After taking nearly eight weeks to figure out how to put a 19-year career into words, I have realized that this is a feat nothing short of impossible. Perhaps my recent job search and embracing the arduous task of breaking into investment banking or private equity in hard economic times allowed my mind to stray and enabled me to postpone this conclusion. More likely, though, is that putting closing remarks on something that I have been doing for so long is a daunting task. On the eve of what will be the first Fourth of July I have not had a game in as long as I can remember (with the exception of 2005 when I was recovering from thoracic outlet syndrome), I make my best attempt to transpire 19 years into words.
So, why do players continue lacing up the spikes and keep going out there? The easy answer is because it is fun. However, this “fun” is driven by different motivators for different people. For some, it is fun because they achieve more success than others (I do not know how many people continue to willingly do something without triumphs along the way). Others, however, are driven because they were doubted. These doubters, often those that were surpassed in skill and achievement by others, ridicule that continuing to pursue the game is a waste of time and effort; that chasing a dream is putting off the inevitability of facing reality that you are never going to make it. My fun was driven by the thirst to prove people wrong. By showing people that the player who was once the smallest and least talented of a team of 12-year old Little League All-Stars was going to amount to something one day, long after all of my teammates stopped played. That was my fun.
I can say that with the exception of playing in the famed Cape Cod summer collegiate league, I accomplished these goals and many others that sprung up along the journey. I had a successful collegiate career at the University of Rochester for two years, prior to transferring to The University of Tampa. Two NCAA National Championships and an Academic All-American honor later, I was signed by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. There, I was fortunate enough to win a Pioneer League Championship and was named Cedar Rapids Player of the Month in May 2008. And then, after three seasons, it was all over.
I met many embracing families and knowledgeable individuals over my career. I cannot be more grateful for the support and guidance provided to me by family, friends, and coaches through the years. All of these individuals played integral parts in the success of my career. Without those pieces, the puzzle is far from completion. And while this is a puzzle with a few missing pieces, I am satisfied with the progress, as tough as it is to walk away from something incomplete.
I gave up an education at a top-40 school to better my chances of playing professional baseball. I suffered a career- and life-threatening injury, only to rehabilitate and get back on the field. Then, I gave up another educational opportunity at a top-30 graduate business school to continue the pursuit of a dream. If I was not going to make it, it was not going to be due to lack of effort.
I made lifelong friends, lived the impossible, and have a storybook of tales that would take weeks to tell. I passed up on an education, twice, that would most likely have me with several years of financial industry experience and a comfortable lifestyle. I overcame a surgery to alleviate a blood clot and rehabbed numerous injuries to keep pressing forward. I earned the right to endure the “famed” life of professional baseball through countless sacrifices; the below-minimum wage salaries, bus-rides through the night, and senseless flight connections travelling between affiliates are all a part of the game. It is an opportunity most dream of but few experience. Although the game left me jaded at times and lost in my thoughts, it gave back so much.
My answer is “Yes.” Every single time.