19 Nov Alone On the Mound
Who Am I?
For most people, college is where you figure it all out. I thought I had it all figured out coming into Chapel Hill. I’m the son of two professional athletes, a two-time Gatorade Player of the Year, and had a chance to play professionally. Everything seemed to be coming into line. But I quickly learned through a battle with injuries and self-doubt that life can take everything away from you just as fast as it was given to you. So cherish your highs, because there’s no telling where our lows will take us.
To understand my story, you have to first understand where I come from.
I’m from Wall, New Jersey and I come from an illustrious line of professional athletes. My father was a professional football player who spent nearly 30 years with the then-New Jersey Nets as an assistant and strength coach. My mother was also a professional basketball player in Italy and played for the Italian National Team. Beyond that, I had two uncles and a grandfather who went on to play professionally. Naturally, it was believed I would join the long lineage of athletes in my family.My journey started on the mound. During my time in high school, I was able to earn a number of accolades including becoming a two-time Gatorade Player of the Year and a three-time New Jersey and Tri-State Pitcher of the Year. Some would consider my career as one of the best in New Jersey’s baseball history. To me, I was just having fun.Following my senior year of high school, the MLB came calling, as the New York Mets were considering drafting me 31st overall in 2016. However, I stayed true to my commitment to North Carolina, where I committed to the summer before my junior year. It was always a dream to play division one baseball and Chapel Hill felt like home.
My confidence never faltered once I was on campus, as I was able to secure a spot as the weekend starter for a team coming off a 34-win season. That year I was a Consensus Freshman All-American and had been named to the USA Collegiate National Team. But little did I know life would soon take a 180-degree turn and that unfazed confidence would soon become rattled by an onslaught of setbacks.
Sophomore year rolled around and nothing was the same. My body had completely failed me. The only thing I knew to be my strength, my consistency, had been completely taken away from me. It all started with me having a torn labrum, a Pincer and Cam lesion, and two fractures in my right hip. A few days following the diagnosis during a throwing session, I started having medial pain in my throwing elbow that wouldn’t subside for two years. I didn’t know what the deal was or how it happened. All I knew was, within a week, I couldn’t walk without pain in my hip and I couldn’t throw a baseball without my elbow feeling like something was stabbing it. I missed 12 weeks due to an olecranon stress reaction in my elbow during the 2018 season and came back to only be sidelined again in the College World Series. Then, when I thought I was making steps in the right direction, I needed to have season-ending surgery on my hip in 2019.
Back to back seasons, I was barely half the Luca Dalatri knew I could be on the field. Mentally, the toll it took on me brought me to places I never thought I would be in.
I’ve dedicated myself to this game since I was 10 years old. How could I just lose all my hard work that easily? These are all questions that crossed my mind every waking moment for two years. Sleepless night after sleepless night, all I kept thinking was “why me?”
I do all the right things. I do everything the right way. Why is it me who has to go through this? How did I lose it that quickly? These thoughts were consistent. They never left. As a matter of fact, they got worse and worse until it got to a point where I couldn’t control my own thoughts
For the longest time, all I wanted to do was “fix” it. Fix everything.
My delivery. My arm action. My grips. My hip load. Anything you could think of, I tried to fix. It got to a point where I was trying to be someone that I wasn’t. For that reason, I fell into the trap of overthinking. This to many is just a normal daily thing that you brush off. For that, I give you kudos. However, I was physically and mentally incapable of shutting my mind off. That is a scary place to be in because I grew to hate my thoughts. I hated myself for the things I was thinking.You hear stories about people who lose love for the game and don’t want to play anymore and go insane. This isn’t the story about how I dodged all those feelings. It’s about my determination to climb out of the dark places I had taken myself to and why I haven’t given up on baseball and life.
Mentally, it all started in spring 2018. I had been dealing with my hip and elbow injuries by just managing. Doing everything I could to allow myself to just pitch.
The saying “you learn more from hard times than from good times” were just words to me, until now. You never realize what you had until you don’t have it anymore. I always thought baseball was life or death. Every day at the field is another opportunity to get better. The problem was, I didn’t know how to manage the bad days. The days where I didn’t get any better. The days where it almost seemed as if I backtracked a little bit. It’s all part of the process but that is something I never fully embraced. I let everything negative eat away at me. If I had a tough throwing session, bullpen, or anything in between, I would let the negative thoughts leave the stadium with me. My ability to have balance in my life was atrocious. I would come home and immediately think about the day at the field.
