It means something different to everyone. For some it’s a new experience—a time to learn new things and enjoy the time. For others it’s a time to refine your skills and get crisp for the season. For many it’s the opportunity to take a job.
I feel like I’m in that last category this year. Spring training is always a time I look forward to. Here I get to see everyone and hang out with ‘the boys’ without having to worry about when dinner will be ready or having to put the toilet seat down, but there’s a lot more to it this year.
Each new season is a new opportunity, not just in baseball, but in life too. I’m getting older (I’ll be 24 by the start of spring training this year) and the years seem to be going by faster and faster. So I want to slow down and take this time to reflect on the offseason—what I’ve done to prepare myself for the upcoming season of baseball and of life.
I’ve found that many guys use the outcome of last season to either motivate them or give them a reason to coast through. Now I’m not one to reflect on stats, but you simply cannot help it when you’re in a job that it so centered on your statistical output. Last season (120 IP, 7.46 ERA) was not ideal, to say the least. However, in the scheme of it all, it was necessary.
Without this last season, I wouldn’t be in the position I’m at today. I wouldn’t have the urgency or the passion or the desire to make this story one of victory. A lot of guys never make it to the big leagues; I don’t want to be one of those guys. If I am, I am, but I’m going to make sure I did all I can to show what I’ve got. Last season I didn’t do that.
Last season was a wake-up call. It made me realize that this baseball thing that I’m apart of is so temporary. With the snap of your fingers the game can leave you. Boom. Pack up and hit the road with no direction to start the rest of your life. A lot of guys never grasp that until it’s there time to go. So even now as I come out of this offseason, I can’t help but be thankful for the team to trust me enough to let me get through the thickets of High Desert and believe in me to give me another chance. That’s all I want—one more chance.
“To learn, you must love discipline; it is stupid to hate correction.” -Proverbs 12:1
Most importantly, last season taught me to put my faith in the things that are most valuable in life. Value isn’t the amount of money you have in your bank account. It’s not the stuff you have; it’s also not what you do. Playing baseball isn’t going to make me a better man—it’s not going to show you how to love your wife better or how to invest in wisdom. People are the most valuable things. And the most important person in the world is Jesus! When my heart, time, and desire is for Him then I can be assured my time is being used the in the best way that it can be—my life is being used the in the best way it can be.
How can you be so sure? Because there’s nothing in life more important than following Jesus. He can teach me how to love my wife better, to treat my family, to invest in my friends, to be a better teammate, and to play the best baseball of my life! And He does.
I love baseball; I love training in the offseason. I honestly don’t know what I would do without it but baseball and training shouldn’t define me. I love the struggle because I know the hard times bring about the greatest changes. I don’t know why last season was such a poor showing, I worked hard, I gave it my all. But I wasn’t believing in anything; I didn’t believe in my stuff or that God could use me through this or that I even mattered.
But now I know my ‘secret sauce’: I need to believe!
It’s my job to understand that baseball is just a small piece in the puzzle of life. It may fit in now or it may not—but it will fall into place at the right time. Then I’ll be able to thank and praise God for doing all these things behind the scenes to change someone else’s life. That is what it’s all about!
You could be at that same place right now—you’ve had a tough season and you don’t really know where to go from here. You’ve put in work, you’ve been grinding, but no fruition is showing itself. You’re just… done.
Take hold of the promises of God and stop worrying about what you wish would have happened. It’s all happening the way it needs to happen. It might be for you and it might not; it could be for someone else, so keep going.
“Work hard and become a leader; be lazy and become a slave.” -Proverbs 12:24
God has an awesome way of using our worst times for His best times. Think of all the Bible characters you know, most of them were great people but also great sinners. Yet, God used their trying seasons in preparation for the things to come—the stories that would be told of them. Maybe your story is just getting started!
With every great trial comes the opportunity for even greater success. Never fall victim to your own self -pity but trust in the Lord at all times.
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