I have come to realize that it would not have been a shame if I had not made it to the major leagues. It would have been a shame if I hadn't found this in my life.
I am like everyone, I suppose, occasionally reflecting back on the big moments in life and saying "Dang, I wish it had gone a different way" or "Whew, I sure got lucky with that one." Reflection seems to come more with each passing year. It is natural to reflect and wonder, "Would I have the same peace of mind if just one thing had gone in another direction?"When young, I believed as many people do, that peace of mind comes with how much we accumulate and accomplish. Years pass, and we realize that peace of mind follows from the good you do for others, no matter your level of success.
Over the years since my playing days, I have often received this question, "What would you have done if you hadn't made it to the major leagues?" Wow, that one always makes me stop and think for a spell. Of course, answering hypothetical questions are always easier when knowing the actual outcome. But, would I have the same relative peace of mind today, if that one event had gone differently?
That was almost a reality. Let me take you back to the time of the 1976 major league baseball draft when I wasn't drafted then was drafted.
My early years were pretty much dedicated to and building up to one day in the future the major league baseball draft at least in my mind. That day was not possible after high school because I was just an average player up to that point, and not possible after my junior year in college, as the rule then prohibited juniors from being drafted, unless 21 years old. Therefore, everything was riding on the draft after my college graduation. My college coach, Johnny Reagan, thought my chances of getting selected were pretty good, even though he said my senior year probably cost me a lot of money, as it was not nearly as good as my junior year had been. I did not care about what round I would go; it was all about keeping the dream alive. The opportunity was all I wanted.
I was an above average student through college but had not intended to use my degree in the near future, if at all. I had a one-track mind major league baseball. Times were much simpler back in 1976 no voice mail, no cell phones, no internet.Non-face to face modes of communication was limited to the call to the house phone. If someone did not call, it probably did not happen, unless it was big enough for the radio or TV news. The day of the major league draft saw me holed up in my room, anticipating the "dream call." There was more than one day of the draft so not hearing anything for a day or two was OK, but each hour became a little longer with the passing days. Three days came and went with no call, nothing. The gloom and doom feelings in the house were palpable. Thoughts about life without baseball were moving to the front of my head, and the growing headache was intense. The advent of independent baseball was years in the future, so chances of playing professional baseball were very limited if not drafted. There was a semi-pro league, which meant casual games and beer after, if not during games. Everything in my world was riding on that phone ringing.
After another sleepless night, four in total, and after what felt like a month's time, my mom's voice was heard, at least throughout the neighborhood, "The Dodgers are on the phone." Oh my God! Was I dreaming? It was real, and the dream was alive. All the hard work was worth it.
Getting back to my original question - How my life would have been different without making it to the big leagues? That is hard to say because making the major leagues has given me a significant peace of mind. However, not as much as I once thought. I do not believe it would have changed the essential core of who I was. I know I would not have turned to drinking or drugs, or married someone different or had a personality change. I probably would have always had a longing of "If I could have made it, having gotten the chance?" but life goes on.
I have come to realize that major league baseball was not the key to my peace of mind. It was the avenue to my next job that provided it. Major league baseball did not give me the peace of mind nearly as much as my post-playing days have. That peace of mind has come from knowing that I have helped many young kids strive to reach their potential and with helping them have a life-long love of sport. I like to believe that I have made a positive difference in their lives, especially with helping kids recognize the value of hard work, the importance of enjoying what you are doing and that hard work pays off, sooner or later.
Looking back, the big shame would have never been findingmy real life's passion of teaching youth, with the major leagues just a bonus. Without major league baseball, I believe I would have drifted towards baseball and youth coaching, eventually. It is who I am, what I do best, and what has been my passion for the past 23 years.
Real peace of mind comes from knowing we gave our best to the opportunities we had, whether successful or not, and most important, peace of mind comes from knowing we have helped others along the way. I am so grateful for all my students, their dedication, hard work, and love of sport.
Also, I now realize how stupid it was to think that playing professional baseball was the end all. That thinking is everything I preach against to young ballplayers, and parents of ballplayers. Education should be a top priority, with their eyes set on using that education for a real job. Of course, I would never discourage someone from having a dream and working towards it, or of diminishing the importance of working hard towardstheir desiredgoals. Also, a college education may not guarantee what it once did, but most players have a better chance of making the big leagues out of college these days. College makes them better physically and baseball skill wise, not to mention the emotional and psychological preparedness.
When it is all said and done, the people that matter to another will not remember them for what they did, but for what they did for them.
Jack Perconte has dedicated his post-major league baseball career to helping youth. He has taught baseball and softball for the past 27 years.His playing, coaching and parenting storiescreate betterexperiences forathletes andparents.Jack has writtenover a thousand articles on coaching baseball and youth sports.Jack is the author of "The Making of a Hitter" now $5 and "Raising an Athlete." His third book "Creating a Season to Remember" is in the works. Jack is a featured writer for Baseball the Magazine. You can also findJack Perconte at YouTube withover 80 fun and innovative baseball instructional videos.
After playing major league baseball, Jack Perconte has taught baseball and softball since 1988 and offered valuable coaching training too. He has helped numerous youth players reach their potential, as well as having helped parents and coaches navigate their way through the challenging world of youth sports. Jack is one of the leading authorities in the areas of youth baseball training and coaching training advice.All Jack Perconte articles are used with copyright permission.
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