After exactly 150 days in the Land Down Under, my trip has an ending point. As sad as it is to leave this place, I truly can’t imagine a better situation to type my ode to Australia than swinging on a shade-covered hammock, 100 meters away from the most picturesque beach scene one could imagine.
I am currently at the Backpackers Inn (the hostel on the beach, as they call it) in Byron Bay, New South Wales, about three hours drive south of Brisbane. No, I didn’t get a chance to see New Zealand, Fiji, Bali, Thailand, Sydney, Melbourne, or any of a hundred other places a “perfect world” would allow me to see. But I did save enough money from working to make this trip and spend four days with travelers from all over the world (well, mainly Swedes, Germans, Italians, and other scattered Europeans). Most of them have left Europe because they are looking for something better, looking for a beautiful place to live in a relatively stable economy. Most will look to secure visas to stay here and work for another year, rather than go back to their homes where it seems they don’t have much opportunity to make something of themselves.
Me on the other hand, I’m here on vacation, because I am lucky to have been born/grown into the right situation. Unlike some people that I’ve met here, I’m excited to go home. I’m excited to see my family, my dog, my friends, my car, my mattress-frameless bed, 5-Dollar-Footlongs, ESPN, HBO, my Android Smartphone, and fridge stocked full of the best food. Don’t get me wrong, it has taken me until the past week to finally feel ready. I could get used to the lifestyle here, but it’s still not the same as what I have grown accustomed to in our little corner of New England.
Perhaps most importantly, I have to remember what got me here, baseball. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking and talking to experienced ex-teammates about the game and the mindset. Through these conversations, I’ve realized that I have lacked the dream that the best ballplayers all have. They all feel like they are going to make it, even when nobody thinks they can, or even if the situation doesn’t seem likely. I’ve been my own worst enemy in that regard.
Even from the time when I was little, I never really convinced myself that I was going to make the Big Leagues. To be honest, I never really thought about it. I never aspired to anything, I just played because I was good at it, and I enjoyed the game. I always assumed that I would continue playing long after everybody else stopped. I’ve never truly thought about life after baseball. Any of my closest friends will attest to that.
Since I was old enough to hold a bat, I worked hard because I wanted to be successful, and I learned from a young age that hard work brings success, and success is fun. I was more interested in the feeling I got from my next line drive (short-term success), as opposed to the feeling of accomplishment after I sign my first big pro contract (long-term success). From talking to these older ex-teammates, I’ve realized that I never really, sincerely believed that I was going to make it. I realize now that even if I don’t make it to the highest level imaginable, I’ve still been setting my standards too low in that regard.
I should have realized it was a reality after my ex-Ithaca teammate was signed by the Washington Nationals out of the Pecos League, three weeks after we faced each other in Alpine, Texas. I’ve accumulated enough pro experience now to at least be considered for higher levels of baseball than I have ever reached, but nothing is set in stone for me. I am going to have to work at it and earn it, but this time it will be with a different approach. I haven’t signed with any team as of now, so worrying about my next line drive isn’t going to do me any good. I’ve got to take the approach that I am going to put in the work, and have faith that something will work out for me.
I’ve got to get myself ready, and stay ready, waiting for my opportunity. And when I get it, I’ve got to capitalize on it. Better yet, I’ve got to know that I AM going to capitalize on it. Honestly, that optimistic mindset has never been my forte. I guess that’s what happens when you grow up in a New York Jets household, seriously. Expect the worst, hope for the best. It’s worked well for me in life this far, but it’s about time I give something else a shot. I’ve learned that from being in such a beautiful place, in a country where “no worries” is the most common term. I guess optimism is contagious.
I hope you enjoyed reading this series of blogs, and hopefully come May I will be writing again from another city, wearing another uniform, with another pro baseball contract to show for my hard work. Until that time, cheers from Down Under. It’s been a wild ride.