The Diamond’s Final Shine
“Do not go gentle into that good night
Old age should burn and rave at close of day
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
It’s a rainy Tuesday morning. As I was making my 200th phone call to reach out to a potential client at my job, a random memory jumped to the forefront of my mind. It had been 5 years since I played my last college season. Immediate nostalgia hit as I remembered so much of that season and the intricacies that came with it.
This article is for the college baseball player’s final season.
Little do you know you are approaching a season in which everything you do will be your last. Your last 6 am workout, your last first team practice, your last hungover Sunday morning catching a bullpen. The list goes on.
Everything will seem normal until that final last is met.
What gets amplified immediately is the sheer beauty of what this game has brought you. The beauty in the grass, the leather, the pre-game ritual, the smell of the spray painted bases. Even the beauty of losing is appreciated. After all — that final last has not been met and you are still playing the game you love.
The opportunity to compete at the college level is not something to be taken lightly. According to NCAA research, about only 6.9% of High School Players go onto play college baseball. 2.7% go to DIII, 2.1% to DII, 2.1% to DI. You are one of the few to not only make it to the college level, but to compete until your final senior season.
Think back to when you were in High School as a wide eyed kid just looking for an opportunity to show that your name meant something. A coach took a chance on you and believed in you enough to prove you would be an asset to the program. An asset to a program is not limited to the player breaking school records. Never underestimate the power of choosing the right attitude and being the best damn teammate possible. I was once told,
“Even the great ones — let them know they still got it. You never know what’s being whispered in their mind.”
Every year you have this objective of winning, performing or maybe even improving. I can recall many years of playing against bitter rivals and labeling them as the enemy. I can recall games closely decided by an umpire and I even thought he was the enemy. But just as Batman needs the Joker, and the Joker needs batman to have purpose — your bitter rivals are needed just the same. With a game that is not counted in minutes — the biggest enemy is time. More often than not, it’s the time winding down to your last game and then the time spent after your career has ended. Just like in Moneyball, at somepoint that final last is met and you are just left with memories.
“We are all told we can’t play the children’s game anymore. Some are told at 18 and some are told at 40 but we are all told” — Moneyball
So as that final “last” lingers, you have a very important role to serve. It’s important to be aware that you are a leader amongst boys transitioning into men. Everything you say, do, wear, or even eat will be watched, duplicated and sometimes challenged by the underclassmen. You are their leader, brother and influencer on and off the field. The responsibility and dedication you present will rub off in a positive or negative way. Your habits are being presented everywhere you go.
So with this responsibility — those underclassmen will resepct the fact that you are indeed about to face reality. That final “last” is this:
It will be the last time you ever get to wear that jersey.
Something that has always stuck with me was my assistant High School coach talking about his final season. Explaining how he cried his eyes out when he turned in his college jersey. It’s something that’s hard to understand until it actually happens. It happened with me. Maybe because of my coaches speech or maybe realizing the game defined me.
Every year you put your soul on the line to compete in a child’s game. Yet, every summer — this game grew up with you. It started with the first catch with dad, to the little league french fries, to where you have found yourself now: The last.
This game taught you about miracles. This game taught you about heartbreak. This game was an escape to any hardships with your reality. This game taught you everything you ever need to know in life. The attitude of the lessons learned all seem to come together for one final act on the stage of a diamond.
You may find yourself down to your last strike. You may find yourself waiting to see if that ball clears the fence. You may be waiting on a throw from the outfielder to save a run. You may be in the dugout watching nervously as your college roomate of 4 years is trying to pitch out of a jam.
Remember that moment as it may be right before that final last is met.
Promise yourself that when you reach that moment to remember one thing:
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, Rage against the dying of the light.
The picture above is my #15 Jersey worn for the last time. I played for DIII Wesley College for 3 years after transferring from Montgomery County Community College.