Thursday, August 16, 2007

Down In The Count

You may not know this about me, but once upon a time, I was a ballplayer. I wasn't just a casual observer or an unrealistic dreamer... I was a ballplayer. I lived and breathed the game. It flowed through me like oxygen. Instead of blood, for many years my heart pumped hardball through my veins. Once upon a time, baseball was my life.

It was already somewhat of a reality for me. I was successful. I was a professional. I played third base for my favorite team growing up, the Seattle Mariners. I wore the number nine on my back, just like one of my heroes, John Olerud. I played along side of other guys I also idolized through a child's eyes. These guys in a certain way were like older brothers to me. And here I was, playing at their side; working together to become the best we could be. It was a dream come true.

I may not have been the best in history, but I was good. I worked harder on improving my game than any of my colleagues. I hustled out every infield grounder, no matter how routine. And if I was brushed off the plate occasionally, I was that more determined to make the pitcher pay with his precious ERA. I was good. I was well respected among my teammates and hometown fans. I even broke a few club records and made a couple all-star rosters. I can still remember the feel of the hard Kingdome turf under my feet. The smell of stale hotdogs and nachos... the thousands of random voices echoing against the dull grey concrete walls... the brightly lit scoreboard and colorful surrounding signs. I was a grown man with the heart of a starry-eyed kid beating inside his chest, and I cherished every moment of it.

Regardless of what you may think, or what you assume to be true... regardless of what you believe to have been the case... this dream died for one reason, and one reason alone. I was scared. That's it.

I was just scared.

In my real playing days, I was a nervous wreck. Each time one of my coaches would sit me out for an inning here or there, a big part of me would heave a sigh of relief. The other part of course, immediately felt guilty and knew it was wrong for me to feel that way. Unfortunately, the fear was too much. I didn't know how to deal with so much anxiety; so much fear. And many chapters later, it turns out that this fear cost me my dream. And since I've slowly come to realize this fact, a part of me has died.

I still love the game. I can still hear the crack of the bat. I can still tell you exactly where the ball will land from the contact it makes with the batter's swing. I can still feel my arms swing away when I haven't held a bat in years. It will always be in my blood. Once upon a time, I was a ballplayer...

And somewhere deep inside, I still am.

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