Throughout life, people put way too much stock into things that have little meaning in the grand scheme of things. Sadly, we only learn these lessons after we put ourselves through great suffering. The main reason for this is that we simply make little issues become big issues in our minds. Therefore, the underlying problem for this common issue is our mind. We cannot blame anyone or anything else for our suffering besides ourselves. It’s a tough problem to face head-on because humans are created to be self-loving, confident, and ignorant. To get out of this natural mindset, it takes hard work and a lot of self-reflecting. In my story, this was single-handedly my biggest issue. Something that took nearly my entire life to get better at. Why that long? It’s simple. I didn’t think there was anything wrong with me. I was ignorant about who I was actually becoming. I didn’t want to believe reality. That reality was that I was going to end my own career if I didn’t look myself in the mirror.
My whole life has been baseball. I ate, slept, thought, analyzed, and practiced baseball all day, every day. I wasn’t able to shut it off. What’s wrong with this? To normal people, this was just a kid doing everything possible to get better. I thought the same thing at the time. I thought I was helping myself. But I was terribly wrong. I was digging myself into a hole that I’m still climbing out of. The main problem was that I had never experienced failure. So, all these thoughts and dreams were positive. They were all confident, worry-free, “on top of the world” thoughts. This only became a problem after I lost my confidence and, most importantly, who I was.
When I started feeling pain, started not seeing results, and not feeling like myself on the mound, I began to worry. I started thinking, “what do I need to do to get back?” So every day, I brainstormed ideas and reasons for why I wasn’t myself anymore. This started in the fall of 2017. I started thinking of new ways to throw without my hip and elbow hurting. However, as a pitcher, once your arm hurts there really isn’t anything you can do without your elbow. It’s a miserable road to go down, and it only got worse with time. After weeks and months of hypothesizing ways to “fix” myself, nothing worked. This took a toll on my mind. Shortly after, I was diagnosed with anxiety. I became lost, confused, stressed, worried, and worst of all scared to compete.
I knew I wasn’t myself, but I had to go out there the season of 2018 and compete as I had before. It was by far the hardest thing that I have ever had to do in baseball. I was a mess in my first outing against USF. I didn’t sleep the night before. I was petrified to step out there on the field. For the first time in my life, having thousands of fans at a game was the last thing I wanted. My confidence in myself was nonexistent. As a pitcher, I believed I was below average. I couldn’t think of anything more embarrassing than going out there and pitching terribly. It only got worse the following week when we were at ECU.
I slept a combined 20 hours the week leading up to my start. Again, I was petrified to pitch. I was so deep in my own head that there was nothing I could do to get out. During that outing, as I walked off the field after getting taken out, I was praying to God that my elbow was hurt. Anything that could happen to force me to not throw. I knew how bad it hurt but the worst thing that could have happened was that my MRI would come back clean. “Luckily” for me, I was hurt and was sidelined for 12 weeks. 12 weeks to focus on me. 12 weeks to get it fixed. Little did I know, it was only about to get worse.
My elbow didn’t get better. Every rehab throwing session I was almost brought to tears from the pain. What hurt worse was the disappointment of all those weeks of rehab I went through. Leading up to my return, I was still mentally unprepared. At the time, I believed I had hit rock bottom. After my fourth outing back, I had picked up where I left off. I was maybe worse than I was when I started the season. My all-time low as a player was the day we clinched our spot in the College World Series. Sounds funny right?
What should’ve been the best day of my collegiate career turned into my worst.
I started Game 2 of our Super Regional showdown against Stetson. I only threw three innings before getting taken out. In the most important outing of the year, I failed yet again. Instead of being able to blank it out and go enjoy the night with my teammates for winning the series, I went back to the stadium. I put my cleats on, got my glove and went to the bullpen. I got there around 6 P.M. and left sometime after 10 P.M. I put my headphones on and just started working on all the problems I thought I had. Drill after drill, throw after throw, I was working on something. Seeing if something would click. But nothing did. I spent all those hours there to only leave in more disappointment.
For the first time in my baseball career, I was hopeless.
There wasn’t an answer. Baseball wasn’t fun anymore; it was a job. A job that I wasn’t good at and was getting tired of dealing with.
