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Life After Sports and Words from My Mom

As another school year is coming to a close, I know there are some student-athletes who are saying goodbye to the sports they have played for their entire life. Like most of you reading these words, I had dreams of hanging banners, winning a ton of games, and having a ton of success during my journey as a student-athlete. None of that happened, and that is okay. The following is a personal account of the end of my playing career and my own struggles with finding out who I am in life after athletics.

It was during Thanksgiving break my first year of college that I was involved in a serious car accident that caused severe damage to my throwing arm and gave me a bad concussion. Long story short, I was never the same pitcher as I was before the accident. I ended up re-tearing my rotator cuff twice more in college before my senior year. Every time it happened it was brutal for me. I didn’t know what to do. Luckily, I was surrounded by a family of amazing teammates, coaches, and athletic training staff that constantly encouraged me to keep going. I would call my mom and she would always say the same phrases,

“It’ll all be okay. The good Lord has a plan for you.” and “You are stronger than you think.”

To do the rehab and not give up was hard. Each time I did as the athletic trainers and doctors said, sometimes begrudgingly, but I got it done. Each time I completed a rehab stint I felt like it was finally my time. No one can go through all of this adversity and not have a happy ending, right? Every sports movie ever has a happy ending, and I figured each injury was just another added factor to the crescendo that would be my inspiring comeback story that I would tell my kids one day.

It was my fifth year of college that my career finally ended. I would like to say that it was tied up with a nice little bow where I got to ride off into the sunset, but that would be a lie. The Fall 2017 was my best Fall season yet. My velocity was up, I was in great shape, and stronger than ever. I was determined to finally overcome my nagging injuries and finally be a main contributor to the team on the field. This was finally the time I had been praying for for the past four years.

It was one day at practice where my arm felt “off.” My throws were missing my target badly. Like really bad. It felt like my right arm had been replaced by a garden hose. After some time, I realized that my hand was numb. I couldn’t feel the ball in my hand. I went to our athletic trainer and he had me see a doctor at the local hospital. After some tests and some more visits. The doctor came to the campus of William Jewell College to look me in the face and tell me that I needed to stop throwing. I stared right back and said, “Sorry, that is not going to happen.” Who was this doctor to tell me what I could and couldn’t do? He didn’t know me. He didn’t know what I had been through. He didn’t know that we were in the final 20 minutes of my Disney Sports Movie where I finally figured it out.

The doctor shot back with, “If you want to hold your future child without the fear of dropping him or her, then you need to stop throwing immediately.”

I still heard those words echo through my brain. One sentence and it was done. I couldn’t believe it. My hopes and dreams I had of being successful on the field quite literally slipped through my fingers. I sat there as the doctor walked out. I looked in the mirror and stared at the reflection of my shoulder. It was considerably lower than my left shoulder; which is a sign that the shoulder is literally shutting itself down to prevent further injury.

That was it for me.

I was finally broken beyond repair. In the parking lot of the Mabee center, I sat in my car and cried. Cried like I had never cried before. I called my mom and she had told me what she had always told me.

“It’ll be okay. The good Lord has a plan for you.” “You are stronger than you think.”

To keep another long story short, I had grown up with numerous health issues. I was born deaf along with having a cleft lip and a cleft palate. The doctors said I wouldn’t make it to see my first birthday, but I proved them wrong. The professionals said I would never hear, but I still managed to earn a music scholarship to the same school where I played baseball.

Every time the odds were stacked against me, I always overcame them. For so long it was never a question of “if” I could overcome an obstacle, but rather it was “when” and “how soon.” This is why the sudden end of my baseball career was especially heartbreaking.

I was finally beaten. No more comeback stories.

It was then that I fell into a deep depression and struggled with my mental health. For my entire life, I was “the baseball guy” “the pitcher” I was the one that was supposed to make it. Growing up in Tulsa, Oklahoma I had my entire identity wrapped up in the fact that I played baseball. The game was who I was and I never knew anything different.

When my playing days were done, I didn’t know what to do next or who I was. Questions panged around in my head like “What am I without baseball?” “Am I a failure because I couldn’t do it anymore?” “Am I any less now because baseball is no longer there?” “Why doesn’t my arm work?” “What is wrong with me?” I no longer had any idea who I was or who I was going to be in the future.

A big part of who I was as a person as an athlete was seeing how much adversity I could face and not be broken. I was the person who would wear a hoodie in the heat and shorts in the winter because I was “tough.” I found self-worth in how much I could bend, but not break.

But when I was forced to face my mortality, I struggled.

I struggled like I was trying to kill King Poseidon with a squirt gun; I saw no end to it and no use in trying.

It was not until I sought outside help that I finally decided to claw my way out of this identity crisis that I had found myself in. To this day there are only a handful of people that know that I received counseling through my church back in 2017. I believe everyone should go to therapy. To seek outside help for your own well-being is a sign of strength in itself.

The hesitation for me lied in the fact that I was “tough,” and I wanted to be strong. I didn’t need anyone else’s help but mine. I dove tears-first into my Bible and just started reading, looking for help. I found my help in my relationship with Jesus Christ. After a lot of hard work, I realized that I did not need athletics to help me find my worth as a person. I no longer needed a game to give me purpose in life. I found my identity in my Lord and Savior Jesus. I found power in how I treated others and that I have a gift of encouraging people around me; including myself.

I tell you all of that to tell you this; there is help out there.

Most colleges and universities have counseling services located on campus free of charge to all students. If you are a collegiate student-athlete, I want to encourage you to seek out the counseling services that are available at your own institution. Here on the campus of William Jewell College, just across the Quad in Curry Hall, there are counseling services available from Dr. Hager. The email to set up an appointment is

This is a link that has multiple helpful resources for athletes who are seeking help with their own mental health: Mental Health in Athletes: 45 Resources to Help You Cope | Online MSW Programs

If you google the website “Psychology Today” you can find thousands of qualified mental health professionals that are waiting to help you in whatever specific area you are struggling in.

If you are ever having thoughts of self-harm or even have a plan to end your own life, the national suicide prevention hotline is 1 800 273 8255. There is life beyond the sports you all are involved in. You have a purpose. You are here for a reason.

Whatever you are going through, whoever you are, or wherever you are going in the future, I want to leave you with the words of my amazing mother once more:

“It’ll be okay. The good Lord has a plan for you.” “You are stronger than you think.”

You no longer have to fight alone.

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