In June, my husband retired from his professional baseball career.
It had been on his heart for a while and the situation just fell into place and it was time to make that hard decision. The day we heard his name called in the MLB Draft- I was beaming with pride. That June night at 2am in our tiny apartment when he made the decision to follow his heart and end his playing career, I was equally as proud.
I married an amazing man.
He wrote a beautiful post about it (typed on his iPhone on our 30 hour drive home) and I can't say it better myself so...
We laid down on the floor for our last official night. The last night was spent the same as the first - on something other than a real mattress. Full circle.
I always told myself I would be done playing if I experienced a long period of time without enjoyment. Passion and heart are what got me to such a point in my career and without them, it would become increasingly difficult. As this season wore on, I started to lose that heart and passion for playing the game I love.
Managers, coaches and teammates noticed I wasn't the same guy I once was. My performance dropped, it wasn't the same as it had always been. For whatever reason, I didn't have the drive I once had.
As my passion for playing wore off, my passion for coaching and teaching became even stronger. In Fort Myers, I was able to give tidbits of mental wisdom I had gained to young prospects. In New Britain, I discussed approaches with teammates. This kept me going, but I knew it couldn't sustain me as a player. So I retired from my professional career.
Many people told me along the way to play until someone tore my jersey off and that's the way I played until this year. I gave baseball my all until the end, but once I lost that feeling, I didn't need the jersey ripped off because my dreams and priorities had changed. In my eyes, this didn't make my career a failure, it just made it complete. It was time to be done.
I beat so many odds to play for as long and at as high of a level as I did. My parents thought I would grow up to be an artist when I was younger. Overnight, I became athletically inclined. At age 10, people said I ought to play second base because I would never be big and strong enough to play shortstop. I didn't make the varsity team in high school until my junior year. I thought I would have a nice Division 3 college career until the head coach at Holy Cross told me I had what it took to be a Division 1 player. Later, I signed to play at the University of Minnesota.
Still, I was seen as a second baseman because I probably wasn't going to have much chance of playing SS at that level. I had no pro aspirations, I just wanted to get in the lineup. A little over a year later, I was Baseball America's First Team Freshman All-American Shorstop. A few years after that, the Twins called my name in the 25th round, which may have been the most emotional moment of my career. I remember looking back in time that day and wondering how it could be possible. Two years later, I was the first player from my draft class to reach AA.
Beyond all the accolades and accomplishments, the relationships I have made are what I will take with me. I met my wife through a baseball connection. Four of the groomsmen in our wedding were teammates of mine at one point. I stay in close contact with many former coaches.
I learned a number of lessons through the game as well. I learned how to interact and communicate with people from all kinds of different backgrounds. I learned how to work through the lowest lows, I learned how to deal with the highest highs. I learned how to cope with stress in a game where every move you make is seen.
So, as my wife and I roll along on one more cross country trip, we talk about what's next and we ponder the future. We are excited about the unknown and that we will be going into it together. We will never forget the memories we have forged through my playing career and we are looking forward to forging more in whatever is next.
...He's pretty great. It has also been great to attend weddings with him as my date. Oh, and we got to go to a cabin together. IN THE SUMMER! In all honesty, it has been a huge change for both of us. There are moments when I miss hanging out with the baseball girls in the stands at a game on a Wednesday night in a random town we drove 6 hours to get to. We met some amazing people through this journey and made some lifelong friends. The memories we made are irreplaceable and I'm so glad I got to experience it with my husband. Thanks for the memories, minor league baseball.
It was a fun ride.