The following week, I was announced as the game one starter for the College World Series. I didn’t sleep from the night before we left for Omaha until the Sunday night after our first game. Nearly 50 hours without sleep. I couldn’t shut my mind off. All I kept worrying about was ruining the game for my team. Gameday came and 15 pitches into the outing, I gave up. Everything was hurting. My last fastball was 84 mph and my arm felt dead. Nothing felt right. I called the coaches out to the mound and told them I was done. Something was wrong. I couldn’t tell what it was but I wanted out. I didn’t want to be out there. After that, I walked back into the clubhouse, sat at my locker and just started crying. An entire years-worth of emotions all let out at one time. Why me? Why do I have to go through this? What is wrong? What is wrong with me? What’s wrong in my head? Anything and everything was going through my head.
I had hit rock bottom. Or, so I thought.
After the College World Series, my coaches and I decided I was going to take the summer off from throwing and get ready to come back in the fall of 2018. I was convinced I had figured it out. All summer I thought about what I could do. I thought about why my elbow hurt and then I thought about how to fix it. When I came back to campus, my arm didn’t feel any better after resting. It had now been a full year where I had not thrown a pain-free pitch. Yet again, I began to come up with ways that I would make it feel better. My mind started to unravel. I had peaked in terms of things I could do to help it. No injection, no rest, no rehab plan, nothing. I had done everything. But again, I was expected to go out there like nothing was wrong.
This year more than ever, the MLB Draft was on my mind. What do the scouts think of me? How much money could I get? Do they still think that I am the same Luca? What if I can’t pitch this season? The reality of the situation was that I didn’t want to pitch. I wanted nothing to do with it. Every time I did, my elbow and hip hurt like hell. Some days, my hip hurt more than my elbow so I barely used my legs. This led to extreme pain in my arm which forced me to use my legs, which then led to my hip killing me. I didn’t want surgery. The problem was I knew what wrong with my hip, but I had no godly idea what was wrong with my elbow. So yet again, I went into the offseason just trying to manage the pain. Not bettering myself. Just trying not to hurt. Once more, my preparation failed me and confidence was nonexistent. However, I was worse than ever going into this season. In my head, this was it. This year was going to make or break my baseball career. Every single outing was an opportunity to get back on track. The problem was that I never felt ready to throw. I didn’t sleep the night before my outings.
After my fifth outing of the year, my anticipations came to fruition. My elbow got so bad that I could not throw a baseball without nearly shedding a tear. However, my MRI results came back clean. Now, I was expected to return to throw the following week but I could barely get my arm into external rotation. Prior to my return against Duke, after missing the previous weekend, I felt a pop in my hip while stretching. I was familiar with this feeling and it usually went away. This time, it didn’t. Not after an hour. Not after a day. Not after a month. This is when I truly realized hip surgery was my only option. The reality of the situation was I didn’t think I was going to be able to throw much longer anyway because of my elbow. I went from throwing three consecutive outings where I pitched into the 7th inning or better to struggling to make it past the third inning without feeling excruciating pain. I decided I was going to get hip surgery and my year was officially over.
Mentally, it was almost a relief I was done. Back to back seasons, I was happy to be done playing. As embarrassing as it is to say, it’s the truth. I hated pitching. I hated baseball. I hated college. Whenever I thought about one of those three things, I associated pain and injury with them. I wanted out. However, even though I was done throwing and playing, I still wasn’t able to sleep, relax, or anything of that sort. I was still stressed out about the draft. What was going to happen? Will I still get a little bit of money? Is there any chance I have to come back next year? These questions and countless others crossed my mind every day. Even when I left the field, I wasn’t able to think about anything else. I couldn’t find anything to ease my mind.
As the season ended, the draft approached. I started becoming so anxious that I couldn’t sleep. No matter how much I tried, I couldn’t rest. I couldn’t shut off my mind. I was miserable. Draft day came and nothing happened. Teams weren’t willing to take a chance on me. Why would they? I was a college kid who has absolutely sucked for two years. A college kid that has been injured for two years. And worst of all, even if they didn’t know it, this college kid didn’t even know if he wanted to play baseball anymore. Once I began to realize that I was going to be coming back to the place that had given me hell for two years, I hit rock bottom. Never have I experienced anything like what I went through.
If I could’ve imagined what the end looks like, that was it.
