How the hell did I get here and what the hell do I do now?

Posted: October 4, 2012 in Uncategorized

I am currently sitting on the couch watching the Yankees-Red Sox game. Pretty normal you might say. Only thing is, I’m in Sydney, Australia. Sydney-effing-Australia. To play baseball. In Australia!

In, “Finding Your Way in a Wild New World,” Martha Beck says that in order to find your way in life you must first ask yourself two basic questions: how the hell did I get here and what the hell should I do now. Let’s start with the first question: How the hell did I get here?

All my life I have dreamed of playing in the major leagues. I joined my first baseball team at the age of three. Before that, my dad would prop me up on the couch so I could watch Chicago Cubs games. Baseball has been in my blood ever since. When I was twelve, I began devoting more time all year to training and practicing. Montgomery Bell Academy, where I enrolled in seventh grade, had some of the best athletic facilities in the state. The state of the art batting cage, weight room, and infield enabled me to put the work in to really improve. I vividly remember one day in tenth grade when I was playing in a baseball game in the Belmont University fall league. The Belmont coach came up to me at shortstop and said that he believed I could easily play college baseball. Now my dream, then, was to play in the major leagues. But before that, I had to get my education and college baseball was something that I also dreamed of experiencing. By saying something so simple as, “sure, I think you can play college baseball,” the coach made all my hard work seem worthwhile. It also invigorated me to work even harder to confirm his belief.

When the college recruiting process began, however, the calls did not come. I have always been a good player but many coaches did not see me as developing into a good college baseball player. After several, “we like you but you’re not our number one guy” conversations, I was beginning to get a little anxious. Then everything changed in the fall of my senior year when the head coach at Columbia University approached me at a showcase in Florida. When he first introduced himself, I had never even heard of Columbia. Not too many kids from Nashville head off to school in New York City. When I got home that night, I did some research and realized how great of an opportunity I had. Around midnight, I sent coach an email and told him how excited I was to learn more about Columbia. A week later, I flew up to New York. After spending a weekend with the team and having a quick conversation with my parents, I told coach that Columbia is where I want to be.

During my four years in New York, I took getting after it to a new level. When I arrived, I was coming off a back injury that held me out of competition for an entire summer. In the fall I was, without a doubt, the most overmatched player on the field. And so, that winter, I devoted hours and hours of time in the weight room and batting cages. I completely transformed myself as an athlete. When coach called me into his office a few days before our opening weekend in Beaumont, Texas and told me I was going to be starting, I was ready. Over the next four years, I poured my heart and soul into becoming the best baseball player I could be. After my sophomore season, when I tore the cover off the baseball and we came one game away from an Ivy League Championship, I received a call from a Major League Baseball scout for the Arizona Diamondbacks. He told me that if I keep doing what I’m doing, I will surely get an opportunity to play professionally. I believed that my dream of playing in the major leagues was coming to fruition. And just as when the Belmont coach graced me with his confidence, I worked harder with a reinvigorated sense of belief.

Then junior year happened. In a season riddled with injury and disappointment, I saw all interest from Major League Baseball disappear in front of my eyes. Instead of playing baseball that summer, I spent it in physical therapy, fighting my way back to healthy for my final collegiate season. But my senior year started off much like the previous one. I was not playing well and younger guys were playing in front of me. It all turned around, though, before a game against Pepperdine. Honestly, I got pissed off. I said to myself that I am better than the way I have been playing. I know I am a good baseball player so I am going to start acting like one and producing on the field. I told myself that I was going to be the best hitter in the league.

While my team fell just short, once again, of an Ivy League Championship, I ended up having one of my best seasons of baseball ever, leading my conference in hitting. This success brought back my hopes and dreams of getting drafted and playing professionally. But just like the recruiting process in high school, the calls didn’t come. I talked long and hard with my coach, who had believed in me five years earlier and gave me the opportunity to prove myself on the baseball field. He explained how there hasn’t been any interest. But just as all the doors in front of me were closing, a door that that I did not know existed appeared.

Baseball may be one of the least popular sports in Europe. Most Europeans have never even watched a baseball game, let alone, played it themselves. However, Billy Hess, a former Columbia baseball player, who had played and coached in Europe after his graduation a few years ago, explained to me that there are semi-professional baseball leagues all over Europe. The teams in the elite leagues bring over foreign players to bolster their rosters and coach their youth teams. Many of these players were drafted and played in the farm systems of major league teams. However, a few, like me, are undrafted and come to Europe to continue playing and experience something new. After making a not-so-short phone call home, I made my decision.

The day after graduation, I hopped on a plane to Germany to join the Bad Homburg Hornets. While the baseball was not as intense as I was used to, I had a great time off the field. I lived with a German family, who insisted on my learning the language by speaking primarily German with me. I sat in the first row of MBA alum Brian Baker’s Wimbledon match. I devoured a Belgian Waffle in Brussels. I cheered on the United States wheelchair basketball team in the Paralympics. I made amends with an amazing girl that I let out of my life. I got lost wandering along the streets and canals of Amsterdam. I scouted at the European Baseball Championships in Holland. I partied until 6 am at the biggest club in the world in Ibiza. I visited museums in Stockholm with my college roommate. I had my breath taken away from diving into a chilling lake at the base of the Alps in Austria. And I experienced dining in a mind-blowing way at a pitch black restaurant with my parents in Berlin. But what I enjoyed most was jumping into an environment and culture that I did not know. Over my four months in Europe, I learned to navigate life abroad. And I made friends and memories that I will cherish for the rest of my life.

I did not want my adventure to end. Al Ferrera, another former Columbia baseball player, worked for and played in the Australian Baseball League last year. After speaking with him for about 5 minutes, checking back in with Billy, and making another not-so-short phone call home, I decided that Australia would be my next destination. A few emails later, I booked a ticket to Sydney.

So that is how I got here. But, as Martha Beck asks, “what the hell do I do now?”

As it stands, I am playing on a club team right outside of Sydney. I have a tryout with a professional team in Australia, which will be a step-up from Germany. My goal is to play for that team, play well, and go from there. While I could not possibly be further from the major leagues, geographically speaking at least, I am going to get after it and see what happens. But as I learned this summer in Germany, this trip will not just be about baseball. I don’t really know where I will be living. I don’t really know anyone. I don’t know if I will work. I don’t know if I will travel. And I don’t really know what will happen. So once again, I will be jumping into a new country and culture and I will try to find my way. Regardless of what happens, I can guarantee that I will be getting after it.

PS, I want to thank my mom and dad, my grandma and papa, my numerous aunts, uncles, and cousins, and all my incredible friends for supporting me on this adventure. Although I may be on the opposite side of the world, you guys are the most important part of my life.

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