What I Miss About Baseball

A few weeks ago, my co-worker came up to me while I was in the lunchroom. I don’t usually leave my desk for lunch.

I devoured some homemade chicken while hunched over a copy of Cal Newport’s Deep Work.

It was a good lunch.

“What are you up to?” Jason spouted out.

“Eating and reading,” I replied. “Do you want to know what I’m reading, or don’t you care?”

I’ve found this to be a valid question for 99% of the population.

“Nah, I’m good.”

We both had a good laugh at his brutal honesty.

Fortunately, the conversation didn’t end there. We talked about family, college, sports as a whole, and Kyler Murray.

Then we started talking about baseball.

Jason: “Do you miss it?”

For the first time since quitting, I had a real answer. I was honest. I do miss baseball, but probably not the parts you’re thinking of.

What I Miss About Baseball

The (Mostly) Objective Story of How and When I Quit Baseball

When I reflect on my career, I try to remain as objective as possible. This can be a complicated task as our memory is clouded with emotions and the narratives we’ve chosen to tell ourselves (AKA narrative fallacy).

When I quit baseball, I tried to explain why I stopped playing to everyone. This was stupid. I didn’t even know why I quit. I had no business trying to explain it to others.

I had been considering it for a while but held out because I wasn’t sure. One night in August 2017, I sat on my bed in Puyallup, Washington and had the thought randomly pop into my mind.

I’m done with baseball.

I hadn’t been thinking about baseball, much less retiring.

I had just thrown 94 in a velocity drill a few days prior, so I had no reason to quit from a performance standpoint.

Huh, that’s a strange thought.

I decided to sleep on things that night and see where my head and heart were at in the morning.

When I woke up, I remember being jacked up to go to Driveline for work, but not for the velocity training session that was scheduled midway through my workday.

I texted my girlfriend to let her know that I was leaning towards quitting. She asked a few questions and the way I remember it (AKA clouded with narrative), I decided to quit that day.

After that, I texted my brother to tell him. My parents came next.

I did the final workout as a just-for-kicks, maybe my UCL will explode thing.

I have good and bad news.

My UCL remained intact.

The Next Day

I showed up to the gym for work for my first day as a retired athlete. I think I felt calm. Again, narrative bias here.

I hadn’t told many people what I had chosen to do. It was almost like an engagement announcement. I had to contact all of my closest friends and family before I could announce it to the world.

News spread quickly at the gym. I had plenty of people ask me why I had chosen to quit.

I didn’t have a satisfactory answer for them. I could explain my somewhat-mystical experience atop my bed where it seemed heaven’s clarity invaded my thinking and made it clear what I should do, but it wouldn’t make sense to most people.

“I don’t like playing baseball,” I told them. While this was true in part, it’s not the whole story. I liked certain parts of playing baseball. There were also other factors added in the mix to why I decided to quit–I suspect I still haven’t uncovered many of them.

Romanticizing My Decision

I’m incredibly guilty of doing this. After I announced my decision to retire on my then-popular Instagram account and a new YouTube channel, I was bombarded with questions about why. Some people were happy for me. Some were sad. Some were legitimately angry. Everyone seemed to ask why.

The truth of the matter is that I had no idea. I didn’t know the exact reason I had quit, and that should have been okay.

But, it wasn’t.

I’m the kind of person who wants to make it appear that everything is A-okay. Regarding my decision to quit baseball, I wanted nothing more than to have it all figured out so I could give people a pointed, well-thought-out response to their question, “Why?”.

Remember, I didn’t have the answers. I just had a moment in time where something deep inside of me cried out that I was done with baseball.

The combination of not having the answer and my desire to appear all good led me to romanticize my decision and craft a narrative that I didn’t believe in.

It felt gross to tell people that I quit because I didn’t like baseball. I felt strange saying most things that I told other people about my decision.

What I should have done was say, “I don’t know,” but I refused.

I would much rather emit the appearance of having-it-all-together than admit that I have unanswered questions.

I’m working on that.

An Apology

I’m not sure how many of you will read this. I know I seem like a lost soul since I quit baseball. I have been.

If you’ve read this far, I want to say I’m sorry for crafting a narrative to appease you. I’m sorry for anyone I led to make a stupid decision and drive themselves crazy because of the story they were forced to tell themselves.

I’m sorry for believing I was more important than I was.

I’m sorry for taking you for a ride on my romanticized, wishy-washy, ultra-confusing narrative.