Part 2: Rock Bottom
After the draft didn’t work out, my life collapsed from under me. Where I thought I was turned out to be even worse. I decided I was going to work camps during the summer to make some money. Never did I imagine it being so hard to walk into a place that used to be my safe haven. Like I said before, the thought of UNC became just painful to me. Mentally, I was drained. I couldn’t take it anymore. Walking into the stadium every morning for camps became not only a job, but it became something that I dreaded. I didn’t want to be anywhere near this place. I knew that I was going to be coming back and I just couldn’t cope with that. Go through all that pain for one more year. Deal with the draft for one more year. Worst of all, I couldn’t fathom dealing with the stressors of just pitching one more year. Of just playing baseball. Pitching wasn’t fun for me anymore. It was a chore. It was something I felt like I had to do, not something that I wanted to do. Why? Because deep down, I truly believed I would never get back to the person, or pitcher, that I was. It’s a scary place to be in. Constantly looking in the past, wondering what went wrong. What I could’ve done to change it. The regrets I had about not signing out of high school. All that money was basically in my hands. One and a half million dollars. And I had thrown it all out of the window. I couldn’t stop thinking about it.
When I went home for the last month of summer, it felt like a week. Time wasn’t going by seconds; it was ticking exponentially. Every morning, I woke up pissed off that I even had to go through another day of misery and failure. Every rehab workout felt like I was getting ready for a marathon. I had no energy. I didn’t want to do anything. Nothing made me smile, nothing made me feel better. All I kept thinking was I failed myself and my family. What was I going to do with my life? Mentally, I thought that I’d never be the same again.
The outgoing, laughing, funny, personable, and happy Luca was gone and he was nowhere to be found.
I wasn’t hungry anymore, I just forced myself to eat. I didn’t want to go outside and just lay in the sun, I just wanted to sit on the couch and do nothing. For me, music is my safe haven. If I am having a bad day, music has always made me feel better. But even the music became boring. I didn’t enjoy it. Songs I knew that I loved didn’t sound the same way. I couldn’t enjoy them like I used to. After my last outing in March, I was about 248 pounds. During this past summer, I got down to 222. I wasn’t trying to lose weight. It just happened. It got out of control. Every time I ate I just went to the bathroom to throw it up. I couldn’t hold down any food. It was unlike anything I have ever experienced. After all this, I realized I wasn’t in a place I’ve been before. I was in a new place, a new place about 10 feet deeper than I had ever been in before.
Being home was probably the worst thing for me. I was just slapped in the face, not only my problems but everyone else’s. My family was struggling with money and I couldn’t do anything about it. The only reason I truly wanted to sign this past summer was that I wanted to help. I was going to help. I called my financial advisor and had it all mapped out. Pay for my little brother’s first year of college at Old Dominion. Pay for my little sister’s private high school. Buy my mom a new car so she didn’t have to worry about it breaking down at least once a month. Give my parents about $50,000 to use wherever they thought necessary. It wasn’t much, compared to what I could’ve been able to do out of high school, but it was a start. It was something I had been working towards since I came to college. As bad as I wanted to make money for myself, that all means nothing if the people I love were struggling. If giving $100,000 was necessary, you bet your ass I was going to give $150,000. I’ve been living off of $3,000 a year for the past three years, and I’ve been perfectly fine. For me, $10,000 in the bank is rich. I was prepared to give them whatever I could because that’s what I wanted to do. That’s what they deserved. If I signed, that money wasn’t for me. It was for my family and I didn’t want it any other way.
However, the sad reality was that I couldn’t do anything.
I was stuck there, watching the daily struggle of bills, car repairs, tuitions, etc. I couldn’t handle it. I became fixated on helping. But I knew deep down I couldn’t. I felt useless and worthless.
You know you’ve hit rock bottom when you look in the mirror and hate what you see. Hate who you’ve turned into. Hate that you’ve failed yourself. Hate that mentally, you let yourself get to this point. I always thought that I was a little depressed, but I thought it was just something baseball-related. Something that I was feeling because I was hurt all the time. Something my anxiety was making me feel. Depression? That’s serious shit. No way I had that. Not me. Well, you know something is wrong when you look up, “what is depression?” and start reading descriptions and symptoms that sound familiar. “A depressed mood most of the day (feeling sad, empty, hopeless, or on the verge of tears).” “Loss of interest or pleasure in activities you once enjoyed.” “Weight loss”. “Difficulty sleeping.” “Restless or feeling slowed down.” “Fatigue or a loss of energy.” “Feeling worthless of guilty.” “Thoughts of death.” Well, shit. I felt every one of those things. I wasn’t suicidal but what kept going through my head was the idea of time “shrinking”. For me, time felt like it was just flying. I felt like in my head, before I knew it, I would be 50, then 60. The “glory days” of my life ending just like that. It was something that pissed me off because it actually stressed me out. Why did I feel this way? What the hell was wrong with me? Is this normal? I didn’t know if anyone could relate to this but it was real, even if it was in my head. I got to a point before I came back to school in August that I didn’t even want to come back. I told my mom that “if I had it my way, I wouldn’t show up to campus. I don’t want to be there. I don’t want to go through all that again.”
