College Baseball The College of Wooster
The College of Wooster
When I was a sophomore in college, my coach told me that I would be competing for one of the starting spots in our pitching rotation. I was stoked! I responded by working my butt off to make sure that I would preform when I got my chance.
When the season finally came and I got my first start, I saw my hard work begin to pay off. I mowed down the opposing hitters for four innings. Then, with one out in the fifth inning, I threw a slider and my elbow popped! I had partially torn my UCL. I was devastated and I was mad at God. How could He let me get so close to achieving my dream to start, and then snatch it away? Not only would I not be earning a starting spot that season, I wouldn’t be playing at all. I was sidelined for almost the entire season and didn’t appear for more than a batter until the playoffs.
My first extended appearances didn’t come until summer ball that year. I was still limited in the amount of pitches I could throw so I fell into a full time reliever role for my summer team and eventually worked my way into the closer role. While I enjoyed it, I still had my eye set on earning a spot on the rotation as a junior.
Again, I spent the off season working and preparing to compete for a spot in the rotation. However, my coaches informed me right before the beginning of the season that they were putting me in the bullpen full time because of my success as a reliever the previous summer. They thought that I could help the team best by coming out of the bullpen to “put out fires” as they phrased it. I was upset. I felt like I had watched my opportunity to accomplish my dream start to sail by me while I had been sitting in the training room rehabbing my elbow.
During my junior year, I found a ton of success coming out of the bullpen. I came to see that my coaches were right, I could help my team far more as a reliever than I ever could have as a starter. I also realized that the team’s success was the only thing that mattered. Being a starter meant nothing if the team didn’t win. My own vanity and pride had been what made me want to be a starter, not what was best for the team. I stopped being mad at my injury and started to see it as a blessing in disguise. I fell in love with relieving and cherished my chances to help the team succeed. I carried that new perspective toward baseball with me for the rest of my career. I saw every opportunity as another chance to help my team win, rather than a chance to build myself up or make my self look good.
I think that my injury was a lesson from God about life, more than just about baseball. I found that it was a lot more important to do what’s best for the team than it is to do what makes me look good. In the same way, I learned that, in life, it’s far more important to do what’s best for God’s Kingdom than it is to do what makes me look good.
To those who are dealing with injuries and setbacks, my advice is to find God in the setback. Look for the lessons He is teaching you and for the direction He is guiding you. Praise God for the success you find as you come back from the setback, and praise God for the things you learn and paths you find as a result of the setback.
To those who find themselves in a different role than they desired or anticipated, my advice is to find what you can do within your role and to make your team or your community the best it can be. As the great hockey coach Herb Brooks once said, “the name on the front of your jersey is a hell of a lot more important than the one on the back.”
Wyatt, I can't thank you enough for sharing your story with the ups and downs while playing sports. You probably were feeling like you were on an island as if no one else ever had to deal with what you were dealing with but there are many athlete's that have similar situations that have learned like you did. I just wish I knew you sooner so I could encourage you about sports, life and the bigger picture with "team" as well as "God's Plan." I congratulate you for understanding pretty quickly about life as an athlete and some big lessons you share about Team First as well as God knows best. It's hard to understand why things happen the way they happen, especially when there are setbacks like you had, but you didn't give up. Your story reminds me of Check Your Game in so many ways! You were thrown "a curve" by life, you didn't quit, you realized your pride and you pushed on to discover a new path and how you could help the team! That is awesome. I know you will be an encouragement for others who are dealing with setbacks whether they are injury, a coaches decision or something else! Your story is encouraging that others can make it through to the other side and come out being better for it. Thanks again for sharing. Gary Rogers