April 2012

The Great Game

I tweeted this morning that baseball started out as a game I played for fun with my friends and it ended up changing my life. The truthfulness of that statement really hits home every time I think about it. To be honest, my parents had to DRAG me to baseball practice when I was 7 years old. I think I even ended up not finishing the season that year. By the time I was 12 years old, you couldn’t pull me away from the game. Double header?  “Dad, can we toss in the backyard after the game?” It was fun, I was good at it, and my friends played it. That’s what kept me in the game. Now, on the morning of my 9th professional season and my 8th professional opening day, I sit here writing this post in complete awe of where my life has gone. Baseball has changed my life.

I grew up playing this game. Most of you know my story. Little League to travel baseball. Travel baseball to high school baseball. High school baseball to professional baseball. Drafted at 18 out of high school by the Texas Rangers. Thrown into the world of professional baseball having never left home. Standing in front of a hotel washing machine for hours contemplating which button to mash first. Talking to my girlfriend (now my wife Jillian) on the phone for hours knowing she was 2,000 miles away and I wouldn’t get to see her for 3 months. Striking out my first professional hitter. My first pro win. I guess you could say that this game is all I know. Maybe that’s true.

Baseball has taught me more than just baseball. Dedication, work ethic, perseverance, time management, self-control, nutrition, and respect to name a few. I’m a big believer that you have to be thrown into something to truly learn what it’s all about. Sure, reading a book or studying can help prepare you for what’s coming, but actually going through it teaches you the most. Now, as I sit here writing this post, I can’t help but be so thankful to everyone that has played a huge role in helping me along.

My parents and brother sacrificed thousands of days and dollars to help me achieve my dream. Lessons, equipment, traveling, tournaments, showcases, and hard metal bleachers. Their support has kept me going when I didn’t have much else. My friends that wanted to play a pick up game in the backyard kept me interested in this great game and were great teammates. My coaches along the way that showed me how much better you could get with hard work. The Texas Rangers organization for taking a chance on me in the 2004 draft. I’m forever grateful for the opportunity. Dr. Keith Meister and the Texas Rangers Medical staff and the Gwinnett Medical Center for helping me continue my dream as a pro baseball player by surgically repairing and rehabbing my right shoulder. All of my current and former teammates that each taught me a little bit about the way the game is meant to be played. Last but not least, a huge thanks to my wife Jillian and her family. Since the moment I met them, they have supported my dream and have been by my side the whole way. It’s great to have family like that.

Today, as I drive to the stadium, I’ll be thinking about all those hours I spent practicing with my Dad in the backyard. I’ll be thinking about the countless games on those little league fields with my friends, and the hours I spent working hard on that high school field. I’ll be thinking about the first professional pitch I threw and the one that almost ended my career. I’ll be thinking about the first pitch I threw after surgery, and the many sacrifices my wife has made to be here by my side day after day. I’ll be thinking about how tough this life can be, yet how rewarding it can be at the same time. I’ll be thinking about the many great friends and teammates I have made, and I’ll be thinking about those that aren’t playing anymore and wish that they could be. All the while, I’ll be thinking about how incredibly blessed I am to be playing such a great game. It doesn’t get much better than baseball, folks. Have a great day!

 

Michael Schlact

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