It is most certainly a question any professional baseball player who hasn’t reached the majors as they approach their 30th birthday has asked themselves. How do you know? How do you know when it’s time to call it a career and move onto the life you’ve been dreading ever since you first put pen to paper. How do you know that if you did walk away from baseball today you wouldn’t regret the decision a few years later?
Well, it’s a question I’ve asked myself plenty of times well before my 30th birthday. By the way, I’m only 29 years old. I have asked it to myself when I was 19, when I was 20, when I was 27, 28, and now 29. Those were all the ages I was when a professional organisation released me. Those are the times I was deemed not good enough to hold onto a roster spot for one reason or another and I tell you what, it does get a little easier dealing with the disappointment that baseball doesn’t want you around anymore. The older I have become the better I am with realising that the light at the end of the tunnel is there, and right now I’m just trying to hit the brakes to stop me from getting there.
There are a few lessons I’ve learnt in my life about following your dreams, and a couple of quotes that I think about from time to time that keep me going. So I’m just going to talk about them really quick.
I’ve learnt that people will never tell you what you can do, they’ll only tell you what you can’t, and it’s up to you to decide what you will do. It doesn’t matter what other people think of you, as long as you believe in yourself and have that drive to succeed you can achieve many things that other people didn’t think you can. As you’ve read above, baseball has told me I shouldn’t be around anymore but like a bad smell I stick around and continue to play despite baseball’s best wishes. Now I haven’t reach the majors and honestly, I may never will, but I won’t ever look back at my career as a failure. I won a couple of championships, made a few all-star games and made a bunch of life long friends and a ton of memories thanks to my minor league career. Depending on your definition of success you might not see that as a great career, but I achieved a lot more than I bet many people thought I would. And I want to keep adding to that tally of small achievements.
Here is another lesson I learnt. I was once told by an older player in the minor leagues to be a cockroach. A cockroach. Be the guy that no matter how much they try and squish you, no matter how much they try and exterminate you, always bounce back. So here I am. Still being a cockroach. Still trying to find a job and play for a team who is happy to have me, even if it is just for one season. It does get tougher as you get older that’s for sure. Baseball is getting younger and older guys are getting left behind but there is still some value in us older guys! We can contribute on and more importantly off the field! And that’s something I still want to do. Spread my knowledge of everything I’ve been through to the younger kids coming up. So maybe they have a little head start on the things I wish I knew back then.
Now I’m not overly religious although I do believe there is a higher power that controls all around us. But I once read that “Your talent is God’s gift to you, what you do with your talent is your gift to God” and I think about that. It’s rude to give someone a gift back right and act ungrateful and not take care of it right? So this is like the same basic principle. Even at 29 years old I am able to throw a baseball at 97mph. Now I don’t do it all the time. But I still have that in me. It’s still there. And if I just called time on my career now when I haven’t completely taken my body and talent to its limit I’d be doing a disservice to the gift that was given to me, right?
One of the more impactful things that someone has told me over my career was “The day you wake up and you don’t want to go to the field, is the day you know”. That is something my mum told me quite a long time ago. Through all the ups and downs of this sport, and the amount of times I’ve been released and jobless and the feelings I’ve had where I’ve said I’ve hated this sport. During all those moments, not one time have I not wanted to quit. So guess that answers the question. Or is at least the answer to my question of “How do you know?”.
All I know is that I feel healthy, I can still throw a baseball reasonably hard depending on who you ask. I have the support of many people around me. I still have an ounce of talent that I’m trying desperately to squeeze out for these last few years and most of all, I know I want to be at the field everyday.