Not sure if you knew this or not but I’ll tell you anyway.
Up until part way through my senior year in high school (I was 18 years old) I believed I would one day become a professional baseball player.
I love baseball.
And for the most part it loved me back.
As my senior year rolled along I made the decision to not play for the basketball team, something I had done since seventh grade.
It wasn’t a big deal. After all, I was a 5’11” kid with average ball handling skills and a broken jumper.
In truth, it was probably a burden lifted for our head basketball coach. He wouldn’t have to figure out when to get me mop up duty at the end of an easy win.
Instead, I would focus completely on baseball and get myself ready for my greatest season ever.
Tryouts came and as usual I performed well. I felt good. Our team was taking shape. We looked poised to make a deep run into the state playoffs.
As letters were passed out I grabbed mine, casually flipped it open and that’s when my world was rocked.
The letter began with the fateful words everyone who’s tried out for a team dreads reading:
“Thanks for turning out, but unfortunately…”
I didn’t finish reading.
I couldn’t believe it.
Coach Lee was our head baseball coach.
I really liked Coach Lee.
He was fair and rewarded hard work.
He had been my JV Football coach in Junior High just a few years earlier.
He liked me and I respected him.
His decision influenced me.
It had a profound impact on me.
I’m not really proud to write about it but by cutting me Coach Lee influenced me to become a bitter person.
He influenced me to doubt the purity of athletics based on merit.
He influenced me to hate.
He wronged me. He hurt me. I hated him.
Whenever we write about the influence others have had on us we tend to write about those who influence us for the better and I totally get why. We want to give credit and thank them for what they have done.
It may sound silly to you, but it took me a long time to get over this.
I had to forgive.
But I didn’t want to, it wasn’t right.
I had to close the book on this whole thing.
I had to turn the page to a new reality, one that did not include baseball.
As time has passed I can now write with confidence:
Coach Lee did nothing wrong.
He made a decision that he thought was best for his baseball team.
In his mind I came up a bit short.
This event has helped me deal with life.
I won’t always get what I want. Life is not always fair. It was a lesson I had to learn.
It’s funny how it all works though.
I was cut. My afternoons were now free. A certain blonde girl who happened to work afternoons at a local coffee shop needed company.
I could provide that company.
Over those months we built a friendship that turned out to be the foundation for a wonderful love affair that continues to this day.
(For those of you that are slow, the girl was Stacey, she is now my wife).
Yeah, Coach Lee had an influence on my life.
Probably more than he or I would ever realize as he walked through the locker room handing out decision letters.
Thanks Coach Lee and sorry for being a jerk.
Your influence has made me a better person.