The Game-Changer

CRAAACK! I take two steps backward, hear screams from the stands, and fall down next to home plate. As I lower my head to the dirt, I spit out a thick mixture of blood and teeth. I was just hit straight in the mouth by an 80 mile-per-hour fastball. When the ambulance arrives, I stand up, to the surprise of terrified parents muttering about possible brain damage. My teammates stare at me as if I have risen from the dead. My solemn, stern coach is crying. I began to think that my life would never be the same, but did not realize that it may have changed in a positive way.

What turned out to be the last baseball game I would play in high school would also prove to be the climax of my decade-long obsession with the sport. For the majority of my childhood, baseball was my life. I did not refer to periods of the year as “winter” or “summer”, but rather “the off-season” and “game time”.

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My bedroom was filled to the brim with autographed balls, posters, and bats. I could not possibly comprehend how any American citizen could dislike our national pastime, and secretly held grudges against those who did. I could play, too. Boy, could I play. I was a member of the citywide all-star team from the age of 9 onward. I hit my first homerun at age 11, and let everyone I had ever met know it. All of my friends were fellow baseball players, and we would spend long summer days playing catch and homerun derby, talking about how someday we would play together in the big leagues.

High school baseball was something completely different for me. The added pressure brought by weeklong tryouts, brutally lengthy practices, and the hope of progressing toward the Varsity team took some of the fun out of the game. My hobby turned into a hassle, and my nerves began to keep me from playing as well as I could. My dream of being a Varsity baseball player was closer than ever, but I was now playing with the hope of impressing the older players and the head coaches, instead of for my own enjoyment.

After a life-changing moment or a near-death experience, many people choose to re-evaluate their lives. I did something very similar after the warm July night when I lost my teeth. When the pitch came, I thought it was a curveball, and stayed in the box to impress the Varsity players with my bravery. The pitch never curved, and my life has changed drastically ever since. At first, I felt that nothing positive could possibly come out of a fractured jaw, the loss of six front teeth, and a seemingly wasted summer spent traveling to dental appointments and eating soft foods. I quickly realized, however that I did not have to let sports determine the course of my high school life, and that I had numerous other interests and talents to explore. I knew that I would be free to live my life as I truly wanted, and so I gave up my beloved sport. It was one of the hardest decisions I have ever made, but one that has made me into a stronger person.
Before, I could be defined as a “baseball kid”, but now I truly have too many different interests to be grouped into one category. In the year since my injury, I have been able to pursue many new facets of social and academic life. I have found the confidence to do things which I was previously hesitant to do, like join the school chorus, try out for the musical, and even start my own club. By re-evaluating my life through the decision to give up baseball, I have been able to experience many things that my previous sports-minded self would never have considered taking part in. Although my baseball accident was one of the worst events to ever occur in my life, the resulting decisions that I was able to make about my future have profoundly changed my outlook on life and allowed me to find my true self.

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