Again, going back to the idea that UNC was just pain and suffering to me. I was miserable there. I hated myself when I was home and it only got worse at school because, on top of EVERYTHING else, I had to play baseball there. The one thing I actually hated doing. If you couldn’t tell by now, I’m the kind of person that, if I decide to do something, I’m going to do it the best I can. Anything short of that is a failure. I pretty much screwed myself in that sense because I knew what I was capable of. And I thought I was never going to get there again. So no matter what I did, I was a failure in my eyes because I knew how good I could be. I almost called it quits. I was tired of it. I was prepared to figure something out. Another way I could help myself and my family out. Without the stress, without the letdown, and without the sense of failure in my daily life. Man, am I glad my mom told me to come back to school to see how it goes.
What happened in my life, cannot be explained, because I view it as a miracle.
Part 3: The Return
You never realize the things that truly matter in life until you don’t have them anymore. Things you always thought were incredibly important begin to have little meaning when you realize what truly matters. The things you take for granted, once lost, make you realize how lucky you once were. Pitching is something that I took for granted. I never realized how lucky someone is to throw a baseball pain-free. As a matter of fact, I’ve forgotten what it feels like. But now, to me, this is little. If I throw again and it’s painful, it’s okay. There are more important things to be grateful for. People don’t realize what we take for granted on a daily basis. I did it for nearly 19 years. Safe to say, I won’t anymore. People don’t realize how unbelievable of a feeling it is to sit down and be hungry. To enjoy your meal and wish you had more, instead of forcing yourself to eat half a piece of chicken without even looking at it. People don’t realize how unbelievable it is to be able to sit down in a quiet room, without having your mind eat away at you until you go crazy.
People don’t realize how lucky they are to be able to lay down in bed and feel relaxed enough to be able to sleep. To sleep without having to take medicine every single night for nearly a year and a half just to give yourself an opportunity to close your eyes. And even then, not being able to guarantee that you will even be able to lay down and not have an anxiety attack from your own thoughts. People don’t realize how unbelievable of a feeling it is to enjoy a workout. To look forward to something and be excited to do it. People don’t realize how great a feeling it is to be able to appreciate the small things in life.
People don’t realize how amazing it is to be able to look yourself in the mirror and be proud of yourself.
These are all things we take for granted but when we lose them, we can’t get our minds off of them. If we’re not going to enjoy them to the fullest when we have them, why are we going to let them take us to our darkest places when we’re without them?
Everyone always thinks student-athletes have it made. We do what we love and get our college paid for and can potentially make a living out of, and in some cases, make millions upon millions of dollars playing a game. What people fail to realize is that we are normal people. Collegiate, professional, all-star and hall of fame caliber players are all normal people at heart. We have struggles just like everyone else. We find the same things funny, depressing, stressful, etc. It just so happens that we get to play a game we love and get an education, or a salary, doing it. In most cases, athletes wish they had it less stressful. Playing sports at an unbelievably high level is mentally exhausting. You are always trying to find ways to get better. Always thinking about something to improve on. However, this is where athletes go wrong. We can make our sport important. But it’s not our life. It’s not who we are. It’s not what we live for. The sooner we realize that, the longer and more enjoyable our careers will be. For me, this was something I was terrible at. It’s a work in progress, but it’s still challenging to try and shut off what we care so much about.
For the longest time, I couldn’t find balance in my life. It was baseball, all day every day. We all know where that got me. I would wake up thinking about baseball and practice. I would go to practice and lifts trying to work on things to get better at. Then, I would leave the stadium thinking about the things that I worked on. It only got worse as I started getting hurt. It changed from ways to get better to questions about myself. What am I doing wrong? What can I change? What do I need to do to get back to where I was? What do I need to do to get where I want? My days became consumed by all these thoughts and ideas. And every day I went to try something that I failed at so I thought of new ideas.
