USING THE PAST TO HEAL THE FUTURE
LEARNING ONE OF THE HARDEST LESSONS - 9 YEARS LATER
For those who knew me as a child and teenager, I had it ALL figured out. I would easily find a way to a professional baseball career. This confidence was strong. I knew that I could do it. This is not a story that ends in the classic "I learned that I was wrong" conclusion. I still carry that confidence today. I could have done it had it been what needed to happen in my life. I've spent far too long looking for comfort and a second chance. Truth is, I've had my second chance, and I've made it count. I didn't take a second shot at baseball, because as much as I would have loved it, that's not what was right. I am writing this for so many reasons, and I think it will be the most meaningful post that you'll ever see from me.
I was the typical Mormon teenager. I went to church every week, mostly uninterested, but not a bad kid. I put my head down most of the time because I was tired, but I had a testimony of the gospel and knew that I had great worth in God's eyes. I was a good student, usually around a 3.5 GPA. Since I had my future secured as a pro ball player in my mind, there wasn't a whole lot to worry about.
Taylorsville High School has the best baseball program in the state, and one of the most consistently accomplished teams in the country. I chose to play in their league when I turned 13, leaving my friends at Granger in the process. After not being accepted by "the elite" for a whole year, I was finally shown some respect the following two seasons, but still being branded "the kid from Granger." I had some good years. I learned a ton about the game, but not much in life for those 3 years.
Meanwhile, during my 15 year old season, I had to select a high school to attend. My heart said Taylorsville, because that was my path to baseball opportunities. Every other aspect, mostly the geography and transportation issues, had me going to Granger, the place I didn't wan to go. My mother made a disappointing but true assessment, "But Devon, where will your real friends be?"
Granger High was pretty dull when I started high school. I did fine in school, joined the baseball team, took crap for leaving these guys for 3 years to play for the enemy. I had a positive sophomore year, followed by an academically exciting junior year (took 6 science classes and loved them).
SENIOR YEAR - THE BEST WORST YEAR OF MY LIFE
Senior Year. It truly was great heading into it, full of steam, full of anticipation. I had gotten my first 4.0 GPA in the final term of my junior year (which was due to a few teachers giving me some extra points for always participating and being respectful). I had one of the greatest terrible Senior years in high school history, all of my own doing.
Academics were now at my mercy!!! I carried a 4.0 for my entire Senior year. This is something I'm still very proud of. I grew spiritually, and not just a little bit. I was set on serving a mission. I was disappointed not to be called to the Seminary Council because I thought I was a great example to many, yet humble about it.
My friends were a HUGE part of my success. I had been incorporated into the greatest group of peers that a kid could ask for. We were in the low to mid teens in number, and when we would hang out on the weekends, our parents didn't have to worry what we were up to. We were respectful, faithful, supportive, loving, and we all knew who we were, and where we came from. These are still my best friends to this day (with the exception of my beautiful wife who I didn't meet until college). My friends made me feel welcome, even as the most distant group member. They were all in Advanced Placement courses together, and I was not. I played baseball, and they did not. They were too busy getting their first year of college done in high school, which just so happens is brilliant. I wanted to be just like them. They made me want to be better. I felt such a guilt for what I knew, and they didn't.
Physically, I lost 45 pounds in the off-season doing aerobics. I went from 18% body fat to 7%, and I gained muscle in the process. I got faster, a lot faster. I was now fulfilling my dream of becoming the big money ball player, and I had a great attitude about life, school, and baseball. I was nominated by my teammates and coaches to be the team captain, which was a great honor.
During my Taylorsville baseball days, I was only about baseball. In the process of spending all of my free time playing ball (which was never a bad thing for me), I had let my priorities, some of my friends, and my values slip away. I got into some very dangerous things, and made some terrible choices. The people I chose to hang out with didn't have the same morals that I grew up learning. They ended up not being real friends. They helped me to build this image of somebody who I wasn't, and I took it the distance to the point of me not knowing who I was anymore.
Among all of the good things that happened in my final year of high school, unbearable guilt filled my soul. Every time it would sneak up on me, I swore it would go away. Halfway through the school year, just before baseball season, I was in the thick of it. Guilt when I woke up, guilt when I left for school, guilt when I got there, and so on and so on until I went to sleep at night. Truth was, I had a past that featured some things I wasn't proud of, and it didn't sit well.
One Sunday morning, I was sitting in church when I looked up toward the front of the chapel and saw something. My future daughter (I strongly believe) was standing there and staring straight at me. I looked down almost immediately, feeling a great deal of fear and confusion. I looked up again, and she was gone. Almost immediately my mind was made; I would be getting my entire past and the guilt associated with it off my chest that very day. When I got home from church, I told my mother and my bishop about my troublesome past. I had support from my family right away.
My bishop recommended that I call the police myself to report what I had told him. This was quite frightening, but I called them and set up an appointment. I won't forget the name of the man I spoke to, Detective Angell. He was great, understanding, helpful, and appreciative of my honesty.