I’m sorry for using you to give myself an odd sense of validation.

Be So Good They Can’t Ignore You

Well, it really is this. When people ask me, “How do you make it in show business?” or whatever. What I always tell them – I’ve said it for many years – and nobody ever takes note of it because it’s not the answer they wanted to hear. What they want to hear is, ‘Here’s how you get an agent. Here’s how you write a script. Here’s how you do this.’ But I always say ‘Be so good they can’t ignore you.’ And, I just think that if somebody’s thinking ‘How can I be really good?’, people are going to come to you. It’s much easier doing it that way than going to cocktail parties.

Steve Martin

One reason I struggled so much with my transition into baseball is that I left a field in which I had amassed a certain amount of career capital by becoming good at something – namely, throwing a baseball relatively hard.

First, let me define career capital: Skills you have that are rare and valuable to the working world

This concept comes from Cal Newport’s book, So Good They Can’t Ignore You.

As I’ve written about before, I believed I had to cut myself off from baseball entirely. My romanticized narrative of why I quit baseball evolved into “I don’t like baseball.” All of a sudden, there was incongruence between the story I told myself and others and my life situation. I was working at arguably the top baseball training facility in the world while telling people that I hated baseball.

That doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

In quitting baseball, I left something that I had developed a passion for. I didn’t start as an 81 MPH college sophomore burning with desire for velocity. No, I distinctly remember my decision to begin training with Driveline was based on this: “I am sick of being average, and I don’t want to be average anymore.”

Not quite the sophisticated thinking I’ve tried to convince myself and others of in other endeavors.

After I retired, I continued to throw. “I like throwing!” I told others. “I hate baseball, but I like throwing.”

That doesn’t make an iota of sense.

Even though I was done playing baseball, I continued to throw on a regular basis. I eventually worked my way up to throw 95 MPH (my first time) AFTER I RETIRED.

How’s that for transfer of training?

Even while I was throwing (and confusing everyone, pissing off some), I didn’t know why I did it. If I genuinely hated baseball as I said, wouldn’t I be okay shutting it down and not throwing anymore? That line of thinking seemed to make sense, but it didn’t match my experience.

This is one thing about my decision to quit and resulting life choices that I do seem to have an answer for.

My Need for Validation

I have a high need for validation. It’s a weakness of mine. When I was no longer throwing 94 MPH fastballs on the reg, I felt like less of a person. To combat this, I continued to do the one thing I knew I was good at – throw a baseball hard. I couldn’t move on because I was terrified of what would come when I no longer had something I was good at in my life.

As I sit here in Grafton, Wisconsin 363 days after throwing my all-time fastest pitch on my final day at the Driveline facility, I realize that this fear has shackled me down for far too long.

I’m a prisoner to my expectations and dreams. My constant need for validation prevents me from doing the thing that matters: become good at something.

I know that it’s vital to pursue mastery over metrics, but it’s much harder to walk the walk than talk the talk.

Anyone can say they value mastery.

Not many will do the insanely tricky work of reaching mastery.

When I quit baseball, I was the prime candidate for purveyors of the passion hypothesis. I was susceptible to the mantra that the next step in my life required me first to identify what I was passionate about through introspection and then align my next career move with that pre-existent passion.

Like a carp taking a nibble at the “harmless” worm floating in the lake, I was hooked.

Even as I recognized the passion mindset’s fallacies, I continued to submit myself to the belief that there is something out there just waiting for me to find it. It drives me crazy.

This way of thinking is coming to an end.

As I look to 2019, I have increasing clarity on what I want to do and how I want to do it. I’ll keep it at that for now, because telling others about what I’m going to do is useless and utterly stupid.

Just know that introspectivity and “passion” will no longer be the driving force behind my decisions.

(I hope.)

So, what do I miss about baseball?

I miss the pursuit of greatness.

I miss working to become good at something.

I miss being good at something.

I miss being on a mission.

What Am I Going to Do About It?

There’s only one option.

Become so good they can’t ignore me.

This is the only thing worth doing.

Either become the best at what you do or don’t. There’s a thick line in the sand on this matter.

Either you’re legitimately good, or you’re not.

You were designed with greatness in mind.

God doesn’t create mediocre or below average.

What will you pursue now that sports are done?

Will you pursue greatness? Or will you allow yourself to be swept away by the promising comfort of mediocrity?

Your heart burns for greatness.

Choose wisely.

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