Faith and Determination

Growing up with two older brothers that played baseball made it easy for me to fall in love with the game. I remember as a kid, dressing up in my uniform every time I went to watch them play and thinking to myself, "I want to be just like them someday." In my early years I found myself following them to the field to practice or watching them hit in the batting cage, hoping to get a few swings in myself. I was always motivated and driven by watching them play and I had the luxury of learning things from them that I wouldn't have other wise. I always had someone to play catch with, throw batting practice, or just talk about the game and learn more about it. 

Being 5 and 7 years younger then my brothers, it felt like they were Major League Baseball players compared to me, which made me soak in things like a sponge because I trusted them and believed everything they told me. They were always there to help me when I needed it and never let me get too high or too low on myself. 

Going into my freshman season of baseball I was 5'6", 110 pounds. Even though I was undersized I was determined to outwork everyone on my team. By the end of my high school career I finished with a pitching record of 26-2, with 219 strikeouts in 148 innings. The biggest jump I made in high school was from my junior year to my senior year. This was the year I knew I had to take my game to another level if I wanted to fulfill one of my dreams of playing college baseball. I worked out hard and really worked on my pitching more then I ever had before. As a result I won 8 games with a 1.08 ERA and 117 strikeouts in 65 innings, breaking the school record for ERA (previously held by my brother, Johnny) and strikeouts.

I was fortunate to have Bill Swift, the 2nd overall pick in the 1984 MLB Draft and 13 year big leaguer as my head coach. I give him a lot of credit for teaching me how to pitch and dedicating a lot of time over the years to help me. To this day, he is still a mentor in my life and is someone I know I can always go to for advice.

After my senior season I worked out for a few junior college teams in Arizona. I decided to sign with South Mountain Community College in Phoenix, AZ and played there for the next two years. At this point, I was still undersized and had some things I needed to improve before I was ready to play at a 4 year school. I had great coaches at South Mountain that continued to develop me and gave me more opportunities then I could have imagined. 

At the end of my second year at South Mountain I was still unsigned with a school for the upcoming year. I had been talking to a few schools, but most of them fell through or they didn't feel like the right fit for me. I decided to email every coach in numerous collegiate summer leagues to get a chance to keep pitching and hope for a school to come up. I signed a 10-day contract with the Kitsap Bluejackets in the West Coast League in Bremerton, Washington. After my 10-day contract ended they decided to sign me for the rest of the summer. About two weeks after that my coach gets a call from George Mason University to see if there were any pitchers on the team that were unsigned. I ended up being the player my coach recommended and shortly after that I scheduled a visit. Right when I got to Mason it felt like the place I was supposed to be. With just a month left before the Fall semester would begin, I signed with George Mason fulfilling another goal of mine, playing Division 1 baseball.

The next 2 years at George Mason were some of the most crucial and exciting years of life. After struggling my first year, posting a 6.17 ERA in 83 innings, I was determined to come back my senior year bigger, stronger, better. As a result, I went 8-5 with a 1.67 ERA in a 107 innings through the regular season, ranking in the top 20 in the country. As a team we went on to win the Atlantic 10 Tournament, securing a spot in the NCAA Tournament. We were selected to the Houston Regional, where we would face Rice University, University of Texas, and Texas A&M. Being the #4 seed, we would play #1 seed and host, Rice University in the first game. I was named the starting pitcher against Rice in what would be the most exciting game of my life. Through 7 innings we were down 1-0, before taking the lead 2-1 in the top of the 8th. I was sent back out in the 8th inning, just 6 outs away from beating Rice. I got into some trouble and was taken out of the game with 1 out in the 8th as we went on to lose the game. Win or lose it was a tremendous opportunity and I am so thankful for that. 

With the MLB Draft just a week away, I was hopeful to hear my name called. As the last pick was named, it closed the door on getting drafted. Frustrated, angry, upset, I did the same thing I had done my whole career; I got on the phone and computer and started contacting as many teams as I could. I knew if I just got an opportunity I would make the most of it. A few weeks later I received a phone call from Kevin Hooper, manager of the Wichita Wingnuts in the American Association. One of their pitchers pulled his hamstring and they needed someone that could fill in. I got in my car and started driving to Wichita. Three days later I was making my professional debut starting against the Amarillo Sox. I went on to pitch 5 innings, 3 runs, 0 walks, and 3 strikeouts, receiving a no decision. 

Two years later I am still playing Independent baseball, now for the Eastside Diamond Hoppers in Michigan. One thing I have learned throughout the years is faith, determination and work ethic will take you further than you can imagine. It may not take you where you think you should be, but it will take you where you're supposed to be. The people in my life have played a bigger role than I ever could imagine. Surround yourself around people that love you and care about you, and are going to encourage you to be the best version of yourself.