In life, there are significant moments/experiences/instances that shape the course of a person’s existence. I have definitely had a few of these moments. I believe it is extremely important for me to share these moments. The reason I often feel led to share these moments is because there might be someone who is going through the same thing that I highlight. Something about my journey might resonate with that person. If someone can learn from my mistakes, they will hopefully not have to go through the same hardships and troubles that I did.
The story goes like this. I was playing college baseball at UNLV in Las Vegas. If you aren’t familiar with the university, the campus is located about 2 minutes from the Las Vegas strip. So, as you can imagine the temptation to find yourself lost in “sin city” is very prevalent. The lights remind you that there is no curfew and that you can have fun wherever you turn 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
However, I was there for baseball. My first two years I stayed pretty focused on why I was there. I was there to give myself another opportunity to be drafted and pursue a career in professional baseball. I had been drafted after my senior season in high school to the Seattle Mariners, but I was pretty much set on a college education and the opportunity to have the college experience. Everyone’s path is different, but that was what I wanted. Also, what better place to experience my first time being away from home than Vegas!
My third year was a different story from the first two. I had a different mentality going into my Junior year (the year I would be eligible for the draft again). I was motivated more than ever to perform at my best. I knew I was going to be drafted as long as I took care of business on the field. I knew that barring any serious injury or unforeseen incident I would be a professional at the end of the season.
I started to realize that it would be quite possibly my last year in Vegas, so I started to think about enjoying everything Vegas had to offer. It was almost like my thought process involved me not wanting to miss out on every fun opportunity off of the field. I wanted to make sure I experienced going out to the clubs, partying, and indulging myself in the things that Vegas had to offer. It wasn’t like I was going “Hangover” style, but I was starting to lose focus on who exactly I wanted to be. I started trying to be someone I was not. I even went to the extreme of telling people I met that I was already a professional baseball player. I felt like I was on top of the world or that I was untouchable when it came to baseball and I was enjoying the recognition, whether I was being truthful or not.
However, I came to a crossroad. One afternoon, before practice in the midst of my junior season, my head coach Buddy Gouldsmith pulled me into his office and asked me to sit down. He proceeded to play me a voicemail he had received. The voicemail came from an anonymous caller who mentioned that I was out late at bars pretending to be a Major League player and engaging in underaged, prohibited activity. He went on to mention that I was a poor representation of what the university stood for and that I should be immediately dismissed from the team.
Just hearing someone leave a negative voicemail about me hurt. But after my coach played the voicemail to me, he told me he was going to play it in front of the whole team. That is what really hurt my heart, mainly because I was supposed to be leader for my team. Not just a vocal leader, but a spiritual leader and an exemplary leader for the program. I was not leading by example and I didn’t want to be seen as a fake in front of my team.
It was true though. I was acting like a fake and a phony. Trying to be someone I wasn’t. I didn’t deserve to be a leader. I didn’t deserve to be the captain of team. This was a sincere eye-opening experience. Coach could have easily dismissed me from the team, but instead he had grace for me. He reminded me how one wrong decision could change the whole course of my life. He knew how important baseball was to me, too important for me to foolishly take it for granted. My coach challenged me and because of that challenge, my way of thinking was changed that day.
This change of thinking instigated a desire to represent myself in the truest form possible. I wanted to be an example of excellence and I didn’t want to disappoint my program, teammates, family or anyone I cared about for that matter.
So, my message to all the athletes out there is this: continue to make the right decisions. You never know what decision can hurt you in the long run or negatively affect your path or your journey. Learn from your mistakes and remember no one is perfect. Remember your priorities should reflect your intentions, and let your intentions represent your character.