What I learned was I can’t make baseball my day. It can only be part of my day. I started splitting my days up into three segments: class, stadium, night. What I’m challenging myself to do now is to limit baseball to the stadium. At that time, and ONLY at that time, my baseball mind is turned on. I work out, do my rehab, lift, throw, practice, watch video and anything else you could imagine. I do everything possible to make the most of THAT day. Once I have accomplished what I needed to get done, I go back into the locker room, grab my journal and recap the things I did well and not too well. I also write down my thoughts, my mood, and what I think I got better at. Once I’m done, I close the journal and tuck it away in my locker. I then shower, get changed, and leave. Once I step foot outside of the stadium, I tell myself that I am not allowed to think, focus, work on, or practice anything baseball-related until the next day. What this allows me to do is just focus on the rest of my day. Whether that be going home to do work for class or just hang out with my best friends.
Whatever I do, it doesn’t matter. I consume myself at that moment. This has also allowed me to look forward to baseball and going to the field. Now, when I go to the field, I go with a purpose and excitement to work on things I’ve been itching to for the past 24 hours. The biggest thing this idea of splitting my days into these three segments has done for me is that it has finally allowed me to live in the moment. I am able to enjoy what I am doing now. Not what I was doing or something I could be doing, but what I am currently doing at the moment and not letting anything else get in the way. In my opinion, the only way to be truly happy is to allow yourself to live in the present moment. The only way this is possible is if you allow yourself to let go of something you may be worried about that really has no meaning in your life in the grand scheme of things.
Being truly happy is being able to consume yourself into what you are doing every moment and not worrying about the future or what may happen.
Each day is an opportunity to get better physically, but most importantly, mentally.
The beauty of being an athlete is the process of getting to where you want to get to is an accumulation of all the little things that all add up to the final product. Nothing is given. Everything is earned. Therefore, each moment is part of the “process,” whether that be in your sport or in daily life. Each moment is an opportunity to get yourself one step closer to your end goal. But during the process, if you are worried about an uncertain future, you are missing out on valuable time to get better during each moment. Not only will you lose time, but you will also overthink and realize after it is too late, that what you are striving for, might be too far out of your reach. When, in reality, all you had to do was live in the moment and take care of the things you could control each and every day. Only then, after you have done all that, have you given yourself an OPPORTUNITY to reach your goals. Anything short of that and you are diminishing your chances of succeeding, even if you think you aren’t.
Not being able to do all these small things on a daily basis took a huge toll on my performance. Simply due to the fact that my confidence was nowhere to be found. I didn’t trust that what I was doing was good enough. For the first time in my life, I didn’t feel prepared, and it was all my doing. It was all in my head. Even though I was injured most of the time, confidence should come from preparing yourself to the best of your ability, not simply being based off of performance. For me, I had neither. I tried to prepare myself but everything still hurt, so how prepared could I really be?
The biggest thing that changed for me was when I heard a speech by Theodore Roosevelt for the first time. In this speech, he states, “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
The name of this speech is “The Man in the Arena”. This spoke to me in the most powerful way imaginable. For the longest time, I felt like I was the most vulnerable person out on the field because I was the pitcher. Especially when I knew I wasn’t who I wanted to be. I felt like everyone was out there judging me. I was worried about everything outside of the game and not simply focused on the game itself. For me, I just believed that the scouts in the stands were critiquing my every move. I was too worried about impressing all of them. It’s a terrible place to be in mentally. However, what I learned from this quote was that I am the one out on the field. I am the one who is sacrificing everything so I can be the best version of myself on the field. What these scouts see every weekend is just the final product, but they don’t know how much I care, how hard I work, and how much it matters to me to be out there and help my team win.
They don’t know how much I love pitching and how much it hurts me to not be who I know I can be. They don’t know ME. They know me as a baseball player but I’d argue they don’t even know that either. The part of the quote that speaks to me the most is, “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood.”
Those scouts are the critics and they are just trying to find ways to knock me down. But the reality of the situation is that I am the one in the arena and they are the ones in the stands. I am the “strong man” putting everything I have in between those white lines and they are just sitting there watching. So why worry about what someone so little thinks about me? I have challenged myself from now on, to focus on myself.
Whoever is there watching, let them just watch.
Let them enjoy the show. Because that’s all it is. They are just spectators who came to watch my teammates and I do what we do best. That should give us all the confidence in the world. Instead of feeling vulnerable, I feel powerful. I feel strong. I feel confident. It wasn’t an easy journey to get to this point and I am far from finished. However, from where I was to where I am now, gives me all the confidence in the world. It’s hard to point out one thing that changed my career or life the most. It’s just been an accumulation of all the little things. Have you heard that from me before?
This essay was originally published in Uncut Chapel Hill.