So You Wanna Play Professional Baseball?

For the first time in the past six months, I woke up this morning and it was February 3 (there is a joke in this business that every day is Groundhog Day [February 2]).  This was the first time I did not have to think about how to pitch an opposing hitter, or what to look for from an opposing pitcher.  The biggest concern I have is how to get everything to fit in my car to make the long drive home to Tampa.  In the coming weeks, it is unlikely I will watch much baseball until the post-season.  When the season ends, the only thing players want to do is nothing.

I cannot make an accurate guess of the miles I have amassed this season by car, bus, and plane.  This journey began with a flight from Tampa to Tempe for spring training March 1 and will be concluding with a 1,300-mile drive back to Tampa in a few days.  Things could not have gotten off to a rockier start out of spring training with our connection in Dallas being cancelled, resulting in the team being put up at a Radisson, then flying out the next day to Chicago, only so we could bus four hours west just to get to our home city for the season. 

As a brief summary, I have bussed across Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Wisconsin.  I have flown to Tampa from Chicago to get my car and drive it 1,300 miles north during the All-Star break.  I have also flown to San Jose (to play with Rancho), Tempe (after being placed on the disabled list by Rancho), and back to Cedar Rapids (after being activated from the disabled list).

I have endured, snow, sleet, freezing rain, game-time temperatures in the thirties (wind chills below that), and playing with the four layers of clothing needed to deal with such conditions.  I have played on days where it was so cold I could see my breath and days it was so hot I sweat through my jersey before the first inning.  I have dealt with two-hour rain delays, tornadoes, and a flood.

While I had the misfortune of seeing a city ravaged by Mother Nature, I was able to see a city unite and rebuild.  I was able to see a community unify and support each other through times of need.  I was able to play for an organization and a team that was able to reach out in the community to make a difference in the lives of so many that were affected by this tragedy.

I have been elated in amazing and improbable victories and been crushed in heartbreaking defeats.  I have seen players, but more importantly great friends, come and go.  I have lost four roommates and seen three players released.  The emotional highs and lows of this season outdo the biggest rollercoaster you could ever build.

The last six months have passed at a blur, and it would take me days just to begin to recollect all of the memories and knowledge I have amassed during this time.  What began back on March 1 has finally ended.  I am mentally and physically exhausted and in need of major decompression.  There are things that I did well this season, and there are things that I could have done better.  Rest and reflection is the next step from here, followed by the intensive off-season training regimen to prepare myself to do it all again next season.

Several people have questioned why I put myself through this lifestyle when it appears that I could take my Bachelor’s and almost Master’s Degrees and go get a lucrative job in corporate America.  I stick around because I love to play the game.  I love the challenge that every day presents and how you never know what the next baseball discovery you will uncover.  I stay in the game to experience the moment I did when we defeated Clinton in the divisional semifinals Thursday night.  The excitement that our team shared that night with each other and with our devoted fans that made the trip is something I will never forget.  This was the first playoff series Cedar Rapids had won since 2000, and it was amazing to see the energy of the team and the fans after winning that series. 

As I have said from the beginning, it is every little boy’s dream to play professional baseball.  Yes, baseball is a fun game to play, especially when you are growing up.  But, when that decision is made to seriously pursue that dream and do everything in your power to make it, the only thing that is going to stop you from playing is your body telling you you cannot continue, or all thirty professional baseball organizations telling you that you are not good enough and cannot continue to play.

Once someone has vested a certain amount of time and resources into something, it makes walking away impossible.  A few weeks ago, we were told that ‘Every day you spend not working on one aspect of this game, you slip one day farther away from making it to the top.’  While I only recently heard this, I realize that I have had this attitude ever since I made the commitment to chasing my dream of playing professional baseball.  This is not to say that you cannot take any off-days, but the biggest thing I could advise anyone is that I was able to become the player I am through hard work when no one was watching.  I was not blessed with much God-given ability like the players I have always been playing with.  I do not have the speed, arm strength, or power that some of the other players have.  However, I have a work ethic and the knowledge to work on only the things I can control, and get the most out of the ability I was blessed with.

This journey has always come down to making sacrifices and dedicating myself to becoming the best player possible.  I played with many players growing up who had more talent than I did, and everyone thought those would be the players that would be playing professionally one day. Of those teams I have been with, I am the only player still playing today in affiliated professional baseball.  So, it really comes down to making a commitment to yourself that you are going to put the effort into achieving whatever your goals are.  Some people realize along the way that it is not what they really want to do, and that is fine, but if you really want it, give it everything you have.  You have to put your energies into the things you can control.

In closing, I thank everyone again for keeping  up with this blog this season and everyone who has given me words of encouragement and support.  I will conclude this season’s entries with a quote I have hanging in my room and it is one that I feel everyone can find validity in: “For those who dream, there is no such word as impossible.”

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5 Responses to “So You Wanna Play Professional Baseball?”

  1. Nick Says:

    Hey man. Well done this season, and I hope to see you at spring training in march.

    Nick

  2. Stephen C. Smith Says:

    Chris, you saved your best blog for last.

  3. Steve Bonds Says:

    What a great message. I plan on passing this on to my 13 year old daughter and to others in my family. Look forward to seeing you in North Little Rock. We have an exciting Texas league championship going on here this year.

  4. BeesGal Says:

    Hey Chris,
    The closets are filled with the “shoulda, woulda, coulda” skeletons of ballplayers with million-dollar tools and hearts full of the same dreams, left wanting for any number of reasons. It takes so much more than talent to win at the game that declares a 70% failure rate is the standard for success.

    Thanks again for sharing your thoughts with maturity, insight and honesty. You’ve inspired more than one ballplayer/fan/parent/coach out there. Bye for now! . . .BeesGal

  5. Jeff Says:

    I am a college player in that moved from califorina to Cedar rapids to play baseball and from reading this it gives me a little light at the end of the tunnel because I feel the same way. Thanks for the readings, and good luck with you life long goal.
    Hope to hear more,
    Jeff

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