Written by inspirational writer and former baseball pitcher Evan Sanders from The Better Man Project.
I’ll never forget the day.
Headphones in. “Shoot to thrill” by AC/DC pumping in my ears. Head bobbing to the rhythm. Glove in hand, ball in the other. Sitting on the bucket breathing getting ready for the game. That moment was the start to a very special day. That day, was none other than the biggest and most anticipated pre-season game of my junior year. Our crosstown rivals had a pitcher who was predicted to be a top 10 pick in the draft that year and a team full of Division 1 prospects. They fancied themselves to be a pretty good team, which they were, but we knew that we were going to give them hell. I knew, even though I was nervous sitting on the bucket listening to my music, that I was going to bring something to the table that day.
The opposing pitcher sauntered out to the mound, threw his warm-up pitches, and proceeded to strike out the first three batters that came to the plate. Yep, he was exactly as good as he was made out to be. Standing at 6 foot 5 and throwing a blistering 95-97, not many of our hitters had a chance. Many of them knew it too.
I didn’t like their team too much. They never played “clean” baseball, were always fooling around and because they had top prospects, thought they were much better than they actually were. Even more, their larger than life pitcher was an absolute jerk who thought he was the best thing since sliced bread. As for me, well, I was there to prove him wrong.
I walked out and answered the call. I struck out the first 3 batters and sat down. From that point on, it was on between us.
Then he came out and repeated his first inning – another 3 K’s.
I came back out and matched his efforts.
Both of us struck out the first 9 batters of the game and continued to throw up zeroes on the scoreboard. This was turning into one of the finest pitching battles that our team had been in during recent times. I had something to prove being the underdog. And right from the start, I snapped “into the zone” and my sole focus was to continue giving my team the best chance to win.
Two errors in bottom of the 7th (you only play 7 innings in high school) cost us the game. We lost 1-0.
But this story isn’t about wins or losses. This story is about coming up against fear and a deemed “insurmountable obstacle” and competing with everything you have. That’s what sports are about. Sports are about giving your best not only for yourself, but for the team. When the machine is running on all cylinders and everyone is playing for something greater than themselves, the team wins. And when a team is on a roll it is incredibly hard to stop.
And isn’t this what life is about in general? When you play for yourself and you don’t create a “team” of people around you who support you and believe in your dreams as well…you lose. But when you believe in something bigger than yourself, whether that be an idea or a cause, and you involve others… incredible things can happen. You begin turning dreams into realities. You become familiar with what it is like to set a goal and to attack it with white-hot passion and vigor. And in the end, you learn that even in your failures, if you gave it 100% and you stepped up to the mound and put your heart into the “game,” you have still won. You have still learned one of the most important lessons of all: to continue pursuing a dream no matter the trials or tribulations that face you.
Sports taught me a great deal about life and I know I will carry those lessons with me to the last pitch.