I began the juvenile court process with a hearing. The judge saw how I was doing in school, and took into account my efforts on a sports team as the captain. He said that I was doing what I should be doing, and that he appreciated me coming forward to take care of my legal issues. I was back on the field that evening for baseball practice.
I guess I didn't understand the juvenile system, because I was soon notified that I had court coming up in a few weeks. I also found out that my judge had changed, and that I now had a loose cannon as a judge. This was upsetting.
I played 8 games of my senior season, and put up some very impressive numbers. I led the team, and I was living up to my own expectations. I felt needed, important, and accomplished. Most of all, I was having the time of my life doing what I loved most. I was setting the stage for my dreams to come true.
The court date came quicker that it seemed possible, and I was sent to a program to complete my community service hours. This was a residential facility, and I was only allowed 6 minutes to call my parents each week, a one hour visit from my parents every week, and I could leave for a few hours a week to get counseling. The biggest dagger in my heart; I was done being a baseball player.
I completed the program that I was ordered to in the shortest amount of time in the history of that specific organization. I was released on probation 4 days before school ended. Although I wasn't attending Granger for the final term of the school year, I was able to obtain my diploma as a Granger Lancer, and walk with my class at graduation. This meant a lot to be back with my friends who had worried about me for months.
After walking at graduation, I worked full-time outside in the elements moving granite and marble. The worst part about it was that I hardly got to keep any of my money, most of it went to pay off court fees. However, I got to see my friends more than I did while I was locked up, so things were improving.
When the courts were paid off, I left the place that I was working before I swung at my boss, which eventually would have taken place if I had stayed.
I started college and met my wife. She and I had a good talk before we ever dated, and we understood each other very well. We had some similar struggles, and both felt that we were trying to find ourselves. We fell in love, and we got married after dating for 5 months. It will be 7 years on St. Patrick's Day 2013!!!
The main reason for me writing this post comes right back to where we started; Baseball.
Here I am, preparing a lesson for church, late on a Saturday night, and all of a sudden, it clicks; I know how to solve my problem.
Yesterday, my high school baseball coach held an Alumni Dinner for his former players. Last year, we had an Alumni baseball game, and it was a blast. It still rips my heart out to have to walk off the field and realize that I could have been more. Anyway, we got to tour the new Granger High that is being built, and it is phenomenal. State of the Art EVERYTHING has been put into this new facility, and it is HUGE. The technological capabilities blow me away!!! Yet, it is bitter sweet. That old building that has gained lots and lots of meaning to me since I walked into it my first day of 10th grade with sadness. I was realizing just how lucky these kids are, which was accompanied by myself, and many others, proclaiming, "Why can't I be starting high school now?" Through the envy, I see the flaw. I am ungrateful. I am selfish. Though I am thrilled for the kids who get to have this amazing place to go every day and be with friends, I wouldn't trade what I had, and what I learned from it.
After the tour of the new school, we went to the cafeteria of the old school for the dinner. I noticed some of the other guys grabbing some old jerseys off of a table as a way to remember the playing days. I saw one still sitting there. I stayed in my seat for a while, and then curiosity got the best of me. Could that be my old jersey? I got up and immediately saw my number on the back of that jersey. It was surreal to pick it up. So many memories running through my head. I played my last meaningful baseball game 9 years ago in this jersey. This is when I realized some more hard facts; I was so good at baseball that I forgot to be a good Priesthood holder. I cared so much about baseball that at certain times, I didn't care about my morals. I was so caught up in this game that I would have been alright with giving up important things in life just to keep playing.
And therein lies the most important lesson:
o If I was as good at being faithful to my God, who has given me everything, as I was at baseball, I'd feel pretty good about myself. If I cared as much about others as I did about baseball when I was young, I would feel more worthy to meet God.
The fact is, I am very happy with how things turned out, especially considering how much of an impact losing that game tore my soul to pieces (or so I thought). I have an amazing wife who loves and supports me more than I ever thought possible. I have a 3 year old son who I love unconditionally, and he loves sports as much as I do. I have a supportive system of family and friends who would answer my call in the middle of the night if I just needed to talk (but my wife gets to hear all of my bellyaching instead).
I love my Heavenly Father. I love his son, and my savior, Jesus Christ. I will serve them. I am so happy for the kids who get to go to a new school that has everything that I wished I had, but I'll take the best lessons with me from that old, beat up school. I have the mercy of a God that will forgive if the sinner repents with the right reasons, and with sincerity. I have been blessed with luxuries that millions will never know, and I think we all forget this too quickly. I am a sinner, and God still loves me, and will never give up on me. I know that Christ lives, and loves us with a perfect love that we will never know on this Earth until he returns.
Thank you to all of you who have helped me to be who I am.
Don't get me wrong, I miss baseball to this day, and it still sucks to walk off of a field, but I realize that it is not my rightful path, and I still have not moved on. I think it's time. It has done so much for me that I'm grateful for. I owe most of my confidence as a person to a game.
Til' next time