateful to stay within the game, as having left it before, I realized how much I wanted to stay within it.
I thank you for reading my story and hope that it could help anyone who is struggling. There is always a way out of every storm and you will find your true purpose. At the end of the day it is just a game and it is not your identity, although it can seem like that. Do what you love and what makes you you!