Greetings from Grand Rapids, MI …
Spring training 2012 has wrapped up, and minor leaguers have shipped out to their affiliated cities to begin play on the fifth of this month. Unfortunately, when camp broke this year, I found myself on the outside looking in, and on a plane flight headed back home. The term used in baseball is released, not fired or terminated, just released.
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Walking into our complex, for what I did not know would be my last time, I glanced up at the board of active players and where they were going to be that day. To my bewilderment, I was no longer listed on that board and, therefore, I knew what my fate was. Just in case, though, I walked further down the hallway to check my locker space, and sure enough, my suspicions were true. My locker was stark empty and was packed into my bag somewhere down in the clubhouse manager’s office. Then began my long journey toward the farm director’s office where I would be told, “We are giving you your release this morning.” Words that I had always prepared myself for, because in this game, there is one thing I learned right away: You never know when your last day may be. Nonetheless, when you actually hear those words, there is no amount of preparation that can combat the feeling that surges over you.
I found myself completely speechless, choked up, sniffling and trembling. The body, in all essence, shut down — and I still had to somehow sign my name on a piece of paper. Fortunately, my paralysis was only momentary, and then I was overwhelmed with feelings of gratefulness, admiration, excitement and anticipation. It was at this moment in time I knew everything was going to be okay. No matter, it was still difficult saying goodbye to many of the players and coaching staff, but I knew that life was going to move on.
Said emotions rushed over me because the magnitude of what I realized I had just been able to do finally hit me: I had been able to play professional baseball. I realized a childhood dream. I was able to do something only the smallest percent of a percent of athletes get to do. I am forever the anomaly to all high school and college athletes who gets to take it to the next level. Most importantly, I will always get to say I was a professional baseball player. These abilities alone would, and will, always make me smile from ear to ear, but that would not be leaving much room for everything I learned in the great game over the last four years — not to mention all the relationships I formed and individuals I met nor the opportunities it creates for me in the future.
With all of this in mind, I would like to throw a blanket “thank you” statement out there to the entire Arizona Diamondbacks organization for everything they have allowed me to do. Further, I would like to thank all of you followers for reading my posts from time to time and taking a walk in our (minor leaguer) shoes.
Lastly, I would like to leave you with one piece of my childhood that has kept me going through all of these years, no matter what. Hanging on the wall of my bedroom in my parents house, you will find a black and white poster with this saying along the bottom. Enjoy …
“When I step between the lines, I become a legend. With my head held high and hat to my chest, the words “Oh say! can you see,” remind me of what I am: A catalyst of tradition, striving to measure up to the heroes from past and present. Through countless hours of dedication and hard work, I live my dream. My heart is filled with true love for this game knowing I, too, could be one of the all-time greats. I exist solely to experience the senses that are unmistakable and sacred to “America’s Game.” The smell of freshly cut grass. The distinct sound of a ball meeting the bat. Sensations of holding the glove to my face as the sun warms the back of my neck. These are the immortal rewards in baseball. This passionate game has created who I am, a member of an elite group: The Boys of Summer. Then I hear those timeless words of “PLAY BALL!” which once again remind me game time has arrived. It has always been at this very moment, between these lines, that I become frozen in time, when I am pure! And now, as the sun paints another beautiful picture of our national pastime, my heart begins to question who the better player will be today. Who has worked harder? Who will be tougher? Who wants it more? No matter who this may be, the humbling game of baseball will neither care nor remember the next time we step Between The Lines.”