The actual moment in time escapes me, as do some of the general specifics, but the rest of the memory remains intact. It was the first time I ever “quit” something as a child. I was walking with my mom from our car in the Mounds View High School parking lot. We were heading into the school for Freshman year registration and orientation. It was dark, but not too cold. Based on those details I assume that it was August and I was about to embark on my high school journey.
For some reason, I told my mom as we walked that I didn’t want to play organized basketball anymore. This moment and declaration was seemingly minor at the time but it still bothers me to this day. I had played organized basketball from 3rd grade on, and while I didn’t play for our middle school team, aside from a game or two, I continued to play in the “recreational* league.”
*Recreational is a bit misleading since the competition of those games was better than the middle school league, but that’s neither here nor there.
My mom, upon hearing of my decision, simply turned to me and asked, “are you sure?” She knew I loved playing basketball. While I was oblivious to the fact, she also understood that this was a watershed moment in my life. It was the first time I had ever quit something and she understood what that meant. After some back and forth dialog, I affirmed that yes I wanted to quit* playing basketball, and that I was, in fact sure.
*Quit isn’t exactly the best term. The season wasn’t underway and I wasn’t on a team that I was suddenly abandoning, but in my early teenage wisdom, I’m positive that is the word I used.
I know that it bothered my mom, heck I knew that it bothered her on that night, but she supported my decision. Even though she knew it was probably the wrong decision to make, she supported me and was willing to let me make my mistakes and learn from them. She also knew, from years of experience, that I was fiercely independent and there was little chance of changing my mind at the moment. If I was going to adjust my line of thinking and actual decision on the matter, I was going to have to do so at my own pace and in my own way.
College intramurals aside, I never did return to playing organized basketball, but my mom’s evaluation of that moment as a defining moment of my life was spot on.
My time in high school saw me walk away from my other athletic pursuits as well. I put baseball and football aside at different points during those years. While both of those decision were tied more to the problems I was having with my knees and shins than simply walking away, I chose not to try and bounce back from those injuries. I didn’t quit in-season but I did give up on both playing careers all the same. I have always enjoyed playing basketball and football, and probably always will, but I don’t really regret leaving either of those two behind.
Walking away from baseball haunts me to this day for a number of reasons. There is no doubt in mind that I was good enough to play in college at a relatively high level if I had stuck with it. I’m not so foolish to think I was good enough to play in the minor leagues, let alone the majors, but at the same time I will never know what I was capable of. I chose to walk away and in doing so, I walked away from the single thing I loved most at the time.
The funny thing is, those decisions all led me to turn my focus and efforts to my schoolwork. I was by no means a bad student mind you. I always turned in my work as expected and did what I needed to do, but I never really tried during my freshman and sophomore years. I was your typical “B” student floating by with as little effort as possible. My junior year, with organized athletics out of the way, I loaded up on AP courses and started trying. The reason? I wanted to see if I could get As my first semester. Not out of some grand goal of getting a scholarship to college or being able to shout from the hills of my accomplishment. I just wanted to prove to myself that if I challenged myself and put in the effort, I could do it.
I could and it was, in its own way, another watershed moment. It propelled me onto college and led me to meet my wife at Creighton.
Now I’m in my mid-30s. While I wonder what I could have been as a baseball player, continuing on that path would have cost me the chance to push myself academically, discover my love for writing, meet my wife, and have two little boys that now mean the world to me.
By walking away from the thing I loved the most at the time (baseball, if you have a really short attention span), I found in my wife and kids, something I love even more.
I share all of that to frame the following when it comes to my writing.
18 months ago, a friend of mine passed along that the FanSided.com Sports Network was looking for a writer for their Royals site which is now know as Kings of Kauffman. Having just discovered that I could marry my love of baseball with my far-too-long-dormant love of writing a few months earlier, I decided to take the plunge and apply. On February 26th, I published my first post as a member of FanSided.
In November I added the duties of MLB Director. Since that time I have helped the baseball aspect of our network grow four-fold (in terms of visits). I found that I was very good a building a team of writers, and fairly adept at keeping them on task and engaged with their sites.
March saw the launch of Call to the Pen, our general baseball site designed to be the flagship of our MLB coverage and “sit atop” our 30 team specific baseball sites. I took on the role of Lead Writer.
Around this same time, despite having a new challenge in front of me and a fresh site ready to take on the world, I started to lose some of my steam. The demands and rigors of writing for and promoting both sites, in addition to managing the MLB team grew to be too much. To alleviate some of my workload, I handed the reigns of Kings of Kauffman over to the very talented Michael Engel. I hoped that by reducing my commitments my motivation and productivity would bounce back.
Unfortunately that hasn’t happened and ever since, I have struggled to keep all the aspects of my life in balance. Today I took a step that I hope will help me restore that balance and resigned from the position of MLB Director for FanSided. I will continue on with my baseball work for FanSided as the Lead Writer for Call to the Pen.
Like the last time, it may take many years to materialize but I hope that by walking away I, once again, am walking toward something better. This time however, I hope that not just for myself, but also for the FanSided.com Sports Network.