Don’t Take It For Granted

vanepsThrough the course of this last year I’ve given student-athletes assignments to reflect on specific times in their careers.

 I’ve asked them to take a look back to determine how they’ve arrived at this point in their career.

 Many times certain lines in the essays resonate with me. 

 Josh Van Eps took the challenge of writing about the end of a baseball career that has lasted about as long as he can remember.

 At times it’s been easy other times it’s been a real challenge. 

 Baseball is a game of numbers.  It is the most stat driven sport there is.  Now, we could measure Josh’s career by the numbers—101 career hits and 60 runs batted in and it would be successful, but I believe, numbers don’t tell the story.

 Numbers don’t tell why someone chooses to keep going and working when things don’t go their way.

 Numbers don’t tell why someone just loves to play a game and be part of a team.

 And numbers aren’t the sole determining factor of whether an experience has been worthwhile.

 Here’s the line from Josh Van Eps’s essay that resonates with me…. “You don’t realize how much you took for granted…”

 As this season and school year come to a close, don’t take the moments for granted.

 mbyk

“Baseball is a man maker.” – Al Spalding

I am a planner, always have been, so I have been picturing this last year in my head. God usually doesn’t decide to go right along with my little plan.

In my head, I pictured myself soaking up every moment of my last year of baseball: This is my last road trip with my teammates, but it’s happened so often that I became numb to how special it was.

In my head, I pictured myself soaking up every moment of my last year of baseball: This is my last road trip with my teammates, but it’s happened so often that I became numb to how special it was.

These are some of my last times putting a baseball jersey on and making sure that it was tucked in just the right way. These are some of the last times that I will take an infield/outfield….throw down to second base to catch a runner stealing…catch a well located fastball in my catchers mitt…step into a batter’s box…hit a baseball in a game that mattered.

This is my last time being a baseball player.

In your head, you think you’ll savor each and every moment and make sure to make it all stick so you can look back in the years to come

But the sad truth is when the time runs out, and the final out is recorded, and it’s over, it’s crazy how fast it all came and went. You don’t realize how much you took for granted…

You don’t realize how much you took for granted…

Baseball has been my life since I was barely able to stand. Most of my first memories involve the game. From the tee-ball field to Open Space Park, baseball has always been around. I don’t know much else.

Being from the big city of Denver, I was given so many opportunities to play sports, not just baseball. Each sports season in my life was full of something different.

Football in the fall, basketball in the winter, and baseball in the spring and summer. For some reason, baseball was always where I found myself having the most fun.

I was good at it, really good.

I was able to play free within the sport because it always came so easily to me.

I was able to play free within the sport because it always came so easily to me.

As a young kid, I always wanted to play division-1 college baseball at a big school. Even throughout high school, I had thought I was on track to play at that level.

Needless to say, Dordt College was never on my radar.

I didn’t want to go to a small farm town in nowhere Iowa. I didn’t believe what John Kinsella says in the motion picture Field of Dreams when he says, “Iowa? I could have sworn this was heaven.” There was no way that I could fit in. I thought I was above that, until my dad convinced me to visit campus.

Begrudgingly, I told him I would at least visit to amuse him.

As soon as I stepped on campus, I had this strange feeling inside. I was greeted with so many smiles and handshakes throughout the day that I couldn’t count them all. The whole day culminated to a visit and tryout with Coach Schouten and the baseball team.

The moment I stepped onto the rubber court of the rec-center, I was greeted by 5 or 6 different current Dordt players. Each one of them shook my hand and thanked me for being there. I was caught off guard.

The tryout itself was nothing out of ordinary, some hitting and catching drills. Coach already knew what kind of baseball player I was, so that wasn’t really what mattered to him.

He knew that he needed to figure out where my heart was at. The meeting that my dad and I had with Coach Schouten was a special one. He told me that Dordt was a place that I would thrive at and that I would be a valuable piece on this team and within the community.

In the moment, I think that I brushed that off. I thought to myself that I was still too good to play here.

Before making my decision on college, I visited a few more schools with prestigious baseball teams that all told me the same thing.

They all said that I would play a role on their team and compete for a spot.

None of those schools felt right to me. It would have been nice to be near the beach in California or right outside of downtown Kansas City and compete for a national championship each year, but none of them clicked for me.

I prayed and waited for a clear answer on where I should land for college. Every time I thought about it, Dordt kept coming back to my mind.

The fact that I felt so welcomed and loved on that campus, the things that Coach Schouten said, and how important the Christian education was to them, made it stick in my brain.

When it came time to make a decision, I knew what I wanted. Dordt was the clear answer.

Fast forward to the spring of my freshman year and baseball is finally here. Life was normal again and it was easy, or so I thought. Just after our first road trip to Arizona for the annual spring break trip, We were in Manhattan, Kansas and it was just a normal day as far as I was concerned. I was just catching another game. About half way through the game, something happened in my head. It wasn’t any injury or anything like that, but something had changed.

I went to throw the ball back to the pitcher, who stands 60 feet and 6 inches away from me at home plate, and I threw it straight over his head.

I thought to myself, “No big deal, I’ve done this a million times before.” The next pitch comes in and I go to throw it back to the pitcher again, this time throwing it straight into the ground between me and the pitcher. What was happening?

In baseball, this condition is known as the yips. From Wikipedia, “The yips is the loss of fine motor skills in athletes. The condition occurs suddenly and without apparent explanation, usually in mature athletes with years of experience. It is poorly understood and has no known treatment or therapy. Athletes affected by the yips sometimes recover their ability, which may require a change in technique.” The basic idea of throwing a ball back to the pitcher was lost in my brain somehow leaving me helpless and unable to execute the mundane task. It was crippling and left me broken for more than 2 weeks. I had to retrain my arm and my brain to throw a ball again. At this same time, I was having the worst hitting season of my entire baseball career by far. I had no confidence in my abilities. It was miserable.

I started looking at transferring because of all that my entire year had thrown at me. The year was taxing on me, from weight gain, to my performance in the classroom, to my results on the baseball field. I was ready for a change.

But, God had another plan for me. The friends and teammates that I had at that time and the support I had back home spurred me on.

So, I stuck it out.

So, I stuck it out.

I lost some weight over the summer and was in a much better state mentally. My sophomore year was significantly better in every area. I actually enjoyed everything about college at Dordt and met my now fiancé, Emily. She had a lot to do with a lot of the positive changes in my life.

The last two years, I have found success on the baseball field, in the classroom, and in my own personal health. I have finally felt like I was in the place that God wanted me in.

I look back and see that God gave me my freshman year here at Dordt so that I could learn to trust him and see that I am not able to do anything on my own. He showed me that Dordt was where I was needed to be and I am so grateful to have been able to call this my home for the past four years.

Baseball can leave you on your knees but I see how it played such a huge role in making me the man that I am now. It has shown me that you can’t take anything for granted.

Baseball can leave you on your knees but I see how it played such a huge role in making me the man that I am now. It has shown me that you can’t take anything for granted.

So, after 19 years, as I leave this sport in the coming weeks, I can look back with nothing but a smile on my face because it taught me so much. It led me to lifelong friends, my fiancé, and most importantly, brought me closer to my Savior.

I will always love baseball, but the next step waits on the other side of the corn field.

A special thank you to my coaches, teammates, professors, and friends, for your piece in making this journey an unforgettable one. I am truly blessed to have had you all in my life.

 

One thought on “Don’t Take It For Granted

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  1. Thanks for your story Josh and a huge thanks for mentoring our son Cody you’ve left a huge impression on him. Hope you enjoy the path God has laid before you. God Bless and good luck in